Organizations representing highway and truck safety groups, labor, and independent truck drivers have joined members of Congress to criticize the Bush Administration for ignoring federal safety laws concerning the implementation of the pilot program allowing trucks from Mexico to travel throughout the United States. The groups – including Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, Public Citizen, and the Truck Safety Coalition – released an analysis of the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) program last month that showed the agency failed to comply with federal law. The groups also released a recent opinion poll revealing the public’s opposition to the plan.
We have written about the ill-advised pilot program in previous issues. In February, the Administration announced plans to conduct a “pilot program” allowing up to 1,000 Mexico-domiciled trucks to travel beyond the current border zones. In 2001, Congress had passed legislation that put a premium on upgrading inspection facilities, computer databases, and other safety-related requirements before opening the southern border for long-haul trucks. Even though the Bush Administration has still not finished implementing the safety requirements in that law, the President decided this year to rush ahead with the pilot program in an attempt to open the border. Although serious safety problems with the program have been identified, they have been ignored by this Administration. Congress has ordered the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), which is responsible for implementing the Administration’s cross-border pilot program, to obey a number of requirements that the agency is still ignoring. These provisions, signed into law by the president, require:
• the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to follow all applicable rules and regulations concerning the formulation of pilot programs and cross-border trucking;
• Mexico-based trucking companies and trucks to comply with all applicable U.S. laws; and
• the Administration to ensure that the operation of these trucks within the United States would not have a negative impact on safety.
The Bush Administration, ignoring highway safety, has pushed forward without meeting the safety provisions mandated by Congress. Less than three weeks after the legislation was signed into law, FMCSA published a notice in the Federal Register on June 8th that, in effect, declared that the agency had met all of the congressionally mandated safety requirements to open the southern border. That was not true given that the FMCSA has:
• failed to provide sufficient opportunity for public notice and comments;
• failed to provide the public with information about the pilot project;
• failed to comply with the requirements of §350 of the FY2002 DOT Appropriations Act on the safety of cross-border trucking;
• failed to comply with requirements of the pilot program law to test innovative approaches and alternative regulations under 49 USC §31315(c);
• failed to keep its promise to check every truck every time for compliance; and
• failed to establish criteria that are subject to monitoring during the pilot program.
That sort of thing is inexcusable and must not be tolerated. Putting potentially dangerous long-haul trucks on our nation’s highways with no regard for safety is impossible to comprehend or defend and is very dangerous. It puts innocent people on our highways at great risk. In persisting with its current program, FMCSA is disregarding the will of Congress and the safety of the American people. The Bush Administration should be called on the carpet for its callous disregard for safety on our nation’s highways. Unfortunately, their action relating to this issue is typical of what they are doing to the public in other areas of concern.
Source: Public Citizen
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