Posted: June 8, 20071:00 a.m. Eastern
On May 15, when the Safe American Roads Act of 2007 (H.R. 1773) passed the House by an overwhelming 411–3 margin, many opponents to the Department of Transportation's Mexican truck demonstration project presumed the battle was won.
Yet, nothing could be further from the truth.
All this week, a series of Department of Transportation high-level meeting have been held over a pending decision to allow the Mexican trucks to roll their long-haul rigs anywhere in the United States on July 15.
A decision to proceed with the Mexican truck demonstration project amounts to Transportation declaring that the agency has already complied with the requirements of the Iraq supplemental funding bill and ignoring an overwhelming vote taken by the House to pass a law that would block the test.
Todd Spencer, executive vice president of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, has asked the Department of Transportation to announce publicly whether the demonstration project will begin on July 15, or to state officially that the project allowing Mexican trucks into the U.S. has been postponed.
"How many times will DOT and the Bush administration thumb their noses at Congress and the American people," Spencer asked in a telephone interview yesterday. "That DOT would even consider starting the Mexican trucking company demonstration project now is brazen and outlandish, especially after the important safety requirements put in place by the Iraq supplemental funding bill and the Safe American Roads Act passed by the House. Doesn't the vote taken in the House mean anything to DOT?"
Those within the department pushing to start the Mexican truck demonstration project argue that the Senate has not acted on the Safe American Roads Act of 2007, and there is no certainty President Bush would sign the bill or that Congress would override a veto. So, why not go ahead instead of waiting on the hypothetical possibility that the bill might become law?
In a similar vein, the Transportation Department is also considering brushing aside a provisions in the Iraq emergency funding legislation (H.R. 2206) signed into law by President Bush May 25 that require DOT to validate that a series of safety concerns have been satisfactorily resolved.
Supporters within the agency pushing the project argue that the May filing by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration in the Federal Register satisfied the H.R. 2206 requirements to post safety regulations that meet the requirements of the inspector general for the test to begin.
"It is absolutely stunning that DOT would even consider going ahead after all Congress has done to block the Mexican trucking company demonstration project," Spencer said.
"The supplemental funding bill demanded verification of safety issues that DOT did not provide in their Federal Register filing," Spencer stressed. "If DOT wants to comply with the law, there is really no alternative but to declare that the Mexican trucking demonstration project has been officially put on hold until the new legal requirements are met."
As WND previously reported, Secretary of Transportation Mary Peters announced April 30 that Mexico will open to U.S. trucks at the same time we open the U.S. to Mexican trucks, meeting an additional requirement imposed by the Iraq supplementing funding bill provisions.
Henry Jasny, general counsel for Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, a highway safety advocacy group, said in a telephone interview the group filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the Department of Transportation in October 2006, seeking to obtain agency records on any possible Mexican truck pilot test the agency might be planning.
In March 2007, the group sued DOT after the agency had failed to turn over any documents as requested.
Jasny said DOT has made a motion to have the request stayed for 18-24 months, claiming that amount of time is necessary to get the documents together.
"The request for that much time is absurd," Jasny said. "The amount of documents that could be covered by our FOIA request should not take that much time to get together, especially in a day when most documents are electronic."
"I think DOT wants to get the Mexican truck demonstration project started before they supply any documents," Jasny concluded.
The White House and the Department of Transportation declined to comment for this column.