Sept. 12, 2007

Senate Vote to Halt Dangerous NAFTA Trucks Pilot Program Puts Brakes on Bush Administration’s Latest Threat to Highway Safety

Statement of Robert Shull, Deputy Director for Auto Safety and Regulatory Policy at Public Citizen

The Senate’s sound rejection Tuesday night of the Bush administration’s dangerous North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) trucks “demonstration project” sent a clear signal that public safety is a priority on Capitol Hill.

Congress has made itself clear: The Bush administration must put the brakes on the NAFTA trucks project. The Senate’s 74-24 approval of an amendment to the Department of Transportation appropriations bill would cut off funding for the pilot program. Tuesday night’s vote follows the House of Representatives’ passage of a similar measure by a wide margin earlier this summer.

Under the pilot program, the White House planned to make everyone on the roads guinea pigs in a high-stakes experiment with the safety hazards predicted to result from permitting all Mexico-domiciled trucks to travel on all U.S. roadways. Currently, such trucks are constrained to a limited border zone.

Congress repeatedly has spelled out for the administration the basic criteria that must be met before Mexico-based carriers may travel on U.S. roads beyond the border areas – in a pilot program or otherwise. The administration has repeatedly ignored lawmakers. By shutting down the Bush administration’s dangerous NAFTA trucks program, Congress has put an end to the administration’s willful disregard of the law.

The Bush administration wanted to sacrifice public safety on the altar of the failed NAFTA trade model. The votes of both the Senate and House clearly signal that safety must come first.

It’s time for the Bush administration to stop trading away the public’s safety and put an end to this farce of repeatedly steamrolling Congress’ demands regarding highway safety.