Congressmen lead way to stop DOT's attempt to permanently open border

By Jami Jones, senior editor | 7/6/2011

With the ink barely dry on the newly signed cross-border trucking program with Mexico, Rep. Peter DeFazio, along with Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-CA, and Rep. Daniel Lipinski, D-IL, immediately introduced a bill on Wednesday that will put a stop to permanent operating authority and taxpayer-funded monitoring of Mexican motor carriers.

Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood's return flight from Mexico probably hadn't even touched down in Washington, DC, yet when DeFazio, Hunter and Lipinski filed HR2407 the "Protecting America's Roads Act."

“As I have said many times, three issues must be addressed in the cross-border trucking program: safety, security and job loss,” DeFazio said. “I have sent several letters to DOT asking them to address these issues. My calls for caution have gone unanswered. My legislation puts the brakes on a bad deal for American truck drivers and the traveling public.”

The bipartisan bill seeks to restrict the cross-border trucking program to a pilot program that lasts no more than three years. The bill prohibits the Department of Transportation from granting operating authority that extends beyond the duration of the pilot program – which effectively kills any attempt to grant permanent operating authority to Mexican motor carriers.

“The latest step in the Obama administration’s persistent maneuvering, which is assumingly intended to mislead Congress and the general public, puts the pilot program on course for permanent status,” Hunter said. “In just a few short years, the program is set to become fully operational without due examination of whether any of the benefits outweigh a predictable and much longer list of drawbacks.”

The bill also shifts the financial responsibility of electronic monitoring of Mexican motor carriers participating in the program back off of U.S. taxpayers.

“We are pleased to see that congressmen have moved swiftly to interject some sanity into this blatant maneuver to permanently open the border to long haul trucks from Mexico,” said OOIDA Executive Vice President Todd Spencer.

“There is absolutely no justification to grant permanent operating authority beyond the scope of a pilot program,” Spencer continued. “Granting permanent authority is clearly nothing more than an attempt to placate Mexico and sell out U.S. security, safety and trucking jobs.”

In addition to containing the program to no more than a three-year pilot program, the bill also requires that the pilot program be carried out for a period of time sufficient to generate statistically valid findings – something that has been of concern because of lack of participation.

The bill also reiterates the requirement that pilot programs have several legal hurdles to clear in the form of Section 350 passed as part of the 2002 transportation appropriations legislation, and Section 6901 passed as part of the U.S. Troop Readiness, Veterans Care, Katrina Recovery, and Iraq Accountability Appropriations Act 2007.

Read more about those requirements here.

“The congressmen should be commended for their courage to take such a strong stand against this irrational plan to give permanent access to Mexican trucks,” Spencer said. “Everyone who has a vested interest in the future of trucking in the United States as well as the safety and security of this country should voice their strong support for this legislation.”

As of press time, The “Protecting America’s Roads Act” has not yet been assigned a bill number.

Editor’s note: Watch for breaking news updates on the DOT’s cross-border trucking program.

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