Industry news

| December 12, 2008

Proponents of the Mexico plan say it’s needed to reduce inefficiencies at the border, such as this crossing at Laredo.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary Peters announced Feb. 22 that a pilot program allowing Mexican trucks into the United States and U.S. trucks into Mexico – as both nations pledged to do 13 years ago in the North American Free Trade Agreement – could start in early May, after safety audits are done and insurance is verified.

do 13 years ago in the North American Free Trade Agreement – could start in early May, after safety audits are done and insurance is verified.

The plan would allow 100 Mexican carriers and 100 U.S. carriers to do business beyond the border commercial zone. “Under our safety inspection plan, each and every truck in the demonstration program will be checked, and any unsafe vehicle or unfit driver will be taken off the road,” Peters said.

Public Citizen sued FMCSA March 13 on behalf of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety to compel the agency to release information about the program.

AHAS says it filed a Freedom of Information Act request with FMCSA in October for information about the approval process for Mexico-domiciled motor carriers that would be permitted to operate beyond the Mexico-U.S. border zone. No details about the methodology for evaluating the project or its criteria have been revealed, yet public safety is at stake, Public Citizen said.

Public Citizen, AHAS and the Teamsters union also say the initiative violates the 2001 law that the border should be closed to Mexican trucks until certain safety measures are in place. Prominent Democrats on Capitol Hill echoed those concerns and asked the DOT inspector general to audit the pilot program and determine whether it complies with the 22 conditions set by Congress.

A 2005 inspector general’s report found that many of those conditions had not been met, but DOT officials say the follow-up report will show they have been.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association has long opposed the move. “We feel DOT is overstepping its bounds with this pilot project,” said OOIDA spokesman Todd Spencer.

The American Trucking Associations, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Foreign Trade Council applauded the program. ATA President Bill Graves did, however, meet with Manuel Rodriguez, Mexico’s undersecretary for transportation, to express concerns about the program.

The trucker who won half of the largest lottery in U.S. history has said he plans to go fishing.

Eddie Eugene Nabors, 52, said he had bought the boat four days before the drawing and now would take it “everywhere” after claiming his half of the March 7 record-breaking $390 million Mega Millions jackpot. Nabors drives for the Georgia-based flooring supplier Mohawk Industries, according to the Georgia Lottery Corp.

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