Mexican, U.S. officials stew over trucking regs

| Tuesday, October 29, 2002

U.S. Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta met Oct. 27-28 with Mexican officials to discuss restrictions on Mexican truckers' access to U.S. highways.

Mexican Transportation and Communications Secretary Pedro Creosol said restrictions on Mexican trucks entering the United States pose a major trade obstacle and he urged U.S. officials to improve the situation.

According to press reports, Mineta said he would urge President Bush to intervene.

The Mexican government has taken issue with U.S. regulations imposed in June setting safety and maintenance standards for Mexican trucks on U.S. highways. The rules also include drug and alcohol tests for Mexican truckers.

Currently, U.S. law restricts Mexican trucks to an 18-mile strip along the border states of Arizona, New Mexico, Texas and California, where cargo is transferred to U.S. trucks.

Under the North American Free Trade Agreement, signed by the United States, Mexico and Canada in 1992, Mexican trucks should have had full access to U.S. highways in January 2000, but the U.S. government postponed the measure due to safety concerns.

The United States has spent more than $113 million to ready safety checkpoints at the border, but so far, only 96 Mexican companies have applied for permits to drive long-haul routes northward, according to the U.S. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).

FMCSA spokesman David Longo says the agency is not expecting a large number of requests for long-haul permits, AP reports.

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