Aug. 1, 2001
Senate Vote on Mexican Trucks a Resounding Victory for Highway Safety
Statement by Joan Claybrook, President of Public Citizen
Today the U.S. Senate put the safety of Americans first. By a unanimous vote, lawmakers cut off the filibuster over the Department of Transportation appropriations bill, marking a resounding victory for highway safety in the United States. By this vote, the Senate has agreed to implement a much-needed provision authored by Sens. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Richard Shelby (R-Ala.). The measure contains strong inspection requirements to ensure that Mexico-domiciled trucks meet U.S. safety standards, as required by NAFTA. Murray/Shelby also requires on-site inspection of carriers in Mexico and provides funding for the equipment, facilities and border inspectors to help guarantee the carriers comply with U.S. standards.
The Murray/Shelby measure does not violate NAFTA. NAFTA?s arbitration panel in February ruled that while the border must open, the United States has the right to enforce its safety regulations. The United States also may require thorough inspections of Mexican carriers ? even if they are not the same as inspections of U.S. and Canadian carriers ? as long as they are evaluated on a case-by-case basis. This trade pact was never meant to be a suicide pact.
Still, this bill is still not out of the woods. Its opponents have threatened to throw up procedural roadblocks in the conference process, when differences between the House and Senate transportation appropriation measures are reconciled. But we will fight to pass this legislation because it will save lives and prevent injures. With more than 5,000 people killed and another 140,000 injured every year in crashes involving large trucks, we don?t need more devastated families.
Several senators championed the effort to have these safety standards included in the bill. We applaud Sens. Murray and Shelby for their leadership and determination. In addition, Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle?s persistence in guiding this bill over the past two weeks was key in its passage today.
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