Less than a week after the first Mexican trucks were allowed to cross the border and travel throughout the U.S., the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration announced today the first U.S.-based trucks crossed into Mexico to deliver goods.
Meanwhile, the senator who sponsored an amendment approved this week that would stop the bilateral truck agreement says Congress has no intention of compromising with the administration.
Stagecoach Cartage and Distribution, an El Paso-based trucking company, became the first-ever U.S. trucker to haul a shipment across the Mexico border.
The truck went through the Nogales, Ariz., commercial border crossing at about 9 a.m. local time on its way to Obregon, near Hermosillo, to deliver a load of plastic resin.
“Today is historic. We’re giving U.S. trucking companies the opportunity to compete in a new market that they have never before been allowed to penetrate,” said John H. Hill, FMCSA administrator.
“These opportunities will help reduce costs for American consumers and businesses while increasing trade efficiency at the border and maintaining safety on America’s highways,” he said.
The first Mexican truck to enter the U.S. in the demonstration project crossed Sept. 8 at 1:50 a.m. Eastern at Laredo, Texas, headed for North Carolina.
The program, which allows up to 100 U.S. trucking companies to operate in Mexico and up to 100 Mexican trucking companies to operate in the U.S., continues despite amendments passed by both chambers of Congress to stop it.
The House version passed in May by a vote of 411-3, and the Senate version passed just this week by a vote of 75-23. The vote originally was 74-24, but Sen. Elizabeth Dole, R-N.C., later changed her tally.
After today’s announcement of the first U.S. truck entering Mexico, Melissa DeLaney, spokeswoman for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, or FMCSA, told WND the demonstration program will continue because the congressional action is not yet law.
President Bush has issued a veto threat based on the funding levels of the Department of Transportation bill, she explained, and until it becomes law, the demonstration program will continue.
“We expect to see more trucks from Mexican carriers approved to travel into the U.S. in the next few days,” DeLaney said. “There also appears to be some optimism from the FMCSA that a compromise can be worked out with Congress.”
DeLaney said the FMSCA looks forward to “working with the conferees in Congress to come to a reasonable compromise and help ensure the safety of American highways while meeting the obligations of NAFTA.”
But Barry Piatt, spokesman for Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., sponsor of the Senate amendment to halt the program, said that won’t be so easy.
“If they were interested in working with Congress, they started off on the wrong foot,” he said.
Dorgan, according to Piatt, characterizes the actions of the FMCSA as arrogant.
“The FMCSA didn’t even let the ink dry on the inspector general’s report before they started the program,” Piatt said, referring to the DOT’s last-minute report to Congress attempting to address concerns that Mexican trucks would not meet U.S. safety standards
Piatt maintains the votes in the House and the Senate make the opinion of Congress overwhelmingly clear.
“Senator Dorgan is not interested in a compromise,” he said.
The announcement of the first U.S. truck entering Mexico also raises questions about how Mexico might react if Congress successfully blocks the program.
DeLaney points out it is a “bi-national program” and Mexico likely will stop it if the U.S. does.
DeLaney said it should be noted there is no requirement for a demonstration program at all.
“We are committed to incremental steps in demonstrating the safety of the cross-border program, but there is no requirement to have a demonstration program,” she said.
Dorgan’s office says a demonstration program is “not needed if they are not interested in demonstrating safety to the American public.”
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Michael Howe is a free-lance writer who has covered the trucking industry for several magazines. He resides in the Denver area where he serves on the faculty of Morgan Community College.