The requirements for the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Mexican Truck Demonstration Project have been met, and some 37 Mexican trucking companies have been approved to run their long-haul rigs through the U.S. starting as early as Sept. 1, according to a Mexican government report.

In the United States, the inspector general of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration on Aug. 6 issued to the House and Senate Appropriations Committee an audit about implementing NAFTA’s cross-border trucking provisions, the last hurdle DOT faced before allowing the Mexican truck demonstration project to begin.

As required by Congress, the report was withheld from public release until August 21 – 15 days after being delivered to Congress.

At that point, industry commentators instantly noted that the FMCSA inspector general requested that additional improvements be made in two areas: to improve the quality of the data used to monitor Mexican commercial driver traffic convictions in the United States and to ensure adequate capacity to inspect Mexican buses.

The first industry reaction was that the report had blocked DOT from allowing the Mexican truck demonstration project to start until the FMCSA had adequately satisfied the deficiencies noted in these two recommendations.

However, the Mexican government report, posted in Spanish Aug. 14 on the Mexican government’s Secretar?a de Comunicaciones y Transportes website, came to a different conclusion.

It said, “The conditions for the beginning of the Cross-Border Truck Demonstration Project have been met.”

The Secretar?a de Comunicaciones y Transportes also announced in the document that 37 Mexican trucking companies had satisfactorily met the U.S. Department of Transportation’s requirements for participating in the demonstration project.

Also little noted in the U.S. was a press release issued by Mexican Transportation Secretary Luis Tellez reporting the Mexican government anticipates starting the demonstration project in the last week of August.

A careful reading of the Aug. 6 FMCSA inspector general’s audit shows that no sentence in the report states that DOT may not proceed with the Mexican truck demonstration project until the requirements of the audit’s recommendations are met.

Focusing on the yet unmet recommendations, American industry leaders had just assumed that the additional demands would block DOT from giving approval to the Mexican trucks to proceed.

But the fine print of the Aug. 6 report signals the unmet recommendations were just that, recommendations, not requirements.

“These improvements are needed more urgently than ever because Mexican motor carriers may be granted long haul authority in the near future,” the report said.

This month, the FMCSA and DOT have been unusually silent on the status of the Mexican truck demonstration project, dodging questions about their response to the Aug 6 audit.

Todd Spencer, executive vice president of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, told WND the behavior of the FMCSA and DOT in pushing the Mexican truck demonstration project has been “reprehensible.”

“The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and the Department of Transportation under Secretary Mary Peters continue to thumb their noses at legitimate issues and important questions that have been raised by the American people and their elected representatives,” Spencer told WND.

Spencer said he considered it “possible” that DOT would give the green light to the Mexican truck demonstration project as early as next week, since the Aug. 6 audit did not specifically prohibit them from doing so.

Spencer noted that a start date as early as Sept. 1 would be an additional affront, since Congress is still out of town for their annual August recess.

“The Bush administration is determined to push this Mexican truck project down the throats of the American people and Congress,” Spencer stressed.

“Reading the inspector general’s report, there are many serious safety concerns that are still far from resolved,” he said. “Now we’re just supposed to ignore those recommendations and let the Mexican long-haul rigs roll anywhere they want in the United States, regardless whether it’s safe or not?”

WND previously has reported that on May 15, the House of Representatives passed the Safe American Roads Act of 2007 (H. R. 1773), by an overwhelming bipartisan 411-3 margin.

WND also reported a White House strategy to pressure the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation not to hold hearings or take any action on the House-passed Safe American Roads Act of 2007.

WND further reported the White House was trying to persuade senators on the transportation committee that the requirements of the Safe American Roads Act were wrapped into the provisions of H.R. 2206, the Iraq supplemental funding bill, which was signed into law by President Bush on May 25.

The Bush administration argued that a May filing by the FMCSA in the Federal Register was sufficient to satisfy the H.R. 2206 requirements to post safety regulations before the Mexican demonstration project was permitted to start.

Now that the FMCSA inspector general has issued the Aug 6 audit, the published government reports in Mexico suggest DOT is ready to take the position that the last congressional requirement has been met with the publication of this report.

WND left multiple requests with Brian Turmail, FMCSA spokesman, and Madeline Chulumovich, spokeswoman in the FMCSA’s inspector general’s office, asking for an interpretation of the audit requirements and the date for the program to begin, without getting a response.

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