The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) requires that the United States implement a cross-border trucking demonstration program to allow approved Mexican trucking companies to operate beyond the commercial zone (a zone extending 20 miles into the United States from the U.S.-Mexico border). Because of perceived safety concerns, Congress ended the program in the Omnibus Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2009. In retaliation for the U.S. failing to meet its treaty obligations, the Mexican government placed tariffs on over 100 U.S. exports to Mexico, including potatoes, which have severely crippled a number of industries in Idaho and the Northwest.
The safety of American motorists and pedestrians on our nation’s roadways is of utmost importance. However, rejecting our international obligations and perpetuating a system which raises the transaction costs of sending our products across the border is not the solution.
In order to comply with the law and the treaty to which the U.S. is a party, U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has announced he plans to restart the pilot program, but with additional safety requirements imposed on Mexican truckers. In order to participate in the program companies must pass a review and rigorous safety investigation, and trucks must meet or exceed U.S. safety standards. In addition, Mexican trucking companies and truckers must comply with all U.S. federal and state regulations.
The program includes daily and weekly limits on Mexican long-haul trucks operating in the United States. In order to ensure that companies are complying with the program requirements, the Department of Transportation has provided companies with on-board data recorders. Because the United States owns the data, we can ensure that all participants are complying with the rules.
I have heard from a number of Idahoans who have questions about these transponders. You may be interested to know that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is currently working on rules regarding widespread use of such data recorders on all trucks, and should such a rule go into place, the DOT will require that all trucks in the United States, include Mexican long-haul trucks, pay for their own transponders. The DOT has requested no additional funding for these recorders.
Mexico has agreed to comply with the new safety requirements of this pilot program, as well as agreeing to remove the tariffs against U.S. products when the program is put into place. As this issue comes before me, you can be confident that I will monitor it carefully to ensure that U.S. companies are able to trade with Mexico without jeopardizing our homeland security or immigration laws.