SPECIAL REPORT: House passes bill slowing cross-border program

| 5/15/2007

Tuesday, May 15, 2007 – By an overwhelming margin, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill seeking to harness the Department of Transportation’s cross-border program.

The “Safe American Roads Act of 2007” passed the house Tuesday, May 15, with House members voting 411-3 to suspend the rules and pass as amended.

If signed into the law the bill initially introduced by Rep. Nancy Boyda, D-KS, seeks to implement “several sensible steps to rein in the Department of Transportation.”

“This passage of this bill goes a long way toward injecting some sanity into a program that still has too many questions that have not been resolved,” said OOIDA Executive Vice President, Todd Spencer. “The DOT has provided nothing but rhetoric when asked exactly how it will effectively implement this program.”

The lack of detail prompted staunch support of Boyda’s bill from the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association and its more than 153,000 members.

“This vote is a result of lawmakers listening to our members who have written or called expressing concern about safety and security,” Spencer said.

The Association has been leading a campaign to make sure its members, the media and the public are aware of the risks to safety and security.

“Truckers are largely responsible for the successful passage of HR1773,” Spencer said.

For example, the bill – HR1773 – 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.

The bill also mandates a limit on how many trucks will be allowed in from Mexico if HR1773 passes into law. 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 would 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 into law, 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.

With the passage of the “Safe American Roads Act of 2007,” attention now turns to the Senate.

“We’ve been talking with Republicans and Democrats in the Senate about legislation such as this,” Rod Nofziger, OOIDA director of government affairs. “The strong vote in the House will make it much easier to move a similar bill through the Senate expeditiously.”

– By Jami Jones, senior editor