In an effort to ensure Mexican trucks will begin rolling across the U.S. on schedule, the Bush administration is pressing the Senate to not take any action on a bill passed overwhelmingly by the House that essentially would block the project.
Sources within the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation have confirmed in background conversations that the panel has put on hold taking any action on the Safe American Roads Act of 2007, the bill the House passed May 15 by a vote of 411-3.
At the encouragement of the White House, the senators on the transportation committee are taking the position that the requirements of the Safe American Roads Act were wrapped into the provisions of H.R. 2206, the Iraq supplemental funding bill, signed May 25 by President Bush.
At the moment, the staff of the Senate transportation panel has no plans to discuss a Senate bill comparable to Safe American Roads Act before the July recess.
An unhappy Todd Spencer, executive director of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, believes the Bush administration “has preordained that the Mexican truck demonstration project will begin regardless who objects.”
“Simply put, the Bush administration has turned a tin ear to both the public and the Congress and there are no objections which can put a stop to the DOT plans,” he told WND.
In response to the Iraq supplemental funding bill, the Department of Transportation issued a press release June 8 indicating additional regulations applicable to the Mexican trucks had been filed in the Federal Register, with a public comment period that extends to June 28.
As WND reported, Spencer has argued the supplemental funding bill demanded verification of safety issues that the DOT did not provide in its Federal Register filing.
The new regulations supplement the Mexican truck regulations DOT published in the Federal Register on May 1.
A statement by John H. Hill, administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration suggests the agency believes the new regulations complete the legislative requirements set out in the Iraq supplemental funding bill.
Referring to the supplemental Federal Register notice published June 8, Hill said, “This shows the great lengths to which we’ve gone to ensure this program meets high safety standards while providing American business opportunities for further economic growth. We continue to meet or exceed every condition required by law.”
The only remaining step required by the Iraq supplemental funding bill is for the DOT inspector general to confirm that the regulations published by FMCSA meet the safety and security requirements specified by Congress in the Iraq supplemental funding bill.
Allowing an extra month for this requirement to be filled, industry insiders now anticipate the Mexican truck demonstration project will begin Aug. 15, one month later than the July 15 start anticipated as recently as a week ago.
“No matter how many forms FMCSA creates,” Spencer said, “nobody can assure us that the Mexican commercial driver licenses or drug testing procedures are up to U.S. standards.”
“DOT is jamming these regulations for us, yet we seriously doubt that Mexico will have controls in place that will assure the U.S. public that the Mexican trucks allowed in the United States will be safe or secure,” he said.
Spencer suggested that in the final months of the Bush administration, every effort will be made to keep promises made to Mexico.
“Whatever it takes, the administration is going to make sure that Mexican long-haul rigs have free access on U.S. roads before George W. Bush leaves office,” he said.