SPECIAL REPORT: Pryor-Talent Amendment accepted to port security bill

| 9/14/2006

Sept. 14, 2006 The U.S. Senate has accepted an amendment to include trucking security measures in a proposed port security bill that was on the floor for debate Thursday. Slightly modified, it was agreed to by unanimous consent on Wednesday.

OOIDA favors the amendment offered by Sen. Mark Pryor, D-AR, and Sen. Jim Talent, R-MO, which aims to eliminate fraud among applicants for CDLs and to regulate truck drivers from Mexico driving in the U.S.

"Certainly, it's huge, because it's been one of the glaring loopholes in our security system to address the issues raised by NAFTA trucks," OOIDA Executive Vice President Todd Spencer told "Land Line Now" on XM Satellite Radio.

"This has been a loophole ever since NAFTA went into effect," Spencer said.

"What it's going to mean is it specifically directs the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to set up and actually get those programs operating that will have state commercial-vehicle enforcement cops actually checking for those items as they stop the trucks," he said.

The Senate accepted the Pryor-Talent amendment as part of a larger group of amendments.

Government Relations Representative Rod Nofziger of OOIDA's Washington, DC, office said senators added numerous amendments to the original bill, including offerings from Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-NJ, that relate to name-based background checks for port haulers.

"The main thing there is to check for felons and people who are not here legally," Nofziger said.

Nofziger said the modifications in the Pryor-Talent amendment did not change the effect of the amendment.

Nofziger said with election season around the corner, and the port security bill "the last train out of town," many senators were trying to tack on amendments.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-TN, cut off additional amendments today, and senators continued to debate the bill.

The original bill, HR4954, authorizes the Department of Homeland Security to spend $6.7 billion over six years for port security and calls for 100 percent of cargo to be inspected in the foreseeable future.

But Pryor and Talent said the bill did not go far enough to regulate foreign trucks on U.S. soil.

The amendment urges the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to:

  • Create a roadside inspection process for verifying whether a foreign trucker is operating legally in the U.S.;
  • Verify a person's citizenship or legal status in the U.S. before issuing them a CDL; and
  • Put anti-fraud measures in place to ensure that DMV employees or third-party testers are not taking bribes from people who would not be able to obtain a CDL legally.

The amendment also urges the Department of Homeland Security to provide federal, state and local law enforcement with directions on what laws they must be enforcing on foreign trucks and foreign truckers operating within U.S. borders.

OOIDA informed its membership via a "Call to Action" on Wednesday, urging truckers to call their senators to vote in favor of the Pryor-Talent amendment.

Spencer said the "Call to Action" had the desired effect.

"This happened in no small way, because a lot of truckers made those phones ring (Wednesday)," he said.

Spencer said foreign trucks have been operating in the U.S. for a long time, and while some of them are perfectly authorized to operate, many others are not.

"This amendment that's included in the port security bill will tell (Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance) people - the enforcement people - to get off their backsides and start enforcing these regulations, and it will give them the power to do that as well," Spencer said.