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August 17, 2007 4:50 PM, EDT

DOT Sets Conditions on Mexican Trucks Program

DOT Secretary Mary Peters — James Kim for DOT

The Department of Transportation said that Mexican trucks will be allowed to operate throughout the United States under its pilot program as long as U.S. trucking companies have equal access south of the border, Bloomberg reported Friday.

The announcement, published in Friday’s Federal Register, means that DOT is ready to resume the pilot program that was blocked by Congress last month, Bloomberg said.

Under the program — which is being reviewed by DOT’s inspector general at Congress’ request — a limited number of trucks and trucking companies that operate in the current U.S. border zone would be given wider access to the United States, DOT said.

Congress has demanded equal access to Mexico for U.S. trucking companies, and the Federal Register notice by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration said the project “will not commence until such reciprocity is provided.” FMCSA is part of DOT.

In a statement, the Teamsters union slammed the DOT move.

“It’s outrageous that the Bush administration would announce on a Friday during Congress’ August recess that it plans to recklessly move forward with its hugely unpopular program to throw open our border to unsafe Mexican trucks,” said Teamsters President Jim Hoffa.

The House voted July 24 to block the Bush administration’s planned pilot program, limiting visiting trucks to the current border-area zone in part due to safety concerns.

The plan also has been criticized by labor and safety groups, and in May the House voted 411-3 to impose more restrictions on DOT’s plans to grant Mexican trucks access to U.S. highways.