Part of the U.S. Senate's supplemental appropriations bill for the Iraq military action, an amendment to put a halt to the U.S. Department of Transportation's (DOT) pilot project to permit 100 Mexican trucks and truckers north of the current 20-25 mile restricted zone, was vetoed along with the bill by President Bush. In fact, a statement from the administration made specific reference to its objections to the attempt to block the implementation of the cross-border trucking provisions required under NAFTA.
In other actions to halt the project, the U.S. Teamsters Union filed a law suit against the DOT's Federal Motor Carriers Safety Administration (FMCSA) citing a lack of advance notice of the project and not allowing time for public comment before it was to begin as the reasons for the suit. “The Bush administration is ignoring the American people in its zeal to open our borders to unsafe Mexican trucks,” said the Teamster's general president, Jim Hoffa.
Mexico's Senate has expressed the desire to delay the implementation of the pilot project, since it has received strong objections to it, particularly from that country's CANACAR, the major trade association representing Mexican motor carriers. One of the associations main objections is that when U.S. carriers would be allowed to enter Mexico, they would perform cabotage (the transportation of cargo between two points in the same country) which the Mexican government lacks the the infrastructure to halt. The sense of the Mexican Senate is that it would like the project delayed until at least July.
For its part, the FMCSA has delayed the start of the program for at least a month, allowing until May 31 for public comments on the program. Secretary of Transportation Mary E. Peters also announced that contacts with the Mexican government have led to modification of the pilot project. When it begins, U.S. trucks will be allowed south of the border at the same time that Mexican trucks are allowed to the north of the border. “This program puts the program on track to lower costs for U.S. consumers,” said Peters, “to make our economy more competitive and give U.S. truckers new business opportunities.”
No firm dates have been set for actual implementation of the program.