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The new program also allows for an equal number of U.S. trucking companies to make deliveries and pickups in Mexico. Participating Mexican companies must be insured with a U.S.-licensed firm and meet all U.S. safety standards.

Companies that meet the standards will be allowed to make international pickups and deliveries. They will not be allowed to move goods from one part of the U.S. to another, haul hazardous materials or transport passengers.

Drivers must meet a list of safety criteria before being allowed into the U.S., such as having a valid commercial driver’s license, proof they are medically fit, a willingness to comply with U.S. hours-of-service rules, and an understanding of questions and directions in English.

But many on Capitol Hill say those requirements are not enough, and have chastised the Transportation Department for proceeding with the program despite public and congressional opposition.

DOT’s simple assertion, that Mexican truckers scheduled to enter the United States had already been in compliance with the newly enacted guidelines, cannot be accepted at face value,” Mr. Hunter said.

Mr. Spencer said the Transportation Department is ignoring a well-thought-out piece of legislation, in the Safe American Road Act. It “would have injected some sanity into a program that still has too many safety and security issues that have yet to be resolved,” he said.

Mexican trucks were allowed free rein on U.S. roads before 1982, when the U.S. began confining them to commercial zones around major border towns. Access to all U.S. highways was promised by 2000 under the 1993 North American Free Trade Agreement, as was access through Mexico for U.S. carriers.

That aspect of NAFTA was stalled by President Clinton, who said Mexican trucks didn’t meet U.S. safety and environmental standards. Because of this U.S. refusal, the Mexican government barred U.S. trucks into that country.

Canadian and U.S. trucks travel freely across the northern border.

But in 2004, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously the Bush administration could open U.S. roadways to Mexican trucks without first doing an environmental study.