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House votes to stop funding for Mexican carrier cross-border program

An amendment by the House of Representatives has been approved that would prohibit the use of federal funds for a pilot program for Mexico-domiciled motor carriers to operate in the United States, according to House information.

Peter DeFazio (D-OR) submitted the amendment during action on House Bill 3074, the 2008 transportation appropriations bill. The bill was approved July 24 and forwarded to the Senate for consideration. Also sponsoring the amendment were Nancy Boyda (D-KS), Gary Miller (R- CA), and Duncan Hunter (R-CA).

The legislation, if approved, would forbid funding "to be used to establish or implement a cross-border motor carrier demonstration or pilot project or program to allow Mexico-domiciled motor carriers to operate beyond the commercial zones on the United States-Mexico border," according to the amendment.

The Department of Transportation announced February 23, 2007, plans to implement trucking provisions of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). DOT said then the purpose of the project is to demonstrate the effectiveness of the safety programs adopted by Mexico-domiciled motor carriers and the monitoring and enforcement systems developed by DOT, which together ensure that Mexican motor carriers operating in the United States can maintain the same level of highway safety as US-based motor carriers.

But soon after the DOT announcement, the Sierra Club, the Environmental Law Foundation, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, the Brotherhood of Teamsters Auto and Truck Drivers Local 70, and the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association sought an injunction requiring DOT and the Federal Motor Carriers Safety Administration (FMCSA) either to comply with the law by providing public notice of the pilot program and an opportunity for the public to comment on the program, or to set aside the pilot project as unlawful.

On May 1, 2007, FMCSA asked for public comments on the plan. Meanwhile, some Members of Congress began to oppose the pilot program.

FMCSA has said that the safety of the participating carriers will be tracked closely by FMCSA and its state partners, a joint US-Mexico monitoring group, and an evaluation panel independent of the Department of Transportation (DOT). The resulting data will be considered carefully before further decisions are made concerning the implementation of the NAFTA trucking provisions.

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