SPECIAL REPORT: Effort to slow pilot program on Senate agenda

| 3/26/2007

Monday, March 26, 2007 – An amendment that could slow down the breakneck pace of the Bush administration’s Mexican truck pilot program will be up for debate on the Senate floor in the days to come.

The amendment is part of the supplemental appropriations bill that was approved by the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on March 22.

Debate on the full supplemental appropriations bill began in the Senate late Monday afternoon. However, debate on amendments will happen in the days to come.

The amendment accepted by the Senate Appropriations Committee is taking aim at delaying free access to the United States for 100 Mexico-domiciled motor carriers in the recently announced pilot program.

The program, set to kick off in May, will grant authority to 100 Mexican motor carriers with an unlimited number of trucks to operate freely within the United States.

The amendment proposed to delay the program, sponsored by Sen. Patty Murray, D-WA, was submitted to the Senate Appropriations Committee after it was cleared with Sen. Christopher “Kit” Bond, R-MO.

The amendment would restrict spending any money on allowing Mexican motor carriers to operate beyond the border zone until three conditions are met. Those conditions are:

  • Granting such authority must first be tested as part of a pilot program;
  • The pilot program must comply with the requirements of Section 350 of the 2002 appropriations legislation and the requirements of Section 31315(c) of Title 49, United States Code, related to the pilot programs; and
  • Simultaneous and comparable authority to operate within Mexico is made available to motor carriers domiciled in the United States.

Murray submitted the amendment to the committee and it was accepted on a voice vote – with no opposition.

The only discussion related to the amendment was brought up by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-CA, one of the co-sponsors of the amendment. The amendment was also co-sponsored by Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-ND.

Feinstein discussed the fairness – or lack thereof – of allowing Mexico-domiciled motor carriers to operate within the U.S., while the Mexican government isn’t ready to allow U.S. motor carriers access to Mexico.

The amendment was introduced because of concerns raised during a Senate subcommittee hearing on March 8.

A national Call to Action sent out by the Owner-Operators Independent Drivers Association said the amendment was included, thanks to calls from truckers.

“Thanks in large part to phone calls from thousands of truckers like you, last Thursday, the U.S. Senate Appropriations committee added an amendment to the bill that effectively puts the brakes on the DOT’s planned Mexican trucking pilot program,” the OOIDA Call to Action said.

Now, with the full supplemental bill in front of the Senate, OOIDA has called on its members and others interested in seeing this program at the bare minimum delayed to call their senators now.

“Your two U.S. senators need to hear from you, your family members and your fellow truckers today about the safety, homeland security and economic problems that arise from opening our roads to Mexico-domiciled trucks,” the Call to Action states.

Rod Nofziger, OOIDA director of government affairs, said anyone calling in support of delaying the entry of Mexico-domiciled motor carriers should encourage their senators to support Section 4001 of the supplemental appropriations bill.

Click here to see the full OOIDA Call to Action.

– By Jami Jones, senior editor