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July 12, 2001

Mexican Truck Vote Goes Far in Protecting United States Motorists

Statement of Public Citizen President Joan Claybrook

Senate lawmakers today took a commendable and critical step toward ensuring the safety of American motorists by requiring inspections and audits of Mexican truck companies before they are certified to enter the United States.

Praise is due to Sens. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) and other members of the Senate Appropriations Committee who confronted this difficult issue and passed an effective mandate to DOT to address the potential threats of unsafe Mexican trucks. These are essential because Mexico — unlike the United States and Canada — does not have mandatory safety standards in effect for large trucks.

The committee’s measure: 1) requires a full safety audit of Mexican trucking firms before granting them a conditional operating certificate and a follow-up safety audit within 18 months before a permanent operating certificate is granted; 2) prohibits opening the border to Mexican trucks until a policy is in place to ensure that Mexican truckers comply with United States hours-of-service rules; 3) provides funding for 80 additional border inspectors; prohibits opening the border until border crossings have weigh scales and until there is an accessible database to allow for monitoring the safety performance of all Mexican firms applying for certificates to operate in the United States.

The House voted by an overwhelming majority to prohibit any funding to allow operating certificates for Mexican trucks. (A House committee previously rejected a proposal similar to today’s measure.) By contrast, the provisions approved today are affirmative efforts to improve the safety of these vehicles, and we urge the full Senate to approve them.

It is also important to note that the NAFTA arbitration panel said that the United States is not required to treat applications from Mexican trucking firms in exactly the same manner as from United States or Canadian firms, as long as they are reviewed on a case-by-case basis and it is acknowledged that U.S. authorities are responsible for the safe operations of trucks within this country, whether the ownership of the trucks is United States, Canadian or Mexican.

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