Plan to greenlight Mexican trucks blocked by senate

WASHINGTON — Mexican truckers have been waiting over a decade for cross-border access to the U.S. market under NAFTA. They’ll have to wait longer still.

The Bush Administration’s pilot project to open the border to 100 Mexican carriers in a little over a month hit a snag yesterday when a senate panel voted to delay the plan by requiring the administration to publish details about it and give the public more time to comment on it.

The Administration has been trying to get the plan going for almost five years as part of its NAFTA obligations, and has already cleared a number of court-mandated requirements.

Despite support from the American Trucking Associations, the government hasn’t been able to shake off critics — such as unions, special interest group Public Citizen and Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association — which claim the plan makes U.S. highways unsafe because of lack of oversight of Mexican truckers’ safety and hours-of-service records.

“The Senate appropriations committee did the right thing today in ensuring the safety of any cross-border trucking program. We urge the full Senate to pass this provision and the House of Representatives to agree to this amendment in conference,” Public Citizen stated in a press release.

The pilot would allow select Mexican carriers to haul in the U.S. if they comply with on-site DOT facility audits and prescreening of Mexican drivers, as well as drug tests and insurance checks. Like Canadian carriers, the Mexicans will not be allowed to haul point-to-point domestically in the U.S.

Currently, Mexican truckers are restricted to a 20-mile commercial zone north of the U.S.-Mexico border.

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