San Diego Union Tribune

November 9, 2007

Provision cutting cross-border trucking is kept

Program's opponents hail committee action

COPLEY NEWS SERVICE

WASHINGTON - A congressional committee preserved a legislative provision yesterday that would cut off funding for a federal pilot project allowing long-haul trucking across the U.S.-Mexico border.

The provision was retained in a $105.6 billion transportation spending bill approved by a House-Senate conference committee. That bill includes $50.9 billion in discretionary spending.


 

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Opponents of the cross-border trucking program, who hailed the committee's action, see the provision as their best hope to end the two-month-old experiment. They contend that the program lacks sufficient safeguards to ensure that Mexican trucks meet the same standards as American trucks, a charge that U.S. transportation officials deny.

Rod Nofziger, director of government affairs for the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, said the group was confident that Congress would pass a transportation bill that would shut down the program.

The Teamsters union, another opponent of the program, also expressed satisfaction with the committee's action.

U.S. transportation officials were disappointed with the bill.

“It's sad news for U.S. truck drivers and U.S. consumers,” agency spokesman Brian Turmail said after the committee retained the provision to end the pilot project.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary Peters has been lobbying lawmakers to support the program, which she insists is safe. She has said opening the border to commercial truck traffic will benefit the economies and consumers in both countries.

The agency announced this week that it awarded a contract to San Diego-based Qualcomm to install a satellite-based tracking system in participating trucks to monitor their compliance with U.S. regulations.

The conference bill is expected to win passage in the House and Senate, but it faces a veto threat from President Bush, who objects because its cost exceeds his request by several billion dollars. If it were vetoed, Congress could either override the veto with a two-thirds majority vote or send the president another bill.

One congressional aide said the legislation could be voted on by the House as early as next week and later by the Senate.

Bush favors the cross-border trucking program, which was conceived to determine if it's safe to open the southern border to unrestricted commercial truck traffic as required by the North American Free Trade Agreement.

 

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