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Congressman criticizes cross-border trucking plan

Jill Dunn | March 11, 2011

A congressional critic of the previous cross-border trucking program with Mexico has demanded the U.S. Department of Transportation justify the planned program.

Rep. Peter DeFazio sent U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk a copy of his March 10 letter to DOT Secretary Ray LaHood. The Oregon Democrat asked LaHood to qualify how the plans will comply with federal pilot program rules and cross-border trucking appropriations provisions.

DeFazio also asked what provided the DOT with the authority to utilize the Highway Trust Fund for paying for electronic on-board recorders with global positioning system capabilities it would require for Mexican participating carriers.

Mexican cabinet officials have said once the DOT grants program participants operating authority, the agency can only revoke it for carriers that have breeched road safety, even if Congress votes again to end the program.

Pilot program regulations require the DOT to immediately revoke participation of carriers or drivers not meeting program conditions. The department would not be able to enforce this if Mexican carrier participants have permanent authority after passing a compliance review after 18 months, he said.

“Granting permanent authority to carriers on a rolling basis, and then granting blanket authority to all participants at the 18-month mark, would seem to exceed your authority under the law,” DeFazio wrote.

“Further, carriers who participated in the pilot program DOT launched in 2007 will get credit for the number of months they operated in the U.S. when they re-apply under this new program. This means that some carriers will receive permanent authority almost immediately,” he added.

Obama’s fiscal 2012 budget request allocates $4.3 million from the Highway Trust Fund to implement the program, some of which will be used to buy and install EOBRs for Mexican carriers and pay for monitoring. DeFazio said the agency spent $1.25 million on EOBRs for 27 carriers in the previous pilot program, which the participants kept when Congress ended it in March 2009.

“It is outrageous that U.S. truckers, through the fuel tax, will subsidize the cost of doing business for these Mexican carriers,” he wrote.

Following Mexico’s and the United State’s announcement on reaching agreement on the program, DeFazio said Mexico lacked adequate standards for commercial driver’s licenses, hours of service, and drug and alcohol testing. U.S. companies are unlikely to want to operate in Mexico more extensively because of crime concerns, according to a March 3 statement.

“If we open our borders to Mexican trucks and give them free range in America, American truckers with a decent family wage will lose work to under- or un-qualified Mexican truckers working for a buck an hour,” the representative said.

Congress has not scheduled hearings on program plans, although in January, DeFazio’s and California Democrat Rep. Bob Filner asked for hearings. That month, the House highways subcommittee pledged to monitor the program to ensure truck safety and protect U.S. jobs.

  • Gordon Alkire

    Why are the American taxpayers getting billed for the purchase and installation of these EOBR recorders? Are we being forced to support our competition now? What fund is this money coming from anyway? Road fund, Fuel tax fund or Social security?
    If Mexican drivers want to enter the USA then they can pay for the necessary equipment then they an pay for the necessary equipment to do w.
    Our own government is not paying for our EOBR’s why are they paying for the Mexicans?
    This is ludicrous and unacceptable.
    I do not think our tax dollars should be spent like this . This fiasco of allowing Mexican trucks to run our highways is not going to fix the fact that they have not proven to be able to follow the standards we have to. Are the drivers of these Mexican trucks going to have to speak enough English to hold a conversation with business or law enforcement or is this too going to be set aside?

    For the uninitiated and those that believe every thing a politician says the EOBR will NOT make our highways safer. It will not stop the tailgaters. It will not stop the speeders and it will not stop the ones that don’t know how or when to use a turn signal . It will however be a very big revenue enhancement tool. It will remove safe and experienced drivers from the road either by the bogus ticket system now being implemented by many less than professional LEO’s ( do you hear me California?) or just drivers that will not work in this BS environment any longer.
    Just my 2ct worth.

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