On Nov. 28, Congressional
negotiators and the White House reached a deal they say addresses the safety
demands of the trucking industry but will allow Mexican trucks to operate
beyond the commercial zone. The border rule controversy, complicated by the
Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, had been the primary sticking point in the passing
of a $60 billion bill funding the Department of Transportation in fiscal year
``We are pleased that
we have reached an agreement on Mexican trucks that retains the critical safety
principles that are so important to the American people and to the 70 members
of the United States Senate who supported them," said Sen. Patty Murray
(D-WA), a lead negotiator on the issue and co-sponsor with Sen. Richard Shelby
(R-AL) of an amendment passed by the Senate in August. The Murray-Shelby amendment
called for tougher border rules than the White House proposed, drawing threat
of veto and creating a deadlock.
Sens. John McCain (R-AZ)
and Phil Gramm (R-TX), who supported the administration's stance, endorsed
the compromise. Congressman Hal Rogers (R-KY) was also involved in the negotiations.
Rogers called it a "fair deal" and said it met with the White House's
approval. The agreement also was endorsed by Rep. Martin Olav Sabo (D-MN),
who sponsored the outright ban passed by the House earlier this year.
Here are some key provisions
of the agreement:
· The agreement
calls for scales and weigh-in-motion equipment to be immediately placed at
five border ports of entry and five more within a year. (The original Murray-Shelby
amendment called for fixed scales and weigh-in-motion equipment to be installed
at every border point.)
· The new agreement
requires electronic verification of the license of every Mexican truckdriver
crossing the border who is carrying high-risk cargo and verification of at
least half of all other Mexican truckers every time they cross the border.
· Mexican trucking
firms are to be subjected to rigorous onsite inspections before their trucks
are allowed access to American highways, and requires every Mexican truck
to undergo a physical inspection every 90 days to operate in the U.S.
· Once Mexican
trucks are allowed to operate in the U.S., they will only be allowed to cross
at those border crossings where inspectors are on duty and there is adequate
capacity to conduct safety enforcement activities.
· The agreement
requires comprehensive safety examinations of Mexican trucking firms before
they are granted conditional authority and allowed into the U.S. These safety
exams verify that Mexican trucking firms have a drug and alcohol-testing program,
proof of insurance and drivers with clean driving records.
· The agreement
prohibits any Mexican trucking firm from operating in the U.S. until the DOT
Inspector General has conducted a thorough audit of the U.S. government's
ability to enforce strict safety standards on all Mexican trucks crossing
the border. Importantly, the agreement further prohibits any Mexican trucking
firm from operating in the U.S. until the Secretary of Transportation, after
reviewing the I.G.'s audit, certifies in writing that the opening of
the border will not present an unacceptable safety risk.
"This was a very,
very contentious issue politically and we are not surprised to see a compromise,"
said OOIDA's Todd Spencer. "But the border opening remains a critical
truck safety consideration and a serious issue in terms of the possibility
of potential abuse by terrorists acting to further their agenda. When will
we see Mexican trucks operating beyond the commercial zones? Although the
Bush administration wanted to see it happen by Jan.1, 2002, it's not
likely we'll see it so soon given the requirements DOT must meet."