James P. Hoffa

Federal officials have confirmed that the first Mexican truckers have been given authorization to run their long-haul rigs throughout the United States under the Department of Transportation’s Mexican trucking demonstration project.

The word came during a late-night surprise teleconference held by John Hill, the administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. He told selected reporters that Transportes Olympic of Nuevo Leon was the first company to be given the authorization.

“This program was literally announced under the cover of darkness,” James P. Hoffa said in a Teamsters press release issued by his office today. “I have no doubt the Bush administration knows how angry the American people are about it.”

Hoffa continued, “I cannot understand why George Bush is jeopardizing the safety and security of the American people.”

“The Teamsters will do everything in our power to put a stake through the heart of this lawless program,” Hoffa added. “We will pursue our lawsuit all the way to the Supreme Court if necessary, and we will demand that our politicians act to represent the people who elected them.”

Todd Spencer, executive vice president of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, also said the court battle will continue. He provided WND with a copy of a petition for review motion filed this morning in the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.

The complaint alleges that the Department of Transportation failed to follow the strict procedures laid down by Congress for the conduct of “pilot tests.”

“We aim to stop the Mexican trucks at the border,” Spencer told WND, “and to expose the Bush administration’s determination to sneak this program past the American public in the middle of the night.”

Only this morning did the office of the DOT inspector general release a report transmitted to Congress yesterday, entitled “FMCSA Compliance with Mexican Motor Carrier Cross-Border Safety Requirements.”

Also this morning, Mary Peters, Secretary of Transportation, released a letter dated yesterday informing Vice President Cheney that the inspector general’s report had been transmitted to Congress.

With these communications, DOT took the position that the department had complied fully with the requirements Congress had demanded before the Mexican trucks were allowed to roll.

As WND previously reported, in 2002 Congress blocked the Mexican truck demonstration project by inserting into the FY 20002 DOT appropriations bill a prohibition against starting the Mexican truck demonstration project until 22 safety requirements specified by Congress had been met by the FMCSA.

The final step required in the FY 2002 DOT appropriations bill was the inspector general’s report delivered to Congress yesterday, only hours before the Hill announced the first Mexican trucking company that the agency had approved to cross the border.

U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio

U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., said yesterday he’d just learned the program was being launched.

“The Bush administration has indicated to me that tomorrow (Friday) they will open the U.S. border to 100 Mexican-domiciled trucking companies,” DeFazio said. “This is a sad day for America.”

“This administration is hell-bent on opening our borders,” DeFazio said, “but has failed to require that Mexican drivers and trucks meet the same safety and security standards as U.S. drivers and trucks.”

“That’s simply unacceptable,” he continued. “The administration is essentially adopting a faith-based paper system without adequate protections for public safety.”

Spencer told WND earlier the White House has pursued a “stealth strategy” in launching the Department of Transportation’s Mexican truck demonstration project.

“We are confident that the White House decided long ago every aspect of how up to 100 Mexican trucking companies are going to be allowed to run their long-haul rigs anywhere in the United States,” Spencer told WND, “but the American public and Congress are being intentionally kept in the dark.”

WND broke the news the DOT Mexican truck demonstration project was scheduled to start early this month.

Statements by Mexican Transportation Secretary Luis Tellez and reports in Spanish on the Mexican government’s transportation department website announced that 37 Mexican trucking companies had satisfactorily met the DOT requirements for participating in the test and the start date was scheduled to be Sept. 1.

WND continues to experience difficulties getting any response out of the Bush administration.

For weeks, WND has called and left messages for spokeswoman Melissa Delaney at the Federal Motor Carrier Administration and spokeswoman Madeline Chulumovich at the Department of Transportation, without receiving any return phone calls.

Those taking messages at FMCSA and DOT continue to tell WND that Delaney and Chulumovich are the correct spokeswomen assigned to comment to the press on the Mexican truck demonstration project.

Messages WND left at both agencies again yesterday went unanswered.

Spencer charged the White House has intentionally pursued a strategy designed to keep the Mexican truck demonstration project “below the radar,” and avoid a public outcry on talk radio and the Internet such as occurred over the nomination of Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court, with Dubai Ports, and again with President Bush’s two failed attempts to jam a comprehensive immigration reform bill through the Senate.

“The White House does a much better job keeping Mexico informed than the U.S. public or Congress,” Spencer said pointedly. “Since March, we have credible reports that the Bush administration has been telling groups in Mexico that the one-year pilot program is merely a formality. Bush administration officials are willing to say in Mexico that once the one year had elapsed, the border would be wide open to all Mexican trucks.”

Spencer charged the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is “making up the rules as they go along” for exactly how the Mexican truck demonstration project would be launched, operated, or evaluated.

“There’s no doubt in my mind that the Bush administration is trying to manage the news so the Mexican truck issue does not explode on the American public like Dubai Ports or the Kennedy-McCain comprehensive immigration reform bill did,” Spencer said. “The White House spin never stops.”

“Why is the Bush administration preparing to issue visas to the Mexican drivers for six months?” Spencer asked. “This is the first guest worker program, whether the White House wants to admit it or not. Canadian drivers don’t have to have visas, so why would a Mexican driver have to have a visa, especially a visa valid for six months?”

At a noon press conference yesterday in the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee hearing room, DeFazio spoke of his frustration because Congress is unable to get straight answers from DOT, the FMCSA, or the White House.

DeFazio urged someone from within the Bush administration to come forward and discuss the inability of FMCSA to assure the safety of Mexican trucks.

“Unfortunately, we will be back here in the near future addressing this issue again,” DeFazio predicted, “but tragically that will be after someone has been killed on a U.S. highway by a Mexican truck driver.”

Rep. Nancy Boyda, D-Kan., told the press conference her office was getting many calls from constituents who were asking, “Why are the Mexican trucks being allowed across the border now and who’s benefiting?”

WND also reported 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.

And WND has reported about 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 Roads Act of 2007.

WND further reported the White House was trying to persuade senators on the transportation committee the requirements of the Safe American Roads Act were wrapped into the provisions of the FY 2007 Iraq War Supplemental funding bill (P.L. 110-28), which was signed into law by President Bush on May 25.

The Bush administration argued 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.

In July, the House approved an amendment offered by DeFazio to H.R. 3074, the FY 2008 Transportation-HUD Appropriations Act and was approved by a voice vote.

The Senate has yet to act on the FY 2008 Transportation-HUD Appropriations Act.

“I will continue to push the Senate to act, as the House did, to prevent this program from going forward,” DeFazio continued. “The safety of the traveling public must come first – before the administration’s fantasies about free trade.”

Roger Messman, a OOIDA truck driver from Nampa, Idaho, told WND, “We’ve got to stop this Mexican truck nonsense now. It’s bad enough we’ve outsourced many of our good paying manufacturing jobs to Mexico. Now, Mexico wants to be able to distribute their goods back up here again and take away more of our jobs, this time in the trucking industry.”

“If DOT succeeds in this travesty, we need to remind congressional leaders that both they and the American public have clearly spoken against this action,” Sue Horneman, an OOIDA driver from Lebanon, Ill., told WND. “We need to remind the Bush administration that funding for the new fiscal year is upon us and that if DOT wishes to ignore Congressional leaders on this issue, maybe major cuts in their budget will get their attention.”

Kevin Egly, an OOIDA driver from Broken Arrow, Okla., agreed.

“As a U.S. citizen, a 20-year veteran, I am very, very angry that the American public has spoken and DOT is ignoring Congress and the desires of U.S. citizens,” Egly said. “Who does DOT report to and why are they not stopping this illegal action? It’s a coup within our government and needs to be stopped right now.”

Earlier, WND reported an audit report delivered to Congress on Aug. 6 and released to the public late in August documented not a single certified drug or alcohol testing laboratory exists in the entire country of Mexico.

Right now, Mexican drivers are submitting specimens to U.S. drug and alcohol certified testing facilities, but without any reliable validation that the specimens came from the Mexican drivers submitting them.

WND also has reported DHS and the FMSCA have no way of knowing for certain whether or not Mexican truck drivers applying for participation in the DOT’s proposed test have criminal histories or troubled driving records with traffic convictions.

The problem is that Mexico maintains no reliable national criminal database or driving-history database against which the FAST identification applications or OP-1(MX) commercial drivers’ license applications can be checked.

FAST, as created under the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America (SPP) working groups, would enable Mexican trucks carrying loads of consumer goods into the United States to cross the border in as little as 15 seconds, according to government officials setting up the procedures.

Physical inspections of truck trailers or shipment containers are kept to a minimum in order to keep congested traffic at the border moving.

WND has reported in the trial of Border Patrol agents Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean, defense attorney Mary Stillinger proved the drug smuggler in the case, a Mexican illegal alien named Osvaldo Aldrete-Davila, held a valid commercial drivers license on Feb. 17, 2005, the date of the incident.

Ramos and Compean currently are in federal prison, serving sentences of 11 and 12 years, respectively, for shooting at Aldrete-Davila as he escaped on foot, fleeing across the border from the abandoned van in which he was attempting to smuggle approximately 750 pounds of marijuana across the border.

DeFazio chairs the House Subcommittee on Highways and Transit which has jurisdiction over motor carriers.

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