By LYNDON FINNEY
The Trucker Staff
WASHINGTON — One week after the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration made official its proposed pilot program on NAFTA long-haul trucking provisions and asked for comments from the public, Rep. Peter DeFazio continued to assert that it seems to him the proposal exceeds the agency’s authority under the law.
In a letter sent to FMCSA Administration Anne Ferro Friday, DeFazio, an outspoken opponent of a previous cross-border demonstration project, said the agency is not launching a pilot program, but rather starting the “full liberalization of cross-border trucking without having fully addressed the concerns raised by members of Congress surrounding safety, security and job impacts that will necessarily arise.”
An FMCSA spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment on DeFazio’s letter.
Friday’s letter was very similar in scope to a letter DeFazio sent to Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood in early March when LaHood began to release information on details of the proposal.
DeFazio claimed the FMCSA is required by law to first test granting authority to Mexican carriers under a pilot program that complies with Section 31315 of title 49, United States Code.
“This section mandates that any pilot program must allow for both a sufficient length of time (no more than three years) and adequate participation in order for DOT to evaluate the effects of a pilot program on safety,” he wrote. “Under the proposed pilot program, FMCSA 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 FMCSA terminates the pilot program. Further, carriers who participated in the previous FMCSA-initiated pilot program 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 cautioned Ferro about expecting Congressional support.
“I have cautioned in the past that it will be difficult for Congress to support a cross-border trucking program that would jeopardize the safety of the traveling public and that would be an assault on American jobs,” he said in the letter.
“I continue to believe that the U.S. should renegotiate U.S. NAFTA Annex I (I-U-21), the U.S. commitment to liberalize cross-border trucking, and thus eliminate the requirement to open our borders to Mexican trucks. This would remedy all the truck safety, security, and job issues associated with this long-standing trade dispute. A successful renegotiation of NAFTA is a better way to eliminate the retaliatory and illegal tariffs which Mexico slapped on U.S. goods in response to termination of the last pilot program.”