With the bipartisan blessings of the White House and leaders of both houses of Congress, a compromise plan to open America’s highways to Mexican trucks overwhelmingly passed the U.S. House today as part of a transportation spending bill.
The measure won’t be taken up by the U.S. Senate until next week, but senators from both sides of the aisle wasted no time in praising the plan, announced Nov. 28. “This is a victory for safety, for trade and for both our countries,” said Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.)
The compromise, passed by the House 371-11, includes more safety inspections than President Bush originally wanted, and could take months to implement, past his hoped-for Jan. 1 start date. It does, however, provide the crucial, long-delayed framework for opening the nation’s southern border to trucks, as mandated by the North American Free Trade Agreement.
According to the plan, no Mexican trucks will operate in the United States until the U.S. Department of Transportation has audited the U.S. government’s enforcement ability and determined the border opening does not present an unacceptable safety risk.
Thereafter, Mexican trucks will be allowed to cross the border only at crossings staffed with U.S. safety inspectors. Every time the Mexican truckers cross the border, U.S. inspectors will do electronic license checks on at least half of them and on all those hauling high-risk cargo. Furthermore, each Mexican truck operating in the United States will have a safety inspection every 90 days. And all Mexican carriers wanting to do business in the United States will be subject to onsite U.S. inspections inside Mexico.
The dispute between the White House and Capitol Hill over Mexican trucks held up the $60 billion bill funding the U.S. Department of Transportation two months into the fiscal year.
Hailing the compromise were the American Trucking Associations, the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance and the Teamsters union. Less enthusiastic was the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, which noted that the Mexican border remained “a serious issue in terms of the possibility of potential abuse by terrorists.”