- The Washington Times - Monday, June 7, 2004

The Supreme Court ruled unanimously yesterday that the Bush administration can open U.S. roadways to Mexican trucks without first doing an environmental study.

The ruling overturns a U.S. appeals court decision requiring the Department of Transportation to review the impact of Mexican trucks on air quality, and it means the roads can be opened to them as soon as the administration wants.

Labor and environmental groups had opposed granting Mexican trucks free access across the border, saying they do not meet U.S. safety and environmental standards.

The Bush administration has said it would open the border to Mexican trucks as soon as all legal obstacles are cleared to comply with the 1993 North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) among the United States, Canada and Mexico.

Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta said he welcomed the Supreme Court ruling.

“Opening the market between Mexico and the United States for trucks and buses means more opportunities for American companies, more jobs for American drivers and better deals for American consumers,” Mr. Mineta said.

The next step is for the United States and Mexico to arrange “a comprehensive inspection and audit program,” said Brian Turmail, Transportation Department spokesman.

Afterward, trucks would be allowed to cross the border freely.

“They’re going to have to operate almost like a domestic trucking operation in the sense that they’ll have to meet all of our environmental and safety guidelines,” Mr. Turmail said.

Among the guidelines Mexican truckers must follow are U.S. insurance laws.

“They have to be insured by a U.S.-admitted insurer,” said Karen Rasmussen, president of the Arizona Trucking Association.

Currently, licensed Mexican trucks are allowed to cross about 20 miles into the United States in border states. U.S. trucks are not granted access into Mexico.

The dispute has festered since 1995, when former President Clinton refused to lift a 1982 moratorium barring Mexican trucks from the United States.

NAFTA required that the United States open the border to Mexican trucks for travel in border states by 1995 and the rest of the country by January 2000.

Mr. Clinton cited safety concerns for his refusal to comply with the deadlines, saying Mexican trucks did not meet U.S. standards. He appeared to be giving in to pressure from the Teamsters’ union and environmental groups.

Story Continues →