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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.

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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.

The Rocky Face, Ga., grandfather correctly selected the previous day’s drawing and a second winning jackpot ticket was purchased in New Jersey, but that ticket-holder had not been identified as of press time.

“A coworker told me that somebody in Dalton won, so I looked it up in the newspaper,” Nabors said. “I couldn’t believe it. I’m numb.”

He told reporters he plans to keep working “at least two more days.”

Mega Millions tickets are sold in California, Georgia, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Texas, Virginia and Washington.

The previous largest U.S. lottery jackpot was $365 million in 2006, when eight workers at a Nebraska meatpacking plant won the Powerball drawing. The Big Game, the forerunner of Mega Millions, paid out a $363 million jackpot in 2000.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association and Bridge Terminal Transport have settled OOIDA’s class-action lawsuit against the fleet that was pending in a New Jersey federal court.

According to the settlement, BTT will pay $6.25 million to settle all claims raised in the suit, including attorneys’ fees and costs. The settlement class covers the approximately 6,000 owner-operators who leased equipment and services to BTT from June 2000 through December 2005.

In addition, BTT has agreed to revise its owner-operator lease agreement to clearly state compensation terms and disclose all administrative fees charged back to owner-operators.

OOIDA and seven of its members sued the Charlotte, N.C., intermodal giant in 2004, alleging that BTT’s owner-operator leases violated federal regulations by failing to disclose or properly document compensation provisions and by failing to disclose fuel and insurance-related administrative fees.

“OOIDA believes the settlement with BTT is fair to owner-operators in that it provides for meaningful compensation to class members and because BTT has agreed to modify its lease to provide greater transparency and address the concerns expressed by OOIDA,” said Jim Johnston, OOIDA president.

“We believe that we were complying with all the obligations of the law,” said Phil Connors, BTT president. “However, as we prepared to address the lawsuit, it became clear that we had made some mistakes that created the possibility for our owner-operator business partners to suffer a loss.”

Satellite radio networks XM and Sirius announced on Feb. 19 their intent to merge by year’s end.

“The companies will continue to operate independently until the transaction is completed and will work together to determine the combined company’s corporate name,” the companies announced.

Together, the two networks have about 14 million subscribers, including many truckers drawn to the 24-hour offerings of sports, news, talk and music and the companies’ rival trucking channels. XM’s Open Road (Channel 171) features Bill Mack, Dave Nemo, Dale “Truckin’ Bozo” Sommers and Overdrive Trucking News, while Sirius’ Road Dog Trucking Radio (Channel 147) features Carl P. Mayfield, Mojo Nixon and the Midnight Trucking Radio Network.

Programming on either outlet will not change until the merger is complete, after which Sirius programming will become available to XM subscribers and vice versa. Package options may include subscription to certain channels on an

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