May 17, 2007:The House passed legislation (H.R. 1773) May 15 that establishes strict requirements for an administration pilot plan to let Mexican trucks operate inside the United States under the North American Free Trade Agreement.
Rep. Peter A. DeFazio (D-Ore.) said the "Safe American Roads Act of 2007" would assure in-depth audits and oversight of the Department of Transportation program to allow Mexican trucks to cross into the United States. DeFazio said he wished the president would withdraw from NAFTA provisions requiring the United States to open its border to Mexican truck traffic, but that at least Congress is being assured DOT is protecting America's roadways.
The legislation was approved 411-3 under suspension rules, which require a two-thirds majority for passage. The bill now moves to the Senate for consideration.
DOT Delayed Pilot Program
DOT in April suspended plans to move forward with a pilot program to open the border that it had earlier announced in February (84 DLR A-10, 5/3/07 ). The agency in May published a notice in the Federal Register seeking comments from interested parties on the pilot program after being sued by the International Brotherhood of Teamsters and other plaintiffs for not complying with public notice provisions.
H.R. 1773 limits pilot program participation to 100 Mexican motor carriers and 1,000 commercial motor vehicles. It also requires DOT to establish the pilot program through notice and comment rulemaking, describes required elements of any program, and states that the program will be terminated if DOT does not comply with any provision of the bill.
The bill would also require the DOT inspector general to issue a report to Congress prior to initiation of a pilot project and establish an independent review panel to monitor and evaluate the pilot program.
In addition, the bill would require the Mexican government to have a reciprocal program for U.S. carriers that seek to transport goods in the Mexican interior. U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary E. Peters said in May, upon delaying implementation of the program, that the pilot program would not begin until U.S. carriers had obtained reciprocal operating authority for long-haul operations in Mexico.
Hoffa Praises Bill's Passage
Following passage, IBT President James P. Hoffa said that the bill "ensures that the American traveling public is protected. The Bush administration can no longer ignore Congress and the American people on this important safety and security issue," he said.
"The Bush administration has given us sketchy information about its plans to throw open our borders to unsafe Mexican trucks," 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."