Omnibus spending bill contains provision to end demonstration program
The omnibus appropriations bill, which at press time President Obama was expected to sign, includes a ban on funding for “a cross-border motor carrier demonstration program to allow Mexican-domiciled motor carriers to operate beyond the commercial zones.”
The program – which began in September 2007 and was extended two more years last August – allows the U.S. Department of Transportation to select a limited number of Mexican and U.S. fleets to do business beyond the border zone.
DOT has battled lawsuits and congressional acts to stop the program. On Feb. 14, 2008, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco heard arguments about whether the Bush administration could go ahead with the program despite congressional attempts to stop it; the court hasn’t released its ruling in the case. The Teamsters and environmentalists argued before the appeals court that the program erodes highway safety and eliminates U.S. jobs; they also said insufficient safeguards exist to ensure Mexican trucks are as safe as U.S. carriers.
Section 136 of the Omnibus Appropriations Bill’s Transportation Title states, “None of the funds appropriated or otherwise made available under this Act may be used, directly or indirectly, to establish, implement, continue, promote or in any way permit a cross-border motor carrier demonstration program to allow Mexican-domiciled motor carriers to operate beyond the commercial zones.”
A federal oversight office’s final report on the cross-border trucking program echoed past criticism that it had insufficient participation to provide statistically reliable results.
A 2007 congressional funding act required the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Office of Inspector General to issue a report last March and a final one at the end of the project’s first year in September. The DOT, which received the report in December, mostly concurred with the OIG’s recommendations released Feb. 6.
When Republican DOT Secretary Ray LaHood and Democrat President Barack Obama represented Illinois as congressional members, they voted in favor of a bill that passed to halt the project. Last March, congressional members asked the Government Accountability Office to determine if DOT’s continuation in the face of this law violated the Anti-deficiency Act. The reviewers said they didn’t have information on the outcome of the GAO’s review.
The auditors made recommendations of ways the project could meet congressional requirements of yielding statistically valid results, including that DOT form a plan to obtain adequate