U.S.-Mexico trucking plan may resume

Published June, 23 2009

The United States may allow Mexican trucks to do business here as early as June, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood reportedly said May 22.

This spring, Congress ended the cross-border trucking program between the two countries. Mexico responded with 90 tariffs totaling $2.4 billion on U.S. products, casting a heavy burden on U.S. producers, LaHood said in a Bloomberg story.

Candice Tolliver, the new communications director for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, did not immediately respond to questions.

In recent weeks, the FMCSA began work with the U.S. Trade Representative and the Department of State, Congressional leaders and Mexican officials, to propose legislation for a new trucking project that will meet Congressional concerns and North American Free Trade Act commitments.

The agency is also working with safety advocates, labor organizations and other stakeholders. To facilitate this, some FMCSA proposal information may be shared with the Motor Carrier Safety Advisory Committee.

That committee originally planned two public meetings, but held only a May 20 session to allow all parties to hear MCSAC members discuss all topics the committee will recommend to the FMCSA, the committee said.

The workgroup held conference calls, conducted work via e-mail, and met in person this week. During those meeting, the workgroup submitted a report to the committee for approval.

It noted that if the legislation proposed is for a pilot program, it needs to meet federal code for pilot programs. Also, the FMCSA’s website should provide full program transparency.

The committee met at the May 20 meeting and approved the report, which identified program design, enforcement, data collection, information exchange and outreach, and education as categories for the proposed legislation.

Program element details include requiring:
· Each truck must have electronic on-board recorders to collect real-time vehicle information.
· Trucks be 1996 models or later.
· A statistically valid sample size and representative participants must be used.
· Allowing full U.S. accessibility to driver information, such as crashes.
· Prohibiting transportation of security-sensitive hazardous material.
· A drug and alcohol testing program for participants, including mandatory participation in a random testing program, similar to Canadian cross-border drivers.
· Mexico’s specimen collection procedural requirements be equivalent to U.S. standards.

U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), a senior member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure committee, has called Mexico’s retaliatory tariffs illegal.

DeFazio said the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Inspector General reported Mexico’s carrier truck fleet and its driver licensing and safety rules did not meet U.S. law. The two countries can comply with the 2001 NAFTA arbitration panel ruling by allowing access to the U.S roadways if carriers meet U.S. safety standards.

Some tariffs were aimed at products from DeFazio’s district and from districts from Congressmen who have actively opposed the pilot program, DeFazio added.