SPECIAL REPORT: Roundtable talk hits on foreign trucks, compliance

| 10/3/2006

Oct. 3, 2006– Among the numerous points made Tuesday at a roundtable at OOIDA headquarters in Grain Valley, MO, one thing was made clear - foreign trucks operating on U.S. highways must be compliant with U.S. laws and regulations.

The roundtable discussion, called by U.S. Rep. Sam Graves, R-MO, chairman of the House Subcommittee on Rural Enterprises, Agriculture and Technology, allowed trucking representatives the opportunity to address issues of foreign trucks, immigration laws and cabotage rules on a panel that included state and federal agencies.

"Under NAFTA, Mexican trucks and drivers are to have access to American highways and byways as long as they have complied with all U.S. safety and driver regulations," Graves said in his prepared opening statement.

"There have been numerous complaints from border states that, in fact, Mexican trucks do not meet basic safety inspection laws," he said.

"The U.S. has very stringent driver regulation, including hours of service that are not enforced in Mexico. Legitimate concerns have been raised that foreign trucks and drivers have been violating immigration and cabotage rules for years and this is particularly disturbing when we are looking at giving them greater access to our country."

Along with Chairman Graves, participating speakers at the roundtable event were: Bruce Lundegren, assistant chief counsel in the Office of Advocacy of the U.S. Small Business Administration; Richard Carusi, federal security director for the Transportation Security Administration at Kansas City International Airport; William Quade, director of safety programs in the Office of Enforcement at the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration; Ben Goodin of the Missouri Department of Transportation; Ken Andrew Pratt, OOIDA member and owner of Ken Pratt Trucking in Platte City, MO; OOIDA President and CEO Jim Johnston; and OOIDA Executive Vice President Todd Spencer.

Comments were tailored to show the effects regulations have on small businesses.

Spencer told the panel that U.S. truckers have never been more frustrated with the system, having to jump through more hoops and endure more costs to gain hazmat endorsements than foreign drivers do to operate on U.S. roads.

"U.S. drivers wishing to haul hazmat in their own country must go through time consuming and costly background checks while foreign drivers continue to haul hazmat in the U.S. without security threat assessments being required," Spencer stated.

Border issues, Transportation Worker Identification Credential cards and homeland security issues dominated the discussion, in which Spencer drove home a point with FMCSA and some of the other agencies.

"Foreign trucking entities entering and operating within the United States' borders must be one of our country's top homeland security concerns," Spencer stated.

Curasi, the TSA representative, initiated discussion on the much-discussed TWIC cards, but said because the rulemaking was ongoing, he could not discuss details of the final rule. He did say the public comments made on the rulemaking were invaluable and generally suggested the rule imposes a significant burden on small businesses.

"It was suggested that the rule exceeds the statutory mandate to create a 'simple biometric card' by requiring a costly and complex one, the proposed technology of which has not been fully tested and perfected," Curasi stated in his prepared remarks, while discussing concerns about the TWIC program and the requirement of small businesses to possess card readers at their own expense.

Curasi said the TSA was mindful of the important concerns of small businesses and promised to hand deliver the comments shared by panel participants to TSA's administrator in Washington, DC.