Public Citizen's Claybrook Blasts FMCSA and Mexican Trucks Plan

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration's pilot project to open the door to the United States to Mexican-domiciled trucks is a dangerous "show-piece under NAFTA in order to permit the [Transportation] secretary to proclaim victory and declare the entire Southern border open to unfettered long-haul truck commerce before the end of 2008," Joan Claybrook, president of Public Citizen, testified March 8 before the U.S. Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, HUD, and Related Agencies. "The agency has never met any of its safety goals in the United States, even after weakening them repeatedly these past seven years," Claybrook added. "FMCSA just isn't up to the job of additional responsibilities overseeing cross-border trucking."

She asked Congress to prevent the pilot program from taking place. "Pilot programs promoted by the agency are not scientific efforts to obtain objective information, but show trials conducted to provide cover for a preconceived policy choice," said Claybrook. She said the pilot program does not comply with 49 U.S.C. 31315(c), which establishes a template for all pilot programs conducted by DOT.

"In order to serve the public properly and protect safety, we must avoid this 'mission accomplished' mindset and deal realistically with the many safety issues that are yet to be resolved before the border is in fact ready to be opened to all commercial vehicles," Claybrook testified. She was administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration from 1977 to 1981. The 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement included a requirement that highways in Canada, Mexico and the United States be fully open to trucking companies based in any NAFTA signatory nation, but the Clinton administration refused to open the southern border because of concerns about safety and environmental problems. Mexico filed a challenge and ultimately won a ruling from a NAFTA tribunal ordering the United States to open the border or face permanent trade sanctions. Public Citizen and allied groups successfully sued to block an opening by the Bush administration, but in 2004 the U.S. Supreme Court overturned that ruling, and FMCSA proposed the pilot program last month.

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