SPECIAL REPORT: Cross-border program funding cut

| 12/26/2007

Wednesday, Dec. 26, 2007 – A provision designed to block Mexican motor carriers from having open access to U.S. highways is one of several trucking-related provisions signed into law Wednesday.

Along with the measure to stop funding for the cross-border program for a year, another provision that would block the tolling of federal highways in Texas is also part of the fiscal year 2008 massive appropriations bill signed by President George W. Bush today.

The president signed the $555 billion omnibus appropriations bill while on Air Force One en route to his Texas ranch.

“Obviously, we are very pleased the president signed the measure. We’re also pleased truckers became involved in the process, specifically on the Mexican truck pilot program,” said OOIDA Executive Vice President Todd Spencer. “The legislation cuts off funding for that program, as it should, until appropriate safety measures and assurances are put into place.”

The following language was included in the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration spending provision:

“None of the funds made available under this Act may be used to establish a cross-border motor carrier demonstration program to allow Mexico-domiciled motor carriers to operate beyond the commercial zones along the international border between the United States and Mexico.”

The inclusion pleases Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association officials who worked throughout 2007 with Rep. Nancy Boyda, D-KS, Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-CA, and Sen. Patty Murray, D-WA, on three separate bills to get the cross-border program with Mexico stopped.

“We want to give our biggest thanks to the many drivers who made the phones ring. They delivered a message that could not be ignored,” Spencer said.

However, late in the day Wednesday, OOIDA learned that FMCSA officials plan to continue the cross-border program.

“Apparently, this rogue administration wants to play word games and intends to thumb its nose at the clear intent behind the unambiguous legislation,” Spencer said.

OOIDA already has a lawsuit seeking to stop the program pending in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit in San Francisco. Spencer said that if the administration continues with the cross-border program in spite of the funding cut, the Association will push forward on the pending lawsuit.

OOIDA officials are also pleased that a provision originating as an amendment offered by Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-TX, was also signed into law as part of the appropriations bill.

The provision states that “None of the funds made available in the Act shall be used to consider or approve an application to permit the imposition or collection of any toll on any portion of a federal highway facility in the state of Texas.”

“Sen. Hutchinson’s language provides a positive, first step in Congress toward formulating sound highway funding policy in a direction far different than the ‘payday’ loan mentality that seems to have captivated this administration,” Spencer said.

The Texas provision does not apply to new construction. It would, however, prohibit the state of Texas from “purchasing” an interstate from the federal government if tolls were to be imposed on it.

Federal agencies have been operating on temporary budgets since Oct. 1.

– By Jami Jones, senior editor

Staff Writer David Tanner contributed to this report.