Sen. John Rockefeller is taking the Obama administration to task over its plan to restart long-distance trucking across the Mexican border.
In a letter yesterday to Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk, the West Virginia Democrat said the administration's pilot program will endanger U.S. companies' competitiveness.
Rockefeller, who chairs the Senate Commerce Committee, also said he's not convinced that the plan will ensure safety, and he objects to having the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration sponsor electronic onboard recorders for Mexican carriers.
FMCSA recently spelled out the details for three-year pilot program in which Mexican and U.S. carriers could offer long-distance service into each country. The pilot sets up a vetting and enforcement program to ensure the safety of Mexican trucks, with the goal of evaluating their safety performance, based on inspections at the roadside, ports of entry and weigh stations, and on traffic enforcement. Hazardous materials and passenger carriers will not be included in the program.
The program is the result of an agreement between President Obama and President Calderón of Mexico to resolve the long-standing dispute over cross-border trucking. Once the program is in place, Mexico will start to suspend the tariffs it levied when the Congress killed an earlier version of the pilot.
Rockefeller also criticized the plan on grounds that it does not eliminate Mexico's barrier to U.S. companies investing in Mexican bus companies.
"I must feel confident that this new proposal has addressed all my concerns before I can support its implementation," Rockefeller said.
FMCSA will make a final decision on the plan after reviewing public comments, which are due by close of business today.