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Consumer, Safety Groups Urge Senators to Vote for Critical Safety Provisions Regarding Mexican Trucks

?July 23, 2001

Consumer, Safety Groups Urge Senators to Vote for Critical Safety Provisions Regarding Mexican Trucks

Murray/Shelby Provisions of Appropriations Bill Are Key To Protecting
Motorists on U.S. Highways

WASHINGTON, D.C. Six of the nation s leading consumer and safety groups today urged senators to cast a vote that would help ensure that unsafe Mexican trucks don t endanger motorists on U.S. highways.

In a letter sent to all members of the Senate, representatives from the groups asked senators to support provisions of the transportation appropriations bill (S. 1178) authored by Sens. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Richard Shelby (R-Ala.). The groups include Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, Citizens for Reliable & Safe Highways (CRASH), the Consumer Federation of America, Parents Against Tired Truckers (PATT), Public Citizen and the Trauma Foundation.

The provisions “will guarantee that Mexican trucks and buses that request interstate operating authority to travel on U.S. streets and roads meet U.S. safety rules and laws,” the letter said. Any amendments including a substitute plan modeled after California s inspection system would not make the same guarantee, the groups stated. In California, inspectors don t verify the validity of a truck s U.S. operating authority, and inspection decals are illegally transferred between Mexican trucks.

The Bush administration plans to open the border by Jan. 1 to allow Mexican trucks to travel freely on U.S. roads. Currently, they are limited to a maximum 20-mile zone near the border. NAFTA required the United States to open its border to Mexican truck traffic last year, but the Clinton administration refused, citing safety concerns. There is a severe shortage of border inspectors, and unlike the United States and Canada, Mexico has not implemented a safety oversight system for trucks and does not enforce hours-of-service rules. The result is that many Mexican trucks are unsafe and are driven by tired truckers sometimes with invalid operating authority and no insurance coverage.

Further, the United States also suffers from a severe shortage of both safety inspectors and safety inspection facilities. With less than six months before the border is scheduled to open, only two of 27 border crossings have permanent inspection facilities, both in California.

The Bush administration s proposal for opening the border is inadequate because it would allow Mexican carriers to operate on U.S. roads for 18 months before a comprehensive, on-site safety evaluation. Also, the federal government would evaluate the safety of Mexican carriers by relying heavily on a database lacking basic information.

In contrast, the Murray/Shelby provisions would: 1) require a full on-site safety audit of Mexican trucking firms before granting them conditional operating certificates and follow-up safety compliance reviews within 18 months before a permanent operating certificate is granted; 2) prohibit opening the border to Mexican trucks until a policy is in place to ensure that Mexican truckers comply with all United States safety requirements, including hours-of-service rules; 3) provide funding increases above the administration s request for inspectors and inspection facilities; 4) prohibit opening the border until border crossings have weigh scales; and 5) require an accessible database to permit monitoring the safety performance of all Mexican firms applying for certificates to operate in the United States.

“The time line for opening the border, set by the Administration for January 1, 2001, is still irresponsibly short, and the U.S. DOT Secretary s objections to the sensible steps required by the Murray/Shelby provisions are ill-founded,” today s letter stated. “The Murray/Shelby provisions include commonsense measures that assure the American public is not exposed to the unreasonable risk of catastrophic crashes with dangerous Mexico-domiciled trucks that the U.S. DOT fails to stop in its rush to meet the January deadline.”


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