House bill delays Mexican cross-border pilot

WASHINGTON — The U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly voted to put the brakes on the on-again, off-again pilot project to allow 100 Mexican trucking companies access to U.S. highways.

The “Safe American Roads Act of 2007” passed by convincing margin of 411-3. The bill suspends the current proposal as it’s written. It would only allow the border to open if a series of amendments are made, including limiting the pilot to three years to a total of 1,000 Mexican trucks, and setting up an independent review panel to oversee the program.

The panel could recommend modifications or termination of the program if it determined new guidelines aren’t being followed.

Mexican truckers won’t be rolling north of the Rio Grande
just yet. US politicians put the brakes on that plan

Mexican and American truckers are currently limited to a 20-mile commercial zone on either side of the border. At that point they must interline with a domestic carrier, although many large U.S. companies own Mexican-based fleets.

Under the new bill, the program must also pass muster with Congress, the Transportation Department inspector general and an independent panel.
Furthermore, it calls for more transparency from the DOT.

The department would be required to disclose such information as safety records of Mexican trucking companies; standards for evaluating truck safety; Carriers that are part of the program; mechanisms for enforcing trucking safety laws; and details on penalties for non-compliance.

“The Bush administration has given us sketchy information about its plans to throw open our borders to unsafe Mexican trucks,” said Teamsters President Jim Hoffa said. “We don’t know how safety laws such as hours of service and drug testing would be enforced. This vote by the House repudiates those questionable attempts to open our borders without adequate safeguards.”

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, which has also been fighting fiercely against the plan, said the bill includes “several sensible steps to rein in the Department of Transportation.”

“This passage of this bill goes a long way toward injecting some sanity into a program that still has too many questions that have not been resolved,” said OOIDA Executive Vice President Todd Spencer.

Spencer credited his group and other independent truckers who put pressure on regulators for such a bill.

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