BNA Daily Labor Report: DOT's LaHood Says Truck Program With Mexico Needs to be Relaunched

June 14, 2010: Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said June 10 that a cross-border trucking program with Mexico needs to be launched and that the Obama administration would be relaunching the program.

LaHood is the Obama administration's point man on the North American Free Trade Agreement cross-border trucking dispute with Mexico. He made his remarks under questioning after addressing a forum of the Canadian American Business Council.

“We have worked with the White House to craft … what we think [is] a good proposal,” LaHood said. He said members of Congress he spoke with regarding the cross-border trucking dispute had concerns mainly revolving around safety, including matters such as the safety of Mexican trucks, driver qualifications, and hours of service requirements.

“We've incorporated all those ideas that we got from members of Congress [in] the proposal,” LaHood said.

Getting Feedback From Capitol Hill

LaHood told reporters after his remarks that the next step for the proposal is to put it out on Capitol Hill and get feedback from lawmakers and from the Mexican government. Under questioning, LaHood said this would be happening “soon.”

A cross-border truck initiative was to be phased in with Mexico beginning in 1995 under NAFTA provisions. Citing safety concerns about Mexican trucks on U.S. roads, the Clinton administration and Congress did not allow the program to go forward.

The Bush administration attempted to put in place a pilot program to begin compliance with NAFTA provisions (174 DLR A-11, 9/10/07). However, Congress subsequently shut the program down. In 2009, Mexico retaliated, as allowed under NAFTA, by slapping tariffs on $2.4 billion worth of U.S. goods (50 DLR A-5, 3/18/09).

“This program is a part of NAFTA,” LaHood said. It needs to be relaunched and at some point the administration is going to relaunch it, he added.

When asked whether the proposal would be attached to a reauthorization bill, LaHood said the most important thing was to float the proposal to members of Congress and have people at the White House explain it. “And then we'll have a strategy for moving forward,” he said.

He said parts of the proposal will have to be put in the Federal Register. “Over the next several months, we'll be working on it,” he added.

By Rossella Brevetti

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