The year-long project will allow Mexican-domiciled carriers to move loads to destinations throughout the US, as do carriers of the country’s other North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) partner, Canada. Canadian and Mexican carriers may not perform cabotage within the US, but they may pick up loads to be transported back to their respective countries. The earliest anticipated date for the first crossing is September 6.
When first announced, the plan to permit Mexican trucks to move loads beyond the roughly 25-mile wide northern zone of the US-Mexico border drew loud and sharp criticism from a variety of sources. In reaction, the DOT’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) delayed an immediate opening of the border to receive and evaluate comments until July 31 on the program.
The FMCSA now says it has “reviewed, assessed and evaluated” comments received, particularly as they relate to matters of safety. Based on its findings, says the FMCSA, the agency’s “intent to proceed with the project is based on its consideration of all data and information currently available, including information submitted by the commenters. About 2,330 of the comments were individuals’ submissions that were no more than a few sentences and consisted of conclusory statements indicating that Mexico-domiciled carriers are unsafe and that the demonstration project should be abandoned.”
The FMCSA fully intends to move ahead with the test as soon at the DOT’s Inspector General completes his U.S. Department of Transportation’s Inspector General completes his required report to Congress. No specific release date has been set for the report. A number of individuals and organizations are against the project. Hugely vocal in opposition is the Teamsters Union. Where others question safety of the equipment to be used by Mexican carriers, Teamsters specific objections to initiation of the pilot project include:
• There is no certified laboratory in Mexico that can test drug and alcohol samples;
• Mexico does not enforce hours-of-service regulations;
• The Mexican Commercial Drivers License (CDL) has questionable medical standards and no real assurance that the license is authentic;
• State databases in the US do not adequately track Mexican drivers’ history.
“It’s outrageous, yet not surprising, that the Bush administration would announce during Congress’ August recess that it plans to recklessly move forward with its hugely unpopular program to throw open our border to unsafe Mexican trucks,” says Teamsters general president Jim Hoffa. “President Bush’s fondness for secrecy is matched only by his willingness to defy Congress.”
Joining in protest is the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association whose executive vice president, Todd Spencer, says, “We are stunned at the contempt of the Administration toward the rule of law. It’s also a slap in the face of every American, hard-working trucker. They are determined to open our highways to Mexico-domiciled tucking companies and truck drivers regardless of the concerns that have been raised by Congress and the American people.”