Mexican truck entry two years away, legislator says

| Friday, June 06, 2003

U.S. Rep. Charlie Gonzales, D-TX, recently said it would be at least two years before Mexican big rigs can travel beyond U.S. commercial zones as stipulated in the North American Free Trade Agreement, The San Antonio Express-News reported.

An appeals court ruled last month the U.S. Department of Transportation must further study the potential effect of Mexican trucks on air quality in American cities. The department is considering whether to fight the decision or to conduct the enhanced survey.

"If you exhaust the appellate process, and it needs to be done, you have to fast-track (the study), and get it done within two years," Gonzalez said.

Speaking at the Free Trade Alliance San Antonio's annual "View from Capitol Hill" luncheon, Gonzalez said he thought President Bush would try to expedite a new study if needed. That would reduce the usual time frame of five years for such a review because a longer delay could hurt commerce.

But "a majority of the members of Congress in both parties are not going to look at it as a priority," Gonzalez said.

In December, it seemed cross-border trucking was about to become reality. Congress required Mexican trucks and drivers to meet U.S. standards for drug and alcohol testing, limits on consecutive hours worked and vehicle maintenance.

But in January, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco issued a temporary freeze on the measure, as requested by Public Citizen, the Teamsters, the California Labor Federation and the Environmental Law Foundation.

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