A legislative roadblock is delaying the movement of Mexican-owned trucks hauling goods across the border on U.S. highways into Arizona and the nation and vice versa.
The House voted overwhelmingly this week to delay a Bush administration plan to allow Mexican trucks full access to U.S. highways.
The trucks would have to be declared safe first, the lawmakers said, and Mexico would have to give U.S. truckers the same access south of the border.
The House voted 411-3 to approve a three-year Department of Transportation pilot program that would restrict opening the border to 100 carriers based in Mexico. They would be allowed to use a maximum of 1,000 vehicles. The bill also calls for establishment of an independent panel to evaluate the program and require certification from the DOT inspector general that safety and inspection requirements have been met, including drug and alcohol testing.
The DOT says it could be as late as 2008 before all the criteria are met.
The bill must win approval in the U.S. Senate.
Secretary of Transportation Mary E. Peters, a former director of the Arizona Department of Transportation, had met with Mexican and Canadian officials April 27 in Tucson to seal Bush administration’s highway travel agreement.
“The Department spent more than five years working to meet conditions Congress placed on cross-border trucking in 2001 and has met every condition placed on the program,” the department said in a statement. “The current plan ensures the safety of our highways while creating new economic opportunities for American businesses and lower costs for American consumers.”
Telephone calls to several major trucking firms headquartered in the Valley to seek comment were not returned.
Rafael Laveaga, communications director at the Mexican Embassy in Washington, said the House decision threatened the NAFTA accord binding the United States, Mexico and Canada.
“While the legislative process has yet to conclude, the decision by the House of Representatives raises questions about the commitment of most of its members to comply with international trade obligations,” Laveaga said.
Mexican and American trucking companies since 1982 are prohibited from traveling on each others highways. They are allowed, however, to cross the border but must remain within a 20-mile zone on either side.
Truck loads are exchanged in the zone and subsequently carried by American or Mexican-owned trucks to locations in either country. Canadian and U.S. trucks travel freely across the northern border.
- The Associated Press contributed to this report.