WASHINGTON – The final roadblock for a
controversial program to allow Mexican trucks to operate
beyond a 25-mile strip north of the U.S.-Mexico border was a
set of concerns raised by the Department of Transportation's
own inspector general.
The concerns were outlined in a report to Congress that
was publicly released yesterday, a day after final approval
was granted for a pilot program. In the report, the
inspector general found fault with plans to inspect Mexican
drivers and trucks, which are required to meet the same
standards applied to U.S. truckers.
The inspector general also said the Federal Motor Carrier
Safety Administration – the Transportation Department agency
responsible for administering the program – needed to ensure
that state authorities across the United States understand
their roles in implementing the program. It noted that
several states lack procedures for enforcing regulations
that prohibit Mexican trucks from making point-to-point
deliveries within the United States, while permitting them
to haul cargo back to Mexico.
But in a letter delivered Thursday to both houses of
Congress, Transportation Secretary Mary E. Peters certified
that the department had addressed all the inspector
Peters also said the program, launched as a one-year
demonstration project, is important “for maintaining our
relationship with one of our nation's largest trading
Peters' assurances satisfied congressional requirements
for the trucks to start rolling, as first anticipated in the
North American Free Trade Agreement, which went into effect
in 1994. It proposed to erase rules that limited Mexican
trucks to making deliveries within 25 miles of the border.
NAFTA called for an open-border trucking arrangement to
be in place by 2000. But U.S. authorities, responding to a
chorus of concerns about jobs and safety, withheld approval.
The delays drew angry protest from Mexico City, where
government officials accused the United States of failing to
honor its commitments.
With strong backing from the Bush administration, the
pilot program is projected to grow incrementally. It will
allow up to 100 Mexican trucking companies to deliver goods
anywhere in the United States.
But it continues to face legal challenges north of the
The Owner-Operated Independent Drivers Association, which
says it represents 155,000 drivers in the United States and
Canada, yesterday petitioned the federal Court of Appeals in
Washington to block implementation of the program.
The program “creates important safety issues for
professional truck drivers who use the nation's highways 24
a day, seven days a week,” the association told the court.
John Hill, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration
administrator, disputed those concerns.
“This long-awaited project will protect public safety on
American highways as we work to both save consumers money
and help our economy,” he said yesterday.
Hill also reported that Mexican authorities had cleared
the first U.S. trucking company to make deliveries all
across Mexico. Such reciprocity was also specified by NAFTA.