DeFazio criticizes cross-border proposal

Jill Dunn | April 18, 2011

A long-time congressional critic of cross-border trucking programs has asked the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to address concerns about the program and introduced legislation to establish a free trade agreements review commission.

Rep. Peter DeFazio, (D-Ore.), said Mexico’s safety standards do not equal those of the United States and Mexican carriers operating beyond the border zone will hurt jobs.

The North American Free Trade Agreement stipulates the U.S. cannot require Mexican carriers take safety measures not required for U.S. carriers, FMCSA Administrator Anne Ferro told the Truckload Carriers Association last month. To monitor the participants’ safety, the FMCSA is proposing to utilize electronic on-board recorders with GPS capability both to track the vehicles of participating Mexican carriers and verify hours of service of their drivers.

An FMCSA spokesperson said the cost to outfit trucks with GPS under the previous program was $711,640.

According to the program’s 2002 interim final rule, Mexico filed complaints against the United States under NAFTA’s dispute resolution provisions. An international panel stated the United States might be justified in using different compliance methods for Mexican carriers than those used for U.S. and Canadian carriers. However, the methods must address legitimate safety concerns.

DeFazio said the U.S. should renegotiate NAFTA concerning the U.S. commitment to liberalize cross-border trucking. Also, while Mexico carriers will have access to the U.S. under the program, he said U.S. trucking firms are unlikely to enter the Mexican market because of crime concerns.

On April 15, DeFazio introduced the End the Trade Deficit Act, which would establish a commission to review and report on free trade agreements he charges have destroyed U.S. manufacturing and jobs. The bill, which has one co-sponsor, would also put a moratorium on new free trade agreements until the commission’s final report to the president and Congress. DeFazio sponsored a similar bill that passed the House in 2010.

Following the FMCSA’s April 13 Federal Register announcement on establishing the cross-borderprogram, the OIG began an audit of the proposal, in compliance with 2007 federal law.

OIG’s objective is to assess FMCSA’s policies and processes for granting operating authority to Mexico motor carriers under the pilot program and for monitoring and ensuring compliance with U.S. law.

The House referred a Jan. 5 bill to committee that would provide for U.S. withdrawal from NAFTA. Rep Mike McIntyre, Mike (D-N.C.) sponsored the bill, which has 10 co-sponsors.