WASHINGTON – The Bush
administration appears to be delaying the start of a
one-year experiment that would allow 100 Mexican carriers
access to U.S. highways for the first time since 1982.
of the plan said they have been told by U.S. Department of
Transportation officials that the administration will
comply with proposed legislation to delay the program
until U.S. truckers receive the equivalent right to travel
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., a sponsor of the
measure, was informed about the change in plans this week.
“We were told the department would comply with the
legislation even though there has not been an
announcement,” said Feinstein spokesman Scott Gerber. “If
that's the case, Sen. Feinstein thinks that's great news.”
The measure, also sponsored by Sens. Patty Murray,
D-Wash., and Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., is part of a larger
emergency spending bill that won passage in Congress this
The bill faces an uncertain future. President Bush has
vowed to veto it because it contains a timetable for U.S.
forces to withdraw from Iraq.
Melissa DeLaney, a spokesman for the Federal Motor
Carrier Safety Administration, declined yesterday to
confirm or deny that the agency will delay the program.
She said the administration remains committed to opening
the border and continues to work with congressional
critics to address their concerns.
Critics, including Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Alpine,
contend that the administration has not proved that
Mexican truck drivers will meet the same safety standards
as U.S. carriers. Current rules allow Mexican truck
drivers to go no farther than 25 miles inside the country.
The administration says the program is safe.
Another complaint is that U.S. drivers would not be
granted access to Mexican roads until up to six months
after the program begins.
As recently as last week, U.S. transportation officials
said they were pressing forward with the program and
expected to certify the first Mexican carriers by early
May. DeLaney said yesterday she could not predict when the
program would start.
The North American Free Trade Agreement allows Mexican
truckers to operate throughout the United States and for
U.S. truckers to have access in Mexico, but delays have
been brought on by congressional critics and lawsuits.