Aug. 4, 2008

Bush Administration Defies Congress, Extends Dangerous Cross-Border Truck Pilot Project for Two More Years

Statement of Lena Pons, Policy Analyst, Public Citizen

In announcing today that it would extend its cross-border trucking pilot project for two more years, the Bush administration continues to flout Congress at the expense of highway safety. This is the latest of many moves by the administration to give Mexico-domiciled carriers operating authority in the United States beyond a limited border zone despite lawmakers’ clear instructions to the contrary.

In December 2007, Congress passed a measure aimed at requiring the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to comply with certain safety assurances. The measure, contained in the appropriations bill for the Department of Transportation, prohibited the use of funds to “establish” cross-border trucking pilot projects. But FMCSA extended the program to more carriers in clear defiance of the intent of Congress.

Public Citizen, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters and other groups argued against the program in February in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, citing numerous violations of repeated congressional mandates, including the recent spending bill. A final ruling is expected soon. Until then, FMCSA must not be permitted to extend the pilot program any further.

In addition, U.S. Reps. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) and James Oberstar (D-Minn.) introduced a bill July 29 to prohibit the secretary of transportation from granting authority to Mexico-domiciled carriers to operate beyond the commercial zone unless authorized by Congress. A committee approved the bill two days later, although the full House of Representatives has yet to vote on it.

The pilot program not only is unlawful, it is reckless. Extending it for two more years sends the wrong message and ignores multiple entreaties by Congress to terminate the program until safety concerns have been addressed.

Note: In 2001, a NAFTA tribunal ordered the United States. to permit access to all U.S. roads for Mexico-domiciled trucking companies. The Clinton administration refused to comply, citing serious safety and environmental concerns with Mexico’s trucking fleet. The Bush administration has tried since 2002 to enforce the NAFTA order to open U.S. highways to unsafe trucks.