SPECIAL REPORT: House to vote on bill limiting cross-border program

| 5/14/2007

Monday, May 14, 2007 – A bill designed to shine a bright light on the impending cross-border program is set for a vote in the U.S. House of Representatives Tuesday.

The “Safe American Roads Act of 2007,” originally introduced by Rep. Nancy Boyda, D-KS, seeks to implement several “sensible steps” to rein in the U.S. Department of Transportation.

“If the DOT pilot program proceeds as planned, drivers in Kansas and across the United States will soon share their roads with unsafe Mexican trucks,” Boyda said in a prepared statement at a press conference she held Monday in Topeka, KS.

“The flood of foreign traffic will inevitably result in collisions, injuries and even fatalities.”

Boyda said she introduced the bill to implement “several sensible steps to rein in the Department of Transportation.”

For example, the bill – HR 1773 – calls for an independent review panel to oversee the program. If at any time during the program the panel determined the program was having an adverse effect on motor carrier safety, the panel could recommend modifications or termination of the program. The DOT would have only five days to take action on the recommendations or end the program.

There would also be a limit on how many trucks will be allowed in from Mexico if HR1773 passes. The cross-border program would still be open to 100 Mexican motor carriers. Those motor carriers just wouldn’t be able to operate more than 1,000 trucks in the U.S.

The bill also looks to take the guesswork out of whether the Department of Transportation has complied with all of Section 350 of the 2002 transportation appropriations legislation.

Section 350 outlined 22 conditions that the DOT had to meet before allowing Mexico-domiciled motor carriers to operate in the U.S. It required independent verification by the Office of Inspector General of only eight of those conditions. The remaining 14 required certification from the DOT that the conditions had been met.

If HR1773 passes, the OIG would have to independently verify the remaining 14 conditions.

The bill passed the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee unanimously with “prudent amendments” submitted by Chairman James L. Oberstar, D-MN, and Rep. Peter DeFazio, D, OR. Boyda thanked both for their leadership and guidance on crafting this legislation.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association supports HR1773. The Association recently sent out a national Call to Action encouraging its more than 153,000 members and other interested in promoting safety to call their representatives. To read the Call to Action, click here.

“This is no less than a crap shoot. There is no way this can be done and assure the safety and security of Americans within our own borders,” Todd Spencer, OOIDA executive vice president, told reporters Monday at Boyda’s press conference.

“Mexico is a third-world country. That’s just plain and true. It’s not our fault, but it will be that way for a long time. Until they can assure U.S. citizens that their trucks and safety systems are as comparable in terms of safety and security as ours, the border shouldn’t be opened.”

“We’re thrilled Congresswoman Boyda has stood up on this issue … we’re hoping lawmakers will see it for what it is and inject some sanity into the pilot program.”

The bill, HR1773, is scheduled to be considered by the House of Representatives on Tuesday.

– By Jami Jones, senior editor