June 27, 2002
Safety Left at Side of Road in Administration?s Haste to Open Border to Mexican Trucks
Shortage of Inspectors, Facilities Will Jeopardize Safety, Groups Say
WASHINGTON, D.C. ? The Bush administration is in such a rush to open the border to Mexico-domiciled trucks that it has overlooked crucial safety issues and ignored a severe lack of inspectors and inspection stations, which are necessary to ensure the border can be opened safely, four safety groups said today.
In a letter sent today to the Senate Commerce Committee and the Appropriations Transportation Subcommittee, Public Citizen, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, CRASH Survivors Network and the Trauma Foundation warned lawmakers that “the extremely tight schedule laid out by the administration for opening the border has allowed crucial issues to slip through the cracks.”
Congress last year agreed to allow Mexico-domiciled long-haul trucks to ship goods throughout the United States, as long as certain inspection requirements are followed. However, 23 of 25 commercial crossings in the United States still do not have permanent inspection facilities, and the government has not hired enough inspectors to check incoming trucks, the groups said. The administration has said it will open the border by the end of July.
In a report released this week, the Department of Transportation Inspector General focused on the implementation of certain goals established by Congress but failed to address safety shortcomings, the groups said. Further, the administration?s efforts to put a good face on the chaotic scramble to open the border has resulted in a diversion of resources away from truck safety in the United States.
“The government for years has failed to prepare for the opening of the border ? an event required under NAFTA,” said Joan Claybrook, Public Citizen?s president. “Now, transportation officials are scrambling to get ready. But they are utterly neglecting the agency?s domestic truck safety agenda.”
Other deficiencies in the government?s preparedness to open the border include:
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has proposed allowing short-haul trucks to continue to operate without certification that they comply with U.S. manufacturing safety standards ? a blatant violation of lawmakers? intent that all Mexican carriers follow U.S. law;
The administration has no meaningful plan to ensure that Mexican truck drivers abide by U.S. rules setting a limit on the number of hours they can drive;
There is no system to ensure that Mexico-domiciled carriers have valid and adequate insurance by a U.S.-licensed insurer.
“The safety of the public should not be compromised,” said Jackie Gillan, vice president of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety. “Every year, 5,200 people lose their lives in truck crashes, and this not the time to add to the death toll. We can?t allow unsafe trucks to drive through these loopholes.”
Click here to view a copy of the letter.