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Jan. 7, 2008 

Bush Administration Flouts Law on NAFTA Trucks Pilot Program, Boosts Number of Carriers on U.S. Roads

Statement of Joan Claybrook, President, Public Citizen*

Today, the Bush administration spat in the public’s face by allowing full access to U.S. roads to yet another Mexico-based carrier — despite Congress’ clear intent that the reckless NAFTA trucking pilot program be brought to an end.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) announced today that the Baja-based carrier Madereria Las Lomitas is now authorized to send a truck throughout U.S. roads. That means 12 Mexico-based carriers are now sending 57 trucks across the U.S. and are no longer restricted to the border zone. This announcement comes on the heels of the administration’s shocking statement that it would continue with the NAFTA trucks pilot program even though President Bush last month signed into law an omnibus appropriations bill that cut all funds for the program.

FMCSA’s purposeful defiance blatantly disregards the newly passed federal law. The appropriations provision prohibits using any funds to “establish” a pilot program. The dictionary’s definition of “establish” includes “to introduce and cause to grow and multiply.” FMCSA has told reporters that the law bars only the “establishment” of new pilot programs and that its current pilot program — the exact same one that prompted Congress to cut off funding — was “established” in September 2007. Yet FMCSA continues to authorize new carriers, further “establishing” the program in any meaning of the term.

This dubious interpretation isn’t just tortured logic — it’s a willful repudiation of the clear intent of Congress to end this pilot project. Congress has repeatedly and overwhelmingly denounced the flawed program as dangerous and unjustified. The Bush administration’s insistence on pushing forward, despite requirements to put the public’s safety first, forced Congress to cut funding for the project.

It is absolutely unacceptable for the administration to pick and choose the laws it will respect. FMCSA has no basis to ignore this law and in doing so shows it has no regard for the well-being of American drivers.

Note: Public Citizen is one of several organizations that sued to block the pilot program. READ the letter.

* Joan Claybrook was administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) from 1977-1981.

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