- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 24, 2007

A group of trucking and environmental organizations, led by the Teamsters, is challenging a pilot program that would authorize up to 100 Mexico-based trucking companies to travel beyond U.S. border states.

The Teamsters union, Public Citizen, the Sierra Club, the Environmental Law Foundation and the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association filed suit late Monday, saying the project violates requirements that the public receive notice and be given time to comment and that it would have significant environmental and public safety implications.

Under the program, announced by the Transportation Department in February, U.S. trucks would be allowed to make deliveries in Mexico and some Mexican trucking companies could make deliveries beyond the 20- to 25-mile commercial zones now in place along the border.

In announcing the program, Transportation Secretary Mary E. Peters said it was aimed at simplifying requirements that Mexican truckers stop and wait for U.S. trucks so cargo can be transferred, which she said wastes money and drives up the costs of goods.

The program is an attempt to implement a 2001 order under the North American Free Trade Agreement requiring highways in Canada, Mexico and the United States to be open to trucking companies in the three NAFTA countries.

The groups bringing the suit want an injunction requiring that the Transportation Department and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration comply with the law by providing public notice of the pilot program and an opportunity for the public to comment on the program or to set aside the pilot project as unlawful.

Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa said the administration “is ignoring the American people in its zeal to open our borders to unsafe Mexican trucks.”

“This reckless pilot program must be stopped and the driving public protected,” he said.

“This situation highlights how NAFTA threatens essential public safety and environmental quality in ways totally unrelated to trade,” said Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch division.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration said late yesterday the program “will eliminate unnecessary delays clogging commerce at our borders, bring consumers lower prices and give our economy new energy while maintaining the safety of our roads.”

“We have worked extensively with Congress and the Office of the Inspector General to implement this program and its many safety standards and are prepared to defend the program in court.”

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