Senate bill sets cross-border trucking deadline

Jill Dunn | July 28, 2010

Next fiscal year’s federal transportation bill directs the U.S. Department of  Transportation establish and report on a cross-border trucking program with Mexico by October.

Sen. Patty Murray inserted the requirement in the Fiscal Year 2011 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development appropriations bill July 26. The Washington state Democrat added the language to S. 3644 to end retaliatory tariffs Mexico instituted last year following Congress’ vote to discontinue the pilot project program, which allowed a limited number of carriers from both nations to deliver beyond the commercial border zone.

The amendment requires the program maintain road safety, enhance efficient movement of commerce and eliminate retaliatory tariffs on agricultural products.

The bill passed the Senate subcommittee, which Murray chairs, and the Appropriations committee, and will go to the full Senate for consideration.

President Obama and Mexican President Felipe Calderón discussed cross-border trucking May 19, but the issue was not resolved, according to a congressional report released last month.

“The cost to federal taxpayers of ensuring Mexican truck safety, estimated by the U.S. DOT to be over $500 million as of March 2008, appears to be disproportionate to the amount of dollars saved thus far by U.S. importers or exporters that have been able to utilize long-haul trucking authority,” the researcher reported.

If Mexican carriers receive long-haul authority, the short-term impact in the U.S. is expected to be gradual. These carriers face a lack of prearranged back hauls, higher insurance and capital costs, as well as customs processing delays. In the long term, use of drayage companies will probably decrease as they lose market share to Mexican long-haul carriers.
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U.S. companies leasing Mexican trucks and drivers may become a major implementation issue. North American Free Trade Agreement implementation ends the prohibition on leasing to allow Mexican trucks and drivers to operate beyond the border zone. If a U.S. firm also arranges for work visas for leased Mexican drivers, it could make them available for more cabotage loads. This could have Mexican drivers competing more often against American drivers in the United States. If this is the case, the researcher suggested Congress may want to revisit the issue.