WASHINGTON – Federal
transportation officials announced yesterday they would
delay opening U.S. highways to Mexican long-haul trucks
until Mexico opens its borders to U.S. carriers.
followed congressional pressure for the government to
delay a one-year project to demonstrate that Mexican
trucks can operate safely in the United States.
Under the plan, U.S. officials had expected to allow
Mexican carriers free travel north of the border by early
this month. Current rules allow Mexican truck drivers to
go no farther than 25 miles inside the country. U.S.
trucks would have been able to travel throughout Mexico
within six months of the program's start.
U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary E. Peters issued a
statement yesterday saying U.S. trucks “will begin
operating in Mexico for the first time ever starting at
the same time Mexican trucks” begin free travel in the
The Mexican government did not have any comment
yesterday, leaving it unclear when Mexico might allow U.S.
trucks to travel freely on its highways, clearing the way
to begin the one-year trial project. A U.S. official said
the Mexican government had agreed to accelerate the
approval of U.S. trucks.
more about the trial truck project and how to send
your comments to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety
Administration before June 1, go to
www.fmcsa.dot.gov., look for the April
30 “New at FMCSA: Demonstration Project on NAFTA
Trucking Provisions” and click through to a page
for Docket No. FMCSA-2007-28055, then click to
view full text or PDF version.
The project is seen as a precursor to a permanent
opening of the U.S.-Mexican border to truck traffic both
ways, something called for in the North American Free
Trade Agreement. The opening has been delayed since 1995
by congressional action and lawsuits.
Explaining what appears to be a case of the
administration bowing to congressional pressure, Peters
said the plan was modified “based on” recent conversations
with congressional critics and the Mexican government.
While hundreds of Mexican carriers had applied to
participate in the experiment, far fewer U.S. companies
expressed interest in operating in Mexico, officials said.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., who sponsored
legislation to delay the program, called the announcement
“I was disturbed to learn earlier this year that
Mexican truckers would have started the program a full six
months before American truckers would have gained access
to Mexico,” she said.
House Transportation Committee Chairman James L.
Oberstar, D-Minn., also lauded the delay, which he said
would “provide Congress with an opportunity to evaluate
the proposal and its impacts on safety and on commerce.”
He said the committee would still consider legislation
tomorrow to add further restrictions to the Mexican
The Teamsters Union, a plaintiff in a lawsuit filed
last week seeking to require the program to comply with
more restrictive federal rules, remains opposed to the
“No one should be reassured by the Bush
administration's temporary delay in opening our borders to
unsafe Mexican trucks,” Teamsters President James P. Hoffa
said. “We will continue to fight this reckless pilot
Another party to the lawsuit, the Owner-Operator
Independent Drivers Association, also was critical.
Todd Spencer, executive vice president of the
association, said U.S. officials have failed to show that
the Mexican government has systems in place to protect the
public – including drug testing for drivers and limits on
“These systems that our government has said are vital
to assuring safety and security – for trucks and highway
users – simply don't exist in Mexico,” he said.
U.S. officials say they have put in place stringent
safeguards to ensure public safety, including safety
audits of Mexican carriers conducted by U.S. inspectors.
Under the program, Mexican trucks will have to comply
with all rules followed by U.S. carriers, including
holding a valid commercial driver's license, complying
with U.S. medical requirements and being able to
understand questions and directions in English.
The government will publish additional details of the
program in the Federal Register, an official record, today
and is seeking public comment over the next 30 days.