New regulations to ensure the safety of Mexican trucks crossing the border under the North American Free Trade Agreement are now in the hands of the White House Office of Management and Budget.

U.S. and Mexican officials agreed in general terms to the opening of the border by the end of the year at a meeting March 22. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has been working on a the specifics of a proposal that will require Mexican companies to comply with all U.S. safety and operating standards. The FMCSA's parent agency, the Department of Transportation, has approved that plan, according to published reports, and now it's on the OMB's desk.
The Bush administration has 90 days to review the plan. Once the regulations clear OMB, the DOT will publish the proposal, which will then be open for comments for another 60 days before final rules are put into place.
Although the proposal has not been made public, FMCSA officials have told that Mexican truckers will, among other things, have to have equipment that meets U.S. safety standards, get insurance from a U.S.-based company, and maintain driver qualification records and ensure that drivers undergo drug and alcohol testing.
President Clinton suspended provisions of NAFTA that would have given more access to Mexican trucks in 1995 and 2000. A recent arbitration panel ruled that the U.S. must abide by the treaty or pay sanctions to Mexico.
Federal officials say 63,000 Mexican trucks crossed the border in 1999, the most recent figures available. During the NAFTA debate, a figure of 4.5 million trucks has often been used by critics. However, according to the Associated Press, the U.S. Department of Transportation now says that is the number of total crossings; many trucks cross back and forth several times a day.