News Releases

(WASHINGTON, DC) -- In the wake of today's Supreme Court's decision to allow the Bush Administration to immediately open the U.S. border to Mexican trucks, Senator Patty Murray called on the Administration to delay final action until it can ensure the safety of the American driving public. In a letter to U.S. Transportation Secretary Norm Mineta, Murray said that a pending safety review by the Department's Inspector General should be completed before the border is opened.



In 2002, while serving as Chairman of the Senate Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee, Senator Murray crafted bipartisan, compromise legislation requiring the Bush Administration to administer several new strict safety requirements for Mexican trucks entering the United States. The law, part of the Transportation Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2002, aimed to protect the American driving public. Compared to the Bush Administration’s initial plans for the influx of these trucks, the law requires:

  • stricter application procedures;
  • stricter inspection requirements including inspection by U.S. safety personnel of Mexican trucking firms in Mexico;
  • stricter enforcement requirements;
  • stricter maintenance requirements;
  • stricter weight compliance verification measures;
  • more comprehensive cooperation between U.S. and Mexican law enforcement agencies.


A statement from Senator Murray, along with the text of her letter to Secretary Mineta, follow:



“Today’s Supreme Court decision appears to pave the way for the Bush Administration to pursue its longstanding objective of opening up all U.S. highways to Mexican trucks. Despite our legislative efforts to ensure public safety, I remain concerned that the Administration may overlook critical safety needs in its rush to open the border.



"My legislation requires that Mexican trucking firms seeking to operate throughout the United States be inspected by U.S. truck safety personnel on site in Mexico. Yet, the Administration still does not have an agreement in place with the Mexican authorities to fulfill this requirement of the law. I’m also concerned with the fact that, over the last three years, the number of Mexican trucks caught illegally operating throughout the U.S. has increased dramatically, even while the federal truck enforcement budget has grown. As we speak, the DOT IG has people on the ground assessing the readiness of the DOT to comply with all aspects of the law and ensure the safe legal entry of Mexican trucks onto U.S. highways.



"Today, I call upon Secretary Mineta to await the published findings of the Inspector General before making any final decision to open the border.”

June 7, 2004

The Honorable Norman Y. Mineta
Secretary
U.S. Department of Transportation
400 Seventh St., SW
Washington, DC 20590


Dear Mr. Secretary:



This morning, the Supreme Court reversed the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, apparently opening up the way for you to open our southern border to Mexican trucks wishing to travel anywhere in the United States. I am writing to express my concern regarding your stated desire to open the border expeditiously. I hope that, should you choose to open the border to Mexican trucks, you will do so only with the benefit of the most up-to-date information regarding the ability of your agency and other agencies to enforce the necessary safety standards and protect the American driving public.



You will recall that, as part of the development of the Transportation and Related Agencies Appropriation Act for fiscal year 2002, my subcommittee, in concert with our House colleagues and your administration, succeeded in coming to agreement on a comprehensive set of new requirements intended to ensure that Mexico-domiciled motor carriers meet important safety standards when operating over United States highways outside of the commercial zone. That compromise legislation included a requirement that the Department of Transportation Inspector General conduct annual reviews of the extent to which these important safety standards would be established and enforced. These requirements are spelled out clearly and unambiguously under Section 350 of P.L.107-87. The Appropriations Acts for 2003 and the current fiscal year, continued to limit funds provided in those Acts to the terms and conditions stipulated in Section 350 of P.L. 107-87, and reiterated the requirement for the Inspector General to conduct his annual review. As such, the Inspector General is currently conducting his third review of safety conditions at the border. The Inspector General has staff on the ground assessing this situation as we speak and his review is expected to be completed in the next several weeks.



As such, I was surprised to read a press accounting of comments made by you last month indicating that you were expecting a decision from the Supreme Court shortly, and “if we get a green light…(we) are prepared to act and hundreds of inspectors are standing by.” Despite the fact that the Supreme Court has now ruled, I ask that you not open the border until you have had the opportunity to receive and address the results of the Inspector General’s current review of the adequacy of efforts to ensure the safety of the American driving public.



The Inspector General will be assessing some critically important matters that you should certainly be cognizant of prior to opening the border. For example, as part of his current review, the IG will be ascertaining whether all States have now implemented the necessary laws and regulations to enable their law enforcement authorities to place Mexican trucks out of service that do not have the required operating authority. As you know, there have been numerous instances in the past in which Mexican trucks crossed into the United States with the stated intention of staying within the permissible “commercial zone” only to travel illegally throughout the United States. The frequency of such instances appears to be on the rise. Your agency identified more than 150 such cases in FY2002. That number more than doubled to over 300 cases in FY2003. At the current rate, the number of such violations for the current fiscal year will top 400.



During your testimony before my subcommittee and the Commerce Subcommittee on Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine on June 27, 2002, it was revealed that only two states had enacted the necessary laws or regulations to put such violators out of service. You and your Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administrator assured us as part of that hearing that this gaping loophole would be closed. As part of his current review, the Inspector General will determine if all States have, indeed, enacted these necessary laws or regulations.



My legislation also included requirements that U.S. motor carrier safety personnel be in a position to conduct safety audits and compliance reviews of Mexican trucking firms on site in Mexico. It is my understanding that you have not yet entered into the necessary Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the appropriate Mexican authorities to ensure your ability to fulfill this requirement. The Inspector General’s current review is evaluating this situation as well. Surely, you should be cognizant of his findings on these matters and several other critical safety and enforcement matters before making any decision to open the border.



Thank you for your attention and cooperation in this matter.

Sincerely yours,

U.S. Senator Patty Murray
Ranking Member
Subcommittee on Transportation, Treasure and General Government