March 22, 2007

Senate Amendment to Appropriations Bill Would Require Bush Administration to Comply with Safety Requirements for NAFTA Trucks Pilot Project

Statement of Joan Claybrook, President of Public Citizen*

Today the Senate appropriations committee included an amendment in the supplemental appropriations bill that would require the U.S Department of Transportation (DOT) to comply with all of the requirements previously enacted by Congress concerning the safety of Mexico-domiciled trucks. It also would require the DOT to comply with the existing law concerning pilot programs, including the opportunity for public notice and comment.

Several weeks ago, before the president’s visit to Mexico, the DOT quickly announced the opening of the border with a so-called “pilot project” to allow long-haul, Mexico-domiciled trucks into the United States. NAFTA required that the border be opened to large trucks, although it has remained closed for a variety of reasons.

The DOT has not in any way defined its new “pilot project” or the methodology it would use to evaluate it – or in fact whether the agency would evaluate it. Senators Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) are to be commended for pressing to ensure that the DOT fully complies with the law to protect the U.S. public from unsafe tractor-trailer trucks. The Senate appropriations committee did the right thing today in ensuring the safety of any cross-border trucking program. We urge the full Senate to pass this provision and the House of Representatives to agree to this amendment in conference.

* Joan Claybrook was administrator of NHTSA from 1977-1981.