The Department of Transportation and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration are refusing to respond to key questions regarding when exactly the administration will launch a controversial demonstration project allowing Mexican trucks to operate freely throughout the U.S.

Since Monday, WND has tried without success to get DOT and FMCSA to answer the questions:

  • Does Secretary of Transportation Mary Peters have in place a signed agreement with Mexico that would allow U.S. trucks to operate in Mexico?

  • Will the Mexican truck “demonstration project” be delayed 30 days during the public comment period for the notice filed yesterday by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration in the Federal Register?

WND repeatedly has placed calls to Brian Turmail, DOT spokesman, and to Duane Debruyne, FMCSA spokesman.

By the close of business yesterday, WND had yet to receive a return phone call from either agency.

Yesterday, WND placed several phone calls to Jeffrey Shane, undersecretary for planning at DOT, again attempting to get the two questions answered.

By the close of business yesterday, Shane did not return WND’s many phone calls.

Yesterday evening, WND placed a phone call and sent an e-mail to the White House, requesting a response.

Trucking industry experts remain confused about DOT’s and FMCSA’s intentions with regard to implementing the Mexican truck project.

As WND reported, DOT and FMSCA made two surprise announcements Monday.

First, Peters announced Mexican trucks would not be allowed to run in the U.S. until American trucks were permitted to run in Mexico.

Peters said this breakthrough occurred as a result “of recent conversations with the Mexican government and Congress.”

The press release did not reference any agreement Mexico has signed that U.S. trucks will be allowed to enter Mexico. It also did not mention any date when the reciprocal open border initiative would begin.

The second surprise announcement Monday was that FMCSA had filed a notice in the Federal Register, effective today, with an invitation for public comments on the Mexican truck “demonstration project” for 30 days, until May 31.

The notice contained no specific statement that the demonstration project would be delayed until the comment period had ended.

Trucking industry sources continue to tell WND that both DOT and FMCSA have been embarrassed by the outcry of opposition from Congress, the trucking industry and the American public.

WND also wanted to ask DOT and FMCSA why the notice filed yesterday in the Federal Register was not filed when the project was first announced Feb. 23.

WND continues to seek answers to important questions, such as why the notice filed yesterday redefined the Mexican truck initiative as a “demonstration project,” not the “pilot test” terminology used when the program was introduced.

The notice filed yesterday in the Federal Register suggests the “demonstration project” will be judged a success solely on the ability to prove Mexican trucks can operate safely within the U.S.

Still, the Federal Register notice identifies many other requirements of the project which are not listed in the evaluation criteria.

Among the requirements are that the Mexican drivers permitted into the U.S. can speak English, that the Mexican long-haul rigs will meet all safety and environmental requirements placed on U.S. trucks, that the Mexican carriers will have U.S. insurance and that the Mexican drivers will follow the same rules U.S. drivers must follow regarding drug testing, hours driving versus hours resting, training and experience.

Will these criteria also be evaluated by DOT and FMCSA to determine if the demonstration project was a success or a failure?

Nowhere does the Federal Register notice specify the consequences should the demonstration project be deemed a success or a failure.

If the Mexican trucks are deemed not to be as safe as originally promised, will the demonstration project terminate at the end of one year, or will the demonstration be extended until the problems are fixed?

Nowhere does the Federal Register notice specify how a full Mexican truck program would be rolled out, provided the demonstration project is evaluated as successful.

The inability of DOT and FMCSA to answer these important question fuels the industry concern that the White House is insisting the Mexican truck demonstration project move ahead full-speed, even if DOT and FMCSA are unprepared to explain or implement the program.

WND also has questioned Department of Homeland Security assurances to Congress that no Mexican truck drivers admitted in the demonstration project will have criminal records.

As WND has reported, Mexico has no national criminal database, and the service bureau that supplies DOT with information about Mexican commercial driver’s licenses cannot verify their database is reliable.

WND previously has reported, the DOT’s Shane said in testimony to Congress that NAFTA superhighways “an urban legend.”

Shane’s comment caused Rep. Ted Poe, R-Texas, to comment in a telephone interview with WND that, “Mr. Shane was either blissfully ignorant or he may have been less than candid with the committee.”

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