Rep. Defazio Opposes Funding for Mexican EOBRs, Questions Authority to Grant Mexican Carriers Permanent Access

In a letter to U.S. Transportation Secretary, Ray LaHood, Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR), expressed concern of U.S. DOT funding or EOBRs for Mexican carriers participating in the pilot program.

DeFazio called proposal that would require American taxpayers to subsidize Mexican truck compliance with American safety standards and regulations, “simply unacceptable.”

DeFazio pointed out to LaHood that under the previous pilot program, the agency spent $1.25 million on EOBRs for 27 carriers, who were allowed to keep the devices when the program ended. He also charged that under the President’s FY 2012 Budget request, FMCSA said it would use $4.3 million of its general operating expenses — which are funded through the Highway Trust Fund — to purchase Electronic On-Board Recorders (EOBRs) for Mexican carriers, and pay for monitoring.

“It is outrageous,” DeFazio said in his letter, “that U.S. truckers, through the fuel tax, will subsidize the cost of doing business for these Mexican carriers.”

In the letter, DeFazio also questioned granting Mexican carriers permanent operating authority from the U.S. Department of Transportation after 18 months in the pilot program. That permanent authority would not be rescinded were Congress or the Administration to terminate the Mexican truck pilot program.

“As I have said before, three issues must be addressed in the cross-border trucking program: safety, security and job loss,” DeFazio said. “I appreciate the Administration’s attempt to address the very serious safety and security concerns surrounding Mexican trucks, and I am glad we are beginning to address the extortionate Mexican tariffs unfairly slapped on American goods. However, taxpayers should not have to foot the bill for the Mexican trucking industry to comply with American safety standards. It is outrageous that we would spend tax dollars to pay for equipment on Mexican trucks; equipment which either the Mexican government or the Mexican carriers themselves should be required to pay. I also question the authority to grant Mexican carriers permanent authority to operate on American roads and highways before a pilot program is complete and the results evaluated.”

DOT will grant Mexican carriers the same provisional operating authority it grants any new U.S. motor carrier seeking interstate authority. After 18 months, this authority becomes permanent indefinitely, provided the carrier does not have an egregious safety record or a lapse in insurance. This permanent authority will not be revoked – even if Congress or DOT terminates the pilot program, DeFazio points out. Further, carriers who participated in the pilot program DOT launched in 2007 will get credit for the number of months they operated in the U.S. when they re-apply under this new program. This means that some carriers will receive permanent authority almost immediately.

DeFazio has asked DOT to provide a written justification of how the planned program complies with the requirements for pilot programs under section 31315 of title 49, United States Code, as well as various appropriations provisions related to cross border trucking.

Meanwhile, U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk has said the final agreement to end a two-year-old trucking dispute with Mexico “should be weeks, if not days” away.

At a recent lunch with reporters, the Obama administration’s top trade negotiator said U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and the Mexican Transportation Minister Humberto Trevino are close to signing the deal that will end a two-year standoff that has dearly cost American agriculture through retaliatory tariffs imposed by Mexico.

“This could not have been better news and it could not have happened soon enough” for California and Texas farm interests, said Kirk, a former Dallas mayor and Texas Secretary of State.

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