Cross-border trucking tempestshows no sign of weakening

After a House committee approved a bill that would end the pilot program for United States/Mexico cross-border trucking, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) announced it would extended the project for two years, according to information posted on the House committee Web site and a news release from FMCSA.

The DOT news release quoted FMCSA Administrator John Hill as saying, "I am pleased with the success of our demonstration project, but the participation has been limited by the uncertainty of the project’s longevity. A number of potential companies have been unwilling to invest the time and resources necessary to participate due to uncertainties concerning the project’s longevity. We intend this extension to reassure trucking companies that they will have sufficient time to realize a return on their investment, and we anticipate additional participation with this extra time. The extension will ensure that the demonstration project can be reviewed and evaluated on the basis of a more comprehensive body of data."

The recent legislative action by the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, if eventually signed into law, would prohibit FMCSA from conducting the pilot program involving the cross-border trucking with Mexico for more than one year.

Some members of Congress have criticized the program and earlier made efforts to end it. The program also is opposed by the Owner-Operators Independent Drivers Association, Brotherhood of Teamsters, Public Citizen, and the Sierra Club.

The FMCSA/Department of Transportation (DOT) program is part of the southern border truck and bus crossing provisions of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). FMCSA has begun inspections of Mexican carriers and, to date, has authorized 27 Mexican carriers to operate within the United States. Ten US carriers have obtained Mexican authorization to operate in the interior of Mexico, including tank truck carriers Stagecoach and Distribution LP, El Paso TX; Plastic Express, City of Industry CA; and A&R Transport, Joliet IL.

"FMCSA has adhered to the law and exceeded requirements established by Congress, both safety and otherwise, for implementing our obligations under NAFTA," Hill stated. "To date, the project has shown that United States and Mexican carriers can engage in cross-border trucking operations in compliance with applicable laws and with no compromise to public safety or security. In fact, Mexican trucks and drivers have established compliance rates equal or better to those of US trucks and drivers.

"Since 75 percent of our trade with Mexico moves by truck, transportation efficiency is key to the competitiveness of our manufacturers, ranchers, and farmers. This project supports our economy by saving consumers’ money, reducing shipping costs and giving U.S. trucking companies and drivers new opportunities. At a time of surging goods exports, we could hardly choose a worse time to turn our back on open trade and investment and embrace a protectionist agenda, especially in the very sector that makes trade in goods and services possible."

He said that last year, Congress mandated that the demonstration project be operated as a pilot program, which is governed by statute, and can run for up to three years.

The extension of the demonstration project was announced by FMCSA July 31 and was published in the Federal Register August 6. To see the FMCSA notice, click here.

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