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
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
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
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
“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
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.