WASHINGTON A plan to allow Mexican trucks to haul freight deep into the US hit a speed bump Thursday when a US Senate panel voted to delay the plan.
The plan, which has met widespread criticism since its announcement in February, would allow 100 Mexican trucking companies to travel beyond the current 20-mile limit in a one-year pilot project.
The action by the Senate committee to delay the plan came as part of a supplemental spending bill to pay for wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“The Teamsters Union has successfully led the battle to keep our border closed for the past 12 years, and we will not let up in our fight as this measure moves through Congress,” said Jim Hoffa, general president of Teamsters, an outspoken opponent of the proposed project. “This is an important first step in our fight to keep America’s highways safe and secure.”
“The administration is rushing to open the border to Mexican-domiciled trucks without assuring their safety and enforcement of the law of the U.S.,” said Joan Claybrook, president of Public Citizen. “They can’t go rushing forward in opening the border without having explained what their pilot project is.”
The Transportation Department said it is committed to moving forward with the program and will work with lawmakers to address their concerns.
“The Mexican trucking demonstration program will bring real benefits and real dollars to the American economy while maintaining all US safety and security standards,” the department said in a statement. Democratic Sens. Byron Dorgan of North Dakota, one of three Senators who sponsored the amendment, admitted many significant safety issues still remain. Dorgan also criticized the Bush administration for opening the border to Mexican trucks before Mexico opened the border to US trucks.
Access to all US highways was promised by 2000 under the 1993 North American Free Trade Agreement, as was access through Mexico for US carriers. That aspect of NAFTA, however, has been stalled by lawsuits and disagreements between the two countries, despite trucks traveling freely across the Canada-US border.
The Bush pilot project will let Mexican truck companies travel from Mexico throughout the United States and back. No hazardous material shipments will be permitted.
–with files from Associated Press
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