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DeFazio Calls on Transportation Secretary to Halt Mexican Truck Pilot Program

Mar 11, 2008
Press Release

March 10, 2008

WASHINGTON, DC- Congressman Peter DeFazio (D-Springfield) today urged Secretary of Transportation Mary Peters to halt the Mexican trucking pilot program following the Inspector General’s (IG) report on the issue. The Department of Transportation (DOT) is continuing with this program despite the expressed will of Congress in the FY 2008 Consolidated Appropriations Act that it be halted. Furthermore, the IG reported that the DOT had not implemented quality control measures that were intended to ensure that all trucks coming into the United States under the pilot program are identified.

"Mexican trucks pose a serious threat to the safety of our highways and the security of our country. This Administration is hell-bent on opening up our borders but has failed to require that Mexican drivers and trucks meet the same safety and security standards as US drivers and trucks," DeFazio said. "What’s more, the IG report shows that DOT hasn’t even imposed the quality control measures it told Congress it would impose to make sure they are checking every truck every time. If DOT can’t manage that for the 60 trucks currently in the program, how can they handle an open border? The Administration is essentially adopting a faith-based paper system at the expense of American jobs and public safety."

Letter below:

The Honorable Mary Peters
United States Department of Transportation
1200 New Jersey Avenue SE
Washington, D.C. 20590

Dear Secretary Peters:

Today, the Inspector General ("IG") of the Department of Transportation ("DOT") issued his interim report on the cross-border trucking pilot program as required by Section 6901 of the U.S. Troop Readiness, Veterans’ Care, Katrina Recovery, and Iraq Accountability Appropriations Act (P.L. 110-28). This report reveals that DOT has failed to meet an important commitment regarding administration and oversight of this pilot program and magnifies our ongoing safety concerns with DOT’s implementation of the program.

We continue to be disappointed that DOT is pushing ahead with this pilot program, against the clear will of Congress as expressed in the FY 2008 Consolidated Appropriations Act (P.L. 110-161). The findings released today by the IG confirm that the reality of how the pilot program is being implemented falls short of the assurances from DOT that safety is the top priority.

The IG report found that DOT has not implemented critical quality control measures that were intended to ensure that the Department identifies all trucks coming into the United States under the pilot program. As a result, according to the IG, DOT "does not have any assurance that it has checked every Mexican truck and driver that is participating in the project when they cross the border into the United States."

By failing to implement quality control measures, DOT has also violated a commitment made to Congress. In response to safety concerns raised by Members on both sides of the aisle and in both the House and Senate, DOT promised to check "every truck, every time" crossing the border under the pilot program and committed to implement a strict quality control plan. In a letter report to Congress, the Department vowed to analyze data on crossings, acquired from Customs and Border Protection ("CBP"), and to provide monthly reports to gauge its performance in meeting this goal. These hollow promises of a quality control plan were delivered to Congress minutes before the first carrier was granted operating authority. In the first six months of the pilot program, DOT has not issued a single report and has not even completed gathering the required data.

Further, the IG report raises the important issue of what this pilot program, or demonstration program, will actually demonstrate with respect to the safety and economic impacts of allowing Mexican trucking companies to operate long-haul in the United States. DOT predicted that 100 Mexico-domiciled carriers would comprise the pilot program. Yet six months into the program, only 18 carriers are participating with approximately 70 trucks. Because of this low participation rate, the IG report concluded that "the current number of participants is not adequate to make statistically reliable projections or estimates of some important characteristics, including safety characteristics such as the number of crashes that could be expected from long-haul Mexican carriers." We urge you to consider the impacts on safety if the pilot program does not allow DOT, the IG, or the Independent Review Panel to draw any useful conclusions to inform future policy decisions. We also question whether this small and selective pilot program meets the criteria set forth under Section 6901 of P.L. 110-28.

Since DOT began its quest to initiate a cross-border pilot program over a year ago, we have treated this pilot program for what it really is – a slow opening of the border, and a sea change in U.S. surface transportation policy. We will continue to question DOT’s actions because it is our responsibility to ensure that any program that allows trucks from Mexico to enter the United States is conducted with the safety of the American people as the highest priority.
_______________________   _______________________
James L. Oberstar, M.C.               Peter A. DeFazio, M.C.
Chairman                                       Chairman
                                                     Subcommittee on Highways and Transit