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FMCSA extends cross-border trucking demo; four congressmen, UTU oppose extension


The U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) recently extended the cross-border trucking demonstration project for another two years and will seek more participation by U.S. and Mexican truckers.

The pilot program — which launched in September 2007 and was scheduled to last one year — provides Mexican and U.S. truckers unrestricted access to highways near the Mexico/U.S. border. But so far, only 10 U.S. and 27 Mexican trucking companies have elected to participate.

"A number of potential companies have been unwilling to invest the time and resources necessary to participate due to uncertainties concerning the project's longevity," said FMCSA Administrator John Hill in a prepared statement. "We intend this extension to reassure trucking companies that they will have sufficient time to realize a return on their investment."

However, U.S. Reps. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), James Oberstar (D-Minn.), John Mica (R-Fla.) and John Duncan (R-Tenn.) last week introduced a bill (H.R. 6630) that proposes to halt the demonstration project and prohibit the USDOT from granting authority to a Mexican motor carrier to operate beyond U.S. municipalities and commercial zones on the border unless expressly authorized by Congress.

"This administration has been hell-bent on opening up our border but over the past year has failed to show they can adequately inspect Mexican carriers while also maintaining a robust U.S. safety inspection program," said DeFazio in a statement. "The DOT has made clear from the beginning that at the conclusion of the one-year pilot, the U.S.-Mexico border will be permanently open to Mexican trucks without any analysis of the impacts of the program."

In addition, the demonstration project could eventually lead to Mexican-operated locomotives gaining greater access to the United States, United Transportation Union (UTU) officials believe. The union opposes the pilot's extension.

"Opposition to opening the border by giving unrestricted U.S.-highway access to Mexican trucks — and, perhaps, buses, and later Mexican locomotives and Mexican locomotive engineers — is not a matter of protectionism or dislike of our Mexican neighbors," said UTU International President Mike Futhey. "It is a matter of public safety and national security as made clear by both Republicans and Democrats in Congress, as well as highway safety advocates."