OOIDA board member to testify on cross-border trucking

| 3/7/2007

A U.S. Senate subcommittee is sure to get an earful Thursday, March 8, about the problems the country will face if the Mexican truck pilot program is allowed to proceed.

The pilot program was announced Feb. 22.

No sooner than the announcement hit the newswire, snaked down K Street and telegraphed around Capitol Hill, U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-WA, chair of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, said she would convene a hearing on Thursday.

Murray said her intent is to investigate whether the Bush administration has fulfilled both "the spirit and the letter of the law." If there is a hole in the plan, Murray should recognize it. As chairman of the Senate subcommittee, she has a long history with cross-border trucking issues, up close and personal.

When the Bush administration first proposed opening the border to long-haul Mexican trucks, the Republican House voted to prohibit cross-border trucking outright due to inadequate safety standards. When the Bush administration threatened to veto that prohibition in the summer of 2001, Murray authored a bipartisan compromise requiring dozens of new safety requirements to ensure that cross-border trucking would not pose a risk to the American public.

The language, written by Murray and Sen. Richard Shelby, R-AL, for the 2002 transportation appropriations bill, was essentially the "to-do list" that has provided sensible guidance for the U.S. DOT.

The Murray-Shelby language prohibited the DOT from granting operating authority until a number of safety and compliance measures were put in place. These measures included adequate border staffing, inspection facilities, the ability to check the validity of Mexican driver's licenses, vehicle registration, and to verify insurance.

The hearing has a full slate of heavy-hitters set to testify on Thursday. Among those testifying are Secretary of Transportation Mary Peters, FMCSA Administrator John Hill, Department of Transportation Inspector General Calvin L. Scovel III, Assistant Secretary of Transportation for the Mexican Department of Communications and Transportation Manuel Rodriguez Arregui.

Industry stakeholders will also testify. The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association will be represented by Board Member Charlie Parfrey at the hearing. Others testifying include International Brotherhood of Teamsters General President James P. Hoffa and Public Citizen President Joan Claybrook.

Parfrey will call to task a number of problems with the pilot program. The Senate subcommittee members will hear how the Department of Transportation's effort to get the program off the ground has "been almost entirely in secret and beyond public view or scrutiny."

Working behind that shroud of secrecy has prompted OOIDA, through Parfrey, to challenge both the American and Mexican transportation officials to answer critical questions related to highway safety.

In Parfrey's testimony, OOIDA will call for documentation and clarification on the Mexican CDL requirements, hours-of-service regulations and drug testing just to name a few. Once operating within the U.S., OOIDA will also challenge the DOT to prove there will be any kind of real enforcement of Mexican-domiciled trucks and Mexican CDL holders, and what, if anything, will result from that enforcement.

- By Land Line staff