Senate votes to block Mexican trucks in US

Sept. 12, 2007
A pilot program that authorizes certain Mexican carriers to operate throughout the United States has hit a speed bump after the US Senate

A pilot program that authorizes certain Mexican carriers to operate throughout the United States has hit a speed bump after the US Senate voted September 11 to cut off Department of Transportation funding for the project.

"Because my amendment (AMDT 2797) is identical to language already included in the House-passed version (HR 3074) of this bill, I expect this provision will not be altered in the House-Senate conference committee, and that we have, effectively, stopped this pilot program," said the sponsor of the amendment, Sen Byron Dorgan (D-ND), in a news release.

The House version was approved July 24 and included language then that would prohibit the use of federal funds for the pilot program.

The Border Trade Alliance (BTA) has voiced its opposition to the Senate amendment, saying it prohibits DOT from continuing the program and removes the restrictions that had prevented US carriers' access to operate within Mexico. The BTA said it strongly supports DOT’s actions to date in bringing forth the proposed pilot and opposes any further action to delay its implementation. "Granting Mexican carriers access to the United States fulfills a pending commitment as part of NAFTA and will provide US trucks access to operate in Mexico," the BTA said.

The DOT project for Mexican carriers has aroused protests from several groups, including the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, Brotherhood of Teamsters, Public Citizen, and the Sierra Club. And with the 2008 presidential and congressional elections drawing near, politicians have entered the fray, arguing that the safety of the Mexican trucks is in doubt.

Last week, the DOT cleared Transportes Olympic of Nuevo Leon, Mexico, to operate in the United States. Mexico reciprocated by authorizing Stage Stagecoach Cartage and Distribution of El Paso TX to operate in Mexico. The approval marked the start of a year-long cross border demonstration project that will allow US trucking companies to operate in Mexico for the first time, and change the way a select group of Mexican trucking companies operate in the United States, DOT said.

The cross border trucking demonstration project was cleared to begin September 6 with the release of the US DOT Inspector General’s (IG) official report mandated by Congress on the safety of the program and the US DOT response to this report, which also was submitted to Congress September 6. The report confirmed FMCSA has taken the necessary steps to ensure the safe implementation of the demonstration project, DOT said.

Specifically, the IG affirmed FMCSA’s plans to go beyond statutory requirements and check every truck that crosses the border as part of the demonstration. The response identified how federal truck inspectors are coordinating with state and Customs and Border Protection personnel to conduct the checks. The response also detailed how it is working with the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the National Sheriff’s Association and the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance to ensure its state partners have the necessary information to oversee safety.

Under the demonstration project, a small number of Mexican trucking companies, many of which already operate daily in major US cities like El Paso and San Diego, will be able to travel beyond the approximately 25-mile commercial zone that runs along the US/Mexico border. Participating US and Mexican trucking companies can begin their new operations immediately once they have been granted operating authority by US DOT and have secured cargo to haul.

In the first 30 days of the program, 17 trucking companies from Mexico will be given operating authority. Each subsequent month until December, additional companies will be added if they pass FMCSA’s rigorous inspection process and after a public comment opportunity. No more than 100 Mexican companies will be permitted in the project. Every company, vehicle and driver is subject to a significant and rigorous safety inspection prior to being admitted to the demonstration project, DOT said.

See other coverage on Mexican carriers in Bulk Transporter online.