House votes to ax Mexican truck carrier program

The United States House of Representatives voted 395-18 to prevent Mary Peters, United States Transportation, from granting permission to Mexican carriers to operate North of the border zone unless authorized by Congress. Due to NAFTA obligations, President Bush is expected to veto the bill.

The bill, HR6630, passed as amended on September 9, and now goes to the Senate. Administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, John Hill, announced on August 4 that he would continue the program for another two years.

“The world is watching how we choose to honor our international commitments,” says Hill. “At a time of surging exports and growing demand by U.S. truck drivers for new opportunities, it is simply irresponsible for Congress to deny American drivers the opportunity to compete in Mexico and American shippers a more efficient and timely way of getting their goods south.”

A lawsuit in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals will also determine whether or not to stop the program. The bill has received much criticism since its inception a year ago. In December an amendment was passed to cut off funding for the program, however Peters and backers did not agree that the wording would effectively stop the program.

President Bush has steadily backed the program though he signed the omnibus-funding bill in December that contained the amendment backers had hoped would stop the program. Just prior to the vote on DeFazio’s bill, the White House issued a statement that enacting the bill would endanger the United States from meeting its North American Free Trade Agreement obligations and spoil United States’ interests.

“If the DOT were forced to terminate the cross-border trucking demonstration project, opportunities and investment returns currently afforded U.S. motor carriers participating in the project would be compromised,” says the executive office. “However, intensified
enforcement activity by DOT’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and state law enforcement agencies has effectively addressed any Mexican truck safety concerns.”

Opponents of the program contend that NAFTA’s requirement for opening the border hinges on the ability of Mexican trucks to meet United States safety standards and background checks, a provision that they contend has not been met.