SPEAKERS CONTENTS INSERTS
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NAFTA: ARBITRATION PANEL DECISION AND OPENING OF THE U.S.-MEXICAN BORDER TO MEXICAN MOTOR CARRIERS
HIGHWAYS AND TRANSIT
TRANSPORTATION AND INFRASTRUCTURE
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HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
ONE HUNDRED SEVENTH CONGRESS
JULY 18, 2001
Printed for the use of the
Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure
COMMITTEE ON TRANSPORTATION AND INFRASTRUCTURE
DON YOUNG, Alaska, Chairman
THOMAS E. PETRI, Wisconsin, Vice-Chair
SHERWOOD L. BOEHLERT, New York
HOWARD COBLE, North Carolina
JOHN J. DUNCAN, Jr., Tennessee
WAYNE T. GILCHREST, Maryland
STEPHEN HORN, California
Page 3 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCJOHN L. MICA, Florida
JACK QUINN, New York
VERNON J. EHLERS, Michigan
SPENCER BACHUS, Alabama
STEVEN C. LaTOURETTE, Ohio
SUE W. KELLY, New York
RICHARD H. BAKER, Louisiana
ROBERT W. NEY, Ohio
JOHN COOKSEY, Lousiana
JOHN R. THUNE, South Dakota
FRANK A. LoBIONDO, New Jersey
JERRY MORAN, Kansas
RICHARD W. POMBO, California
JIM DeMINT, South Carolina
DOUG BEREUTER, Nebraska
MICHAEL K. SIMPSON, Idaho
JOHNNY ISAKSON, Georgia
ROBIN HAYES, North Carolina
ROB SIMMONS, Connecticut
MIKE ROGERS, Michigan
SHELLEY MOORE CAPITO, West Virginia
MARK STEVEN KIRK, Illinois
HENRY E. BROWN, Jr., South Carolina
TIMOTHY V. JOHNSON, Illinois
BRIAN D. KERNS, Indiana
Page 4 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCDENNIS R. REHBERG, Montana
TODD RUSSELL PLATTS, Pennsylvania
MIKE FERGUSON, New Jersey
SAM GRAVES, Missouri
C.L. (BUTCH) OTTER, Idaho
MARK R. KENNEDY, Minnesota
JOHN ABNEY CULBERSON, Texas
BILL SHUSTER, Pennsylvania
JOHN BOOZMAN, Arkansas
JAMES L. OBERSTAR, Minnesota
NICK J. RAHALL II, West Virginia
ROBERT A. BORSKI, Pennsylvania
WILLIAM O. LIPINSKI, Illinois
PETER A. DeFAZIO, Oregon
BOB CLEMENT, Tennessee
JERRY F. COSTELLO, Illinois
ELEANOR HOLMES NORTON, District of Columbia
JERROLD NADLER, New York
ROBERT MENENDEZ, New Jersey
CORRINE BROWN, Florida
JAMES A. BARCIA, Michigan
BOB FILNER, California
EDDIE BERNICE JOHNSON, Texas
FRANK MASCARA, Pennsylvania
Page 5 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCGENE TAYLOR, Mississippi
JUANITA MILLENDER-MCDONALD, California
ELIJAH E. CUMMINGS, Maryland
EARL BLUMENAUER, Oregon
MAX SANDLIN, Texas
ELLEN O. TAUSCHER, California
BILL PASCRELL, Jr., New Jersey
LEONARD L. BOSWELL, Iowa
JAMES P. McGOVERN, Massachusetts
TIM HOLDEN, Pennsylvania
NICK LAMPSON, Texas
JOHN ELIAS BALDACCI, Maine
MARION BERRY, Arkansas
BRIAN BAIRD, Washington
SHELLEY BERKLEY, Nevada
BRAD CARSON, Oklahoma
JIM MATHESON, Utah
MICHAEL M. HONDA, California
RICK LARSEN, Washington
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Subcommittee on Highways and Transit
THOMAS E. PETRI, Wisconsin, Chairman
SHERWOOD L. BOEHLERT, New York
HOWARD COBLE, North Carolina
JOHN J. DUNCAN, Jr., Tennessee
JOHN L. MICA, Florida
JACK QUINN, New York
STEVEN C. LaTOURETTE, Ohio
SUE W. KELLY, New York
RICHARD H. BAKER, Louisiana
JOHN R. THUNE, South Dakota
JERRY MORAN, Kansas
RICHARD W. POMBO, California
JIM DeMINT, South Carolina
DOUG BEREUTER, Nebraska
JOHNNY ISAKSON, Georgia
ROBIN HAYES, North Carolina
ROB SIMMONS, Connecticut
MIKE ROGERS, Michigan
SHELLEY MOORE CAPITO, West Virginia
MARK STEVEN KIRK, Illinois
HENRY E. BROWN, Jr., South Carolina
Page 7 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCTIMOTHY V. JOHNSON, Illinois
BRIAN D. KERNS, Indiana
DENNIS R. REHBERG, Montana
TODD RUSSELL PLATTS, Pennsylvania
MIKE FERGUSON, New Jersey
SAM GRAVES, Missouri
C.L. (BUTCH) OTTER, Idaho
MARK R. KENNEDY, Minnesota, VICE-CHAIR
BILL SHUSTER, Pennsylvania
DON YOUNG, Alaska
ROBERT A. BORSKI, Pennsylvania
NICK J. RAHALL II, West Virginia
JAMES A. BARCIA, Michigan
BOB FILNER, California
FRANK MASCARA, Pennsylvania
JUANITA MILLENDER-McDONALD, California
ELIJAH E. CUMMINGS, Maryland
MAX SANDLIN, Texas
BILL PASCRELL, Jr., New Jersey
TIM HOLDEN, Pennsylvania
SHELLEY BERKLEY, Nevada
ELLEN O. TAUSCHER, California
BRAD CARSON, Oklahoma
Page 8 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCJIM MATHESON, Utah
MICHAEL M. HONDA, California
RICK LARSEN, Washington
WILLIAM O. LIPINSKI, Illinois
BOB CLEMENT, Tennessee
JERROLD NADLER, New York
EDDIE BERNICE JOHNSON, Texas
LEONARD L. BOSWELL, Iowa
JAMES P.McGOVERN, Massachusetts
BRIAN BAIRD, Washington
JERRY F. COSTELLO, Illinois
CORRINE BROWN, Florida
JAMES L. OBERSTAR, Minnesota
Acklie, Duane W., Chairman, American Trucking Associations
Allgeier, Hon. Peter F., Deputy U.S. Trade Representative, Office of U.S. Trade Representative
Page 9 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Cuellar, Hon. Henry, Secretary of State, State of Texas
Gillan, Jacqueline S., Vice President, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety
Mead, Hon. Kenneth M., Inspector General, U.S. Department of Transportation
Mathis, Michael E., Director, Government Affairs, International Brotherhood of Teamsters
Mineta, Hon. Norman Y., Secretary, U.S. Department of Transportation
Vaughn, Capt. Steve, President, Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance, and Commander, California Highway Patrol
PREPARED STATEMENTS SUBMITTED BY MEMBERS OF CONGRESS
Costello, Hon. Jerry F., of Illinois
Otter, Hon. C.L. ''Butch'', of Idaho
Rahall, Hon. Nick J., II, of West Virginia
PREPARED STATEMENTS SUBMITTED BY WITNESSES
Acklie, Duane W
Allgeier, Hon. Peter F
Cuellar, Hon. Henry
Gillan, Jacqueline S
Hoffa, James P. (submitted by Michael E. Mathis)
Page 10 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mead, Hon. Kenneth M
Mineta, Hon. Norman Y
Vaughn, Capt. Steve
SUBMISSIONS FOR THE RECORD
Allgeier, Hon. Peter F., Deputy U.S. Trade Representative, Office of U.S. Trade Representative, responses to questions
Mead, Hon. Kenneth M., Inspector General, U.S. Department of Transportation, responses to questions
ADDITIONS TO THE RECORD
AAA, Susan G. Pikrallidas, Vice President, Public Affairs, statement
Amalgamated Transit Union, Jim LaSala, International President, statement
American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators, statement
City of Laredo, Elizabeth G. Flores, Mayor, statement
NAFTA arbitral panel final report, recommendations, February 6, 2001
Owner Operator Independent Drivers Association, Inc., Jim Johnston, President, statement
U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Thomas J. Donohue, President and CEO, statement
U.S. Department of Transportation, Form OP-2 Application for Mexican Certificate of Registration for Foreign Motor Carriers and Foregn Private Carriers Under 49 U.S.C. 13902
Page 11 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC 77R 06487, Memorializing Congress to recognize the impact on Texas of the federal policy of opening the border to mexican trucks in accordance with provisions of NAFTA, Texas Legislature, Bill History and Senate Concurrent Resolusion
Transportation Trades Department, Edward Wytkind, statement
NAFTA: ARBITRATION PANEL DECISION AND OPENING OF THE U.S. MEXICAN BORDER TO MEXICAN MOTOR CARRIERS
Wednesday, July 18, 2001
House of Representatives, Subcommittee on Highways and Transit, Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, Washington, D.C.
The subcommittee met, pursuant to call, at 2:02 p.m., in Room 2167, Rayburn House Office Building, Hon. Thomas E. Petri [chairman of the subcommittee] presiding.
Mr. PETRI. The subcommittee will come to order. The subcommittee's meeting today to receive testimony on the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA, arbitration panel decision of February 6, 2001, which determined that the United States was in breach of its obligations under NAFTA with regard to permitting cross-border motor carrier services across the U.S. and Mexican border and with regard to allowing Mexican investment in U.S.-based companies. The decision will also provide recommendations for the United States to achieve compliance with the NAFTA requirements.
Prior to 1982, the U.S. made no distinctions between Canadian, Mexican or U.S. applicabilities when granting motor carrier applications for authority to operate within the United States. However, this practice came to an end pursuant to a 2-year moratorium imposed by the Bus Regulatory Reform Act of 1982, which was extended indefinitely by the ICC Termination Act of 1995. The basis for the moratorium was to encourage both Canada and Mexico to lift their trade restrictions on market access for United States firms. NAFTA was designed to be a trilateral economic agreement between Canada, Mexico and the United States, and was intended to phase out barriers to trade and services throughout North America. It was signed on December 17th, 1992 and took effect on January 1, 1994.
Page 12 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Among the many provisions to facilitate trade between the three North American countries were provisions liberalizing cross border, motor carrier and bus services. However,
Annex 1 of NAFTA effectively allowed for the continuation of the moratorium until 1995. Yet in December of 1995, after the United States Department of Transportation had been preparing to accept Mexican applications for operating authority, the Secretary of the Department announced that submitted applications would not be finalized, thus continuing the moratorium.
Over the past 6 years, the United States and Mexican governments continued to debate this action, which resulted in the arbitration panel decision of February 6, 2001. Following the arbitration panel distribution, the President announced his intention to comply with the decision and directed the administration to take several steps in preparation for opening the U.S.-Mexican border. First, the 2002 Department of Transportation budget request included an $88 million Mexican border initiative. These funds were intended for infrastructure construction, hiring additional Federal personnel and grants for border states to hire additional personnel. And although this funding was struck from the department appropriations bill in the House on a point of order by the chairman of this committee, due to the source of the funding, I, for one, am hopeful that the House, Senate and the administration working together can resolve this issue and provide the necessary resources along the border.
Second, on June 6th, in response to an executive memorandum, Secretary of Transportation announced modifications to the memorandum, allowing Mexican carriers to fully own and operate U.S. companies in the U.S. for purposes of transporting international cargo and to provide bus services between points in the United States.
Third, an May 1st, 2001, the Department of Transportation proposed three rulemakings in anticipation of accepting Mexican applications to obtain operating authority in the United States by the end of this year. The purpose of today's hearings is to review the arbitration panel decision and to determine the repercussions for the United States, as well as to review the actions taken by the administration in the event that the U.S. Mexican border is reopened to Mexican carriers. We are particularly interested in assessing whether the rules proposed by the department and the resources requested are sufficient to ensure the safety of the public travelling on U.S. highways and to ensure the compliance of Mexican carriers with all applicable U.S. laws, regulations and procedures.
Page 13 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Over the years, this subcommittee has made several trips to the border to inspect and see firsthand border infrastructure, staffing and general operations. It is clear that there are differing levels of facilities along the border, and I look forward to hearing what the border State's plans are for continuing to develop border infrastructure and staffing.
I also wish to hear ideas on what should be done on the Federal level in partnership with the states. However, there are a number of other issues I hope to explore during the course of this hearing. We, undoubtedly, will hear statistics about the safety of the Mexican trucks currently crossing the border. Yet I am curious as to what those figures really tell us relevant to this discussion. These trucks essentially are drayage trucks that move back and forth across the border several times a day, shuttling freight in 10- to 15-mile trips.
Now, I have been told that should Mexican carriers gain access beyond the commercial zone, the population of trucks that will be on our highways will be entirely different from those that currently shuttle back and forth across the border on these short trips today. So are we comparing apples and oranges? Again, prior to 1982, when Mexican carriers had authority to engage in cross-border service, Mexican carriers were not receiving the outpouring of criticisms that they are receiving today. And I hope witnesses will address this issue.
Also at times, there appears to be the perception that Mexican trucks in varying states of disrepair are lining up at the border ready to invade and clog our highways the minute the moratorium is lifted. Neither NAFTA nor the arbitration panel decision dictates that there be blanket access to U.S. highways for Mexican trucks. The Department of Transportation's issued proposed regulations to certify Mexican carriers who will be applying for operating authority. Each application will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis. Some may believe that this is inadequate, and I would like to hear from both sides on this issue. And I am interested in hearing the number of Mexican carrier applicants that we actually expected to seek access to the U.S..
Page 14 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Again, many seem to have a perception of what a Mexican truck is, but we have also read reports that many Mexican carriers are buying and operating the exact same equipment as U.S. carriers.
I am interested in learning about the state of the Mexican trucking industry today and how it might impact these discussions. We clearly have an obligation under NAFTA, and we have an obligation to ensure that our roads are safe. I hope we can all work together to take the necessary steps to accomplish both of these goals.
Today's agenda provides the subcommittee an opportunity to expand on all of these interests by hearing from the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative on the arbitration panel decision and recommendations and the repercussions to U.S. American trade relations.
We will also hear from the distinguished secretary of the Department of Transportation, Norman Mineta, on the actions taken by the agency to prepare for reopening of the U.S.-Mexican border to Mexican border carriers.
Additionally, testimony on the decision to reopen the border will be provided by the Department of Transportation Inspector General, the Secretary of State from the State of Texas, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, the American Trucking Association, the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance, and the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety.
And with that, I now recognize my colleague, the ranking member of the subcommittee, Bob Borski.
Mr. BORSKI. Well, thank you, Mr. Chairman, and let me thank you for scheduling these hearings on the safety of cross-border trucking between the United States and Mexico. The subject of these hearings, the safety implications of the President's plan to open the border to Mexico-domiciled trucks is a matter of great concern to me and a growing number of my colleagues. I want to emphasize that this should not be a hearing on trade issues, but a hearing on truck safety and only truck safety.
Page 15 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC In carrying out our treaty obligations, we must guarantee that we do so in a matter that assures the safety of the United States citizens.
I believe the President made an ill-advised, hasty decision in announcing his intention to open the border to Mexican trucks by January 1, 2002. It will be several years, in my opinion, before the necessary regulations are in place. The human and physical infrastructure is in place. The enforcement mechanisms are in place, and the information systems are in place to assure the cross-border trucking is safe. We are not anywhere close to being ready to open the border, and we certainly won't be ready to open the border by January 1, 2002.
Recently, Chairman Petri and I, along with other members of the SEC on Highway and Transit visited several border crossings along the U.S.-Mexican border. We witnessed firsthand the problems encountered by Federal and State officials as they went about the task of trying to assure the safety of Mexico-domiciled trucks, and drivers entering the United States.
With some rare exceptions, it was a losing battle.
At Otay Mesa in California, we saw an inspection system that works pretty well, a system that could serve as a model for the other 26 border crossings along the U.S.-Mexico border. California performs a comprehensive level 1 safety inspection of all trucks crossing the border, at least once every 90 days at its inspection facilities at Otay Mesa and Calexico. Every truck and trailer that passes inspection is given a sticker good for 90 days. Any truck or trailer crossing the border that doesn't have a valid sticker is pulled into one of several inspection bays, where a comprehensive safety information is performed.
If the system could work at Otay Mesa, where 15 percent of the truck traffic from Mexico crosses, it could work at other border crossings as well. And the system at Otay Mesa works. The out-of-service rate for Mexican trucks crossing the border at Otay Mesa is the same rate as U.S. trucks nationwide. Areas along the border that don't have good inspection programsand we saw plentyhave out of service rates as high as 60 percent. One of the officers we talked to, Officer Cory Clayton of the Texas Department of Public Safety, gave us a memorable quote. He said, trucks that aren't inspected tend to be neglected, and he was right. The contrast in the out-of-service data from California where trucks are inspected every 90 days and the other border crossing areas where trucks are seldom inspected was all Officer Clanton needed to make his point.
Page 16 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. Chairman, currently there are no permanent inspection facilities at border crossings in the State of Texas, and under the most optimistic forecast, none will be operational before early to mid 2003 at the earliest.
During our trip to the border, we also found big problems with the Mexican motor carrier and driver electronic information system. We made repeated checks at the Mexican database and were unable to find any information on drivers and carriers selected at random as they crossed the border. They simply weren't in the database. We found one, but the file contained no historical information on the driver or the carrier. Simply, the name of the company and the driver. Hardly a basis for judging the safety fitness of the company or the driver.
I am concerned about the speed of this process to open the border. A transition measure such as the Sabo Amendment in the House appropriations bill or the Berry amendment in the Senate appropriations bill will help us bridge the gap. More time is needed to put in place the necessary regulations, human and physical infrastructure, enforcement mechanisms and information systems that will assure safe cross-border trucking operations in the United States.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. PETRI. Thank you. Representative Young is the chairman of the full, which he is not here. Should he come, he may wish to place a statement in the record. Otherwise, his statement and that of all the other members of the subcommittee will beif they have opening statements, will be made a part of the record, and I would at this point turn to the ranking member of the full committee, Representative Oberstar, for an opening statement if he wishes to make one.
Mr. OBERSTAR. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. I greatly appreciate you holding this hearing and joining Mr. Borski in addressing this subject ofthat is before us today that is of such great and overwhelming concern. I welcome Secretary Mineta. I am certain he is happy to be here, maybe not under these circumstances, but where his portrait smiles upon us all.
Page 17 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I want to choose my words carefully, because I want to make it very clear the hearing is not about trade, and the concern is not about trade. The issue is safety. Truck trade between the United States and Mexico is booming, 131 percent increase; $171 billion in the last 6 years. Whether you argue that NAFTA is good or bad for us, the facts are there. The trade has grown. The traffic is powerful, but no one can argue about the need to protect the health and safety and welfare of our fellow citizens by ensuring that trucks that roll on our highways, our city streets and our country roads meet adequate standards of safety.
We have major motor vehicle truck safety problem in this country. Three facts: Motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of death for people between the ages of 6 and 33 in America. In 1999, 5,380 people died in large truck accidents. Has the equivalent of a fully-loaded 737 aircraft crashing every two weeks. Third, every independent analysis of Mexico-domiciled trucks, whether the Inspector General at DOT, the Congressional Reference Service, or the General Accounting Office has found one, that the safety record of Mexico-domiciled trucks is much less than that of their U.S. counterparts, and, to question the ability of the U.S. to ensure compliance with our laws, that is the context.
Now, when we in the United States Government allows a foreign carrier, whether a truck, a ship, an airplane, a railroad to operate in the U.S., we have every right and we have every responsibility to ensure that the carrier complies with U.S. laws.
Now, airlines and railroads are different than trucks. Airlines have specific routes and specific designations, and so do railroads. But the truck should be held to a higher standard, because it can go everywhere and to every hamlet of every city, to every village, to every countryside in America. I-35, some would say, starts at Laredo, Texas. Others would say it starts in Duluth, Minnesota, but it goes 1,835 miles, and a truck that enters at Laredo can wind up in Duluth, and I don't want a truck without brakes in Duluth, because from the top of the hill to the waterfront, Lake Superior is three times the height of Niagara Falls and a truck without brakes is going to kill somebody and not on my watch.
Page 18 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Now, we have to conduct on-site compliance of reviews of Mexico trucks before we give them authority to operate in this country, and more importantly, than the inspection is the system within which they operate. Aviation is a good model. Before the United States allows a foreign carrier to operate in this country, we look at their aviation safety regime. The regime within which safety is conducted in that country, if that safety regime doesn't measure up, the airlines from that country don't get into the United States. That process involves inspection of the regulatory authority. It involves an on-site inspection of the country's airlines. It involves how they license their personnel, how they license aircraft, how they conduct airworthiness inspections to assess the effectiveness of their regulatory system, and that is what we need in place with respect to Mexican trucks.
If they don't measure up to those standards, they don't get into the U.S., and we have denied right now 13 countries the ability to fly into the United States, because they don't measure up to our aviation safety standards. We should have no less a standard for trucking. There ought to be the necessary border infrastructure and personnel in place. 25 of 27 border crossings account for 79 percent of the truck traffic, nearly 3.6 million border crossings. No permanent inspection facility; no State inspector on duty all hours. We have got a lot to do.
Now, the report that Mr. Borski and others made following their border inspection was compelling testimony, compelling statement. We introduced a resolution that requiresthat urges the President to delay granting Mexico carriers operating authority until the President certifies that granting that authority will not endanger the health and welfare of U.S. citizens. And we provide a comprehensive list of safety initiatives to get to that point.
That is what we are going to consider today, and, Mr. Chairman, I thank you for the extra time you have granted me, but I feel very deeply about this issue, very strongly about it. I have spent a lot of time on it over many years and again, one final thought is there is often the comparison made, well, Canada is a different situation. You let trucks from Canada come in. They have a better safety record than we have. So let us take Canada out of the equation and bring this back down to the issue of safety. Thank you.
Page 19 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. PETRI. Thank you, Mr. Oberstar. Two of our colleagues who are not members of the subcommittee have asked permission to join us and sit in at this hearing, and so I would ask unanimous consent that our colleague, Ruben Hinojosa from Texas and our colleague, Peter DeFazio of Oregon, be permitted to sit with us for today'sthis afternoon's hearing. And without objection, that is ordered.
TESTIMONY OF HON. NORMAN Y. MINETA, SECRETARY, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION; AND HON. PETER F. ALLGEIER, DEPUTY U.S. TRADE REPRESENTATIVE, OFFICE OF U.S. TRADE REPRESENTATIVE
Now, the first panel we look forward to testimony from a former chairman of this committee, whose picture is on the wall right behind us, who we are watching. And he hasn't aged despite the passage of a few years. That is the Secretary of Transportation, the Honorable Norm Mineta. And he will be followed by Peter Allgeier, who is the Deputy Trade Representative of the U.S. Trade Representative's Office.
Secretary MINETA. Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, it is a great pleasure to have this chance to appear before all of you today and to have this opportunity to explain our plans for the safe admission of commercial trucks and buses to the United States from Mexico. Approved by Congress in 1993, the North American Free Trade Agreement was based on a single premise, that all of the countries in North America would be integrated into one free trade area. However, NAFTA's requirements that all countries in North America open their borders to commercial vehicle traffic still has not been implemented 8 years after ratification.
Last February, a NAFTA arbitration panel determined that the United States had violated its legal obligations to Mexico under NAFTA. It authorized Mexico to impose very significant economic sanctions. President Bush has assured President Fox that the United States would move in a timely manner to meet our NAFTA obligations. I acknowledge the very significant concerns that Members of Congress and the statements I have heard this afternoon and the public have expressed as being real. Recent votes by the House of Representatives and the Senate Appropriations Committee on this matter have sent a very clear message. That is, that Congress will insist that the United States have a vigorous, effective safety program in place prior to implementing the truck and bus access provisions of NAFTA.
Page 20 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. Chairman, as all of you know, I have been Secretary of Transportation since the 25th of January of this year, and I will match my credentials in terms of safety with anyone, and that kind of personal commitment has not lessened any since being a Member of Congress or since becoming Secretary of the Department. And I share this very similar commitment that all of you have about safety.
The Bush administration wants to work with Congress to reach consensus on a plan to meet our NAFTA obligations without sacrificing safety. I am disappointed, therefore, that the House voted to bar the use of any Department funds in the next fiscal year to process applications for Mexican carriers that seek to operate outside the commercial zones in the United States.
As the administration has formerly stated, on at least one previous occasion, President Bush's senior advisers would recommend that he veto any bill containing provisions that foreclose the pocket of meeting our NAFTA obligations. Now, while I am grateful to the Senate Appropriations Committee for providing funding for inspections and improvements described later in this testimony, I have serious concerns that the numerous conditions that the Senate has at this point placed on actions for the Department will impinge on our ability to do the job.
Let me state four core principles that I believe must guide our efforts to implement the NAFTA truck and bus access provisions. First, safety is the Department of Transportation's highest priority, and we will not sacrifice safety to implement NAFTA's trucking and bus provisions. With the support of Congress, Mexico's government, Federal and State enforcement officials and the industry, I think that we can't implement an effective safety enforcement program and meet our NAFTA obligations by January 1, 2002. The President's budget lays out requirements to do that.
However, if our ongoing work should prove that we need more time, we will take it. If we need more resources, we will insist upon them. The bottom line is, we want to do the job right.
Page 21 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Secondly, every Mexican firm, vehicle and driver that seeks authority to operate in the United States at the border or beyond must meet the identical safety and operating standards that apply to Canadian and U.S. carriers. Nothing less than that is acceptable.
Thirdly, the United States must comply fully with our NAFTA obligations. Not everyone on this committee supported approval of NAFTA in 1993. As a Member of Congress, I did, but only after careful consideration of the possible impact on a wide range of issues, including safety, I concluded then and I continue to believe that the free and open trade fostered by NAFTA is in the best interest of the people of this Nation and of our economic future.
The Mexican government has assured the United States that it will allow U.S. trucks access to Mexico, and as Secretary of Transportation, now my task is to work with the Congress to decide how to meet our existing and very real international, legal obligations.
Fourthly, Mexican carriers lawfully operating in the United States must be guaranteed the same high standards of fairness and protection that we offer Canadian and U.S. carriers.
There is a technical term in NAFTA that gives Canadian, Mexican and U.S. carriers operating in one of the other countries so-called national treatment. That means that we must provide a level playing field for competition. Because Mexico's safety enforcement regime differs in significant ways from that of Canada and the United States, the arbitration panel granted us reasonable flexibility in choosing the best way to ensure a Mexican carrier's compliance with our safety regulations. There can be some discussion about what constitutes reasonable flexibility.
I must say, however, that I am concerned about the tenor of some of the debates. Some seem to argue that a Mexican carrier precisely because it is from Mexico, cannot or will not comply with our laws. In implementing NAFTA, President Bush and I will insist on full compliance with our safety laws, but we will not accept enforcement requirements that create a de facto system that unfairly discriminates against Mexican drivers and Mexican carriers.
Page 22 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC As a result of decisions taken by the previous administration, the Department of Transportation did not, on the 20th of January of this year, have a program that would allow us to open our southern border to commercial traffic, nor did we have an adequate plan for developing one.
Today we are well on the way to having the effective safety enforcement program that will allow us to move forward with NAFTA by year's end. In May, the Department of Transportation proposed several rules relating to the carrier application process that we need to implement for border opening. The public comment period on the draft rules closed two weeks ago, and we anticipate issuing this final rule sometime in October.
Now, these rules represent only one part of the Department's comprehensive safety implementation plan. The actual safety considerations in implementing our NAFTA obligations are, in fact, very different from the picture painted by some opponents. Our plan places heightened requirements on Mexican carriers currently operating in the commercial zone along the border. More scrutiny than currently exercised, and it means a new stricter system outside the commercial zone.
My written testimony provides details of our implementation plan and the resources the Department needs to carry it out.
Of course, none of us can guarantee that a Mexican truck, a Canadian truck, or for that matter, a U.S. truck, will never have a catastrophic accident somewhere in the United States, but I can guarantee that the Department of Transportation directs and will continue to direct its full efforts on a daily basis to preventing that accident. Our NAFTA safety implementation plan will place greater resources and a substantially enhanced effort on enforcement.
Opening the border to Mexican trucks and buses by the beginning of this next year will require considerable efforts, but I am thoroughly convinced that we can fulfill our NAFTA obligations while putting in place an effective safety enforcement program.
Page 23 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I close, Mr. Chairman, by reiterating my personal commitment and that of the Bush administration to work with the Congress to find an acceptable plan for NAFTA implementation, a plan that allows us to meet the four principles of safety and equity that I have outlined today. I ask, Mr. Chairman, for unanimous consent to submit my written testimony for the record, and we will be pleased to answer questions at the appropriate time.
Mr. PETRI. Without objection, your full statement will be made a part of the record.
Mr. ALLGEIER. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I would like to express my appreciation to you and to the members of the committee for this opportunity to discuss this important subject of cross-border access and safety for motor carriers.
First, I would simply like to say that I am testifying here today to express the administration's support for the twin goals of, first, ensuring that Mexican trucks fully meet U.S. highway safety standards and, two, fulfilling our international obligations. We think that we can meet both goals. USTR attaches the utmost importance to ensuring the safety on our highways. However, recent action by the House to impose an across-the-board ban on new licensing authority for Mexican trucking companies goes well beyond and is not justified by safety concerns. Moreover, if enacted into law, that action could jeopardize our relations with Mexico and impede President Fox's efforts to promote openness and reform and good governance in Mexico. It also would violate our international obligations under NAFTA.
Now, this is not a hearing on trade, as a number of members have said, and so I don't plan to talk in length about the NAFTA. However, I would simply point out that it has been a very large success and that there are substantial stakes involved as a result of that, and would be consequences if we were not to abide by our obligations under the NAFTA.
At this point, nearly a half a million dollars in trade between the United States and Mexico crosses our border every minute. The overwhelming amount of that trade is, of course, moved by trucks. So this is an important element in the implementation of the NAFTA. And as we know, there are nearly 1.2 million jobs in America supported by exports to Mexico. This is almost double what it was when we first started implementing NAFTA.
Page 24 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. Chairman, as you pointed out, until 1982, the United States allowed Mexican firms to engage in international transportation service in the United States. Mexico did not provide reciprocal access for our trucking firms and our drivers. As a result, Congress limited Mexico's access to a narrow border zone until such time as Mexico agreed to provide us with reciprocal access. As you pointed out, that means that the current situation is a long-haulerlong-haul truck from Mexico brings the cargo into the Mexican side of the border zone, the commercial border zone, a drayage truck then takes over, takes it across the border to the U.S. side and then a U.S. truck takes it from there to its destination wherever in the United States.
Imagine if we had insisted upon such a system in interstate transport in the United States. The obvious inefficiency and waste of resources would be protested both by business and by consumers. In the NAFTA negotiations, we did succeed in including reciprocal cross-border trucking provisions in the agreement, and those provisions authorize U.S. trucks to carry cargo to and from Mexico and Mexican trucks to carry cargo to and from the United States, beginning in December of 1995.
Under the NAFTA, the United States may apply all of its own safety standards to Mexican trucks operating in the United States, and as the Secretary said, we may take reasonable measures to enforce those standards. In 1993, of course Congress approved the NAFTA, including the cross-border trucking provisions, and now more than 5 years later, we have yet to comply with those commitments that we ourselves ask to be included in the agreement. As a result, Mexico has taken us to a dispute settlement panel. The panel has ruled basically what we knew, that we are required to evaluate on a case-by-case basis applications to operate Mexican trucks in the United States, but in evaluating those, we are able to insist that they meet U.S. standards of safety.
Moreover, we can take what reasonable steps are necessary to enforce these standards. However, if a blanket ban on processing licenses were to take place, we would be in direct and willful breach of our obligations to Mexico. The implications of this are that Mexico, under the agreement, would be entitled to withdraw comparable concessions from us. They would be able to withdraw benefits from that trade that I mentioned earlier, the 1.2 million Americans are involved in on the export side.
Page 25 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Moreover, NAFTA has been a key element in Mexico's success, particularly in President Fox's success, in trying to open up Mexico to the kinds of rulesof procedure and good governance that we in the United States have been promoting in our relations with Mexico. Now is not the time to say to President Fox and to the Mexicans that we should not be abiding by international obligations. It will be very logical for them and for people in Mexico who don't like certain obligations of the NAFTA to say, why should Mexico abide by its obligations?
I started by saying we have two objectives, the first being to ensure that there is compliance with U.S. highway safety standards. The second is to meet our obligations under the NAFTA. We look forward, Mr. Chairman, to working with you, the members of this committee and other Members of Congress, to craft legislation that ensures that in implementing this part of the NAFTA, we meet both of those objectives. Thank you very much.
Mr. PETRI. Thank you, and we do look forward to working with you and with the Department of Transportation as we move forward on this issue.
I will now turn to questions, and hopefully we will do a better job on our side of sticking with the 5-minute rule, and Mr. Oberstar.
Mr. OBERSTAR. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. And. Secretary and Mr. Ambassador, thank you for your presentation. I find some comfort in the Secretary's presentation. And knowing his long standing not only commitment but act of work on safety and aviation and rail and trucking when he chaired this committee is unquestioned.
I do take issue with the repeated administration insistence that debate in the U.S.in the U.S. House has emanated from a principle that we are discriminating against trucks from Mexico precisely because they come from Mexico. There was no reference until the debate. There was no suggestion in the floor debate, in the committee or in any other forum of that tenor. Quite the opposite. Our emphasis has been on safety.
Ambassador, let me ask your reaction. The reasons that U.S. treats Canada and Mexico differently, one, the United States has had a long-standing truck access memorandum of understanding with Canada that includes compliance review of Canadian trucking companies. For more than 4 decadesit has been in place since 1960, and a mutual recognition agreement. But NAFTA itself does not even address the issue of Canada's truck access to the U.S. because of that long-standing agreement. Do you agree with that?
Page 26 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Second, the United States and Mexico do not, in contrast, have a longstanding truck access relationship. Congress imposed a moratorium on Mexico-domiciled trucks entering the U.S. in 1982, and every President since then, until this President, has upheld that moratorium: Presidents Reagan, Bush and Clinton, Bush 1. Do you agree with that?
Mr. ALLGEIER. Yes. I believe that is accurate.
Mr. OBERSTAR. The third is the arbitral panel ruled specifically that the United States could treat the application of Mexico-domiciled trucks to operate in the U.S. differently from U.S. or Canada, and you have said so in your statement?
Mr. ALLGEIER. That's correct.
Mr. OBERSTAR. Four, the rate of out-of-service findings on CanadaCanadian trucks is far better than U.S., 17 percent Canadian trucks are found out of compliance, versus 24 to 25 percent for U.S. trucks. Are you aware of that failure?
Mr. ALLGEIER. Well, as a result of youryes. I take your word for that.
Mr. OBERSTAR. So with those facts, I mean, why do you dispute that we should be concerned about this issue?
Mr. ALLGEIER. Mr. Oberstar, I was not trying to imply that any of us in this room should be unconcerned about the issue. The point is simply to say that there is an across-the-board ban on processing licenses puts us in breach of our international obligation.
Mr. OBERSTAR. Let me explain why that happened, because Mr. Sabo, who proposed to the rules committee a more carefully-crafted provision that would have required U.S. DOT compliance review of Mexican-based trucking company before entering the U.S., was disallowed by the rules committee. He could not offer that language, and the only option available to him was to offer an across-the-board ban under the floor rules on appropriation bills. That is why, not because we don't like Mexican trucks. This was the only option available. There is more detailed language being crafted in the other body to deal with this issue. I just want to get the record straight.
Page 27 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I will have further questions for Secretary Mineta later. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. PETRI. Thank you. Mr. Coble.
Mr. COBLE. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Mr. Secretary, given the generous expressions of salutation extended to you, each time you come here, I think it is apparent the great respect and affection you enjoy from members of this committee.
Mr. Ambassador, that is not to say that we don't like you. We like you as well, but we know our colleague a little better. It is good to have both of you here.
I want to emphasize three points to each of you. Some of it has already been discussed, liability, and insurance. I think it is imperative that we know for certainty that these Mexican trucks are going to be adequately insured by carriers readily identifiable and that are obviously solvent, and my good friend from Minnesota expressed concern about that truck with defective brakes headed for the waters of Lake Superior.
Now, I am just concerned about that truck headed for a tobacco field in North Carolina and what compounds these two illustrations is the fact that someone may be in the path of that truck. So these issues must beand perhaps each of you and your staffs may be on top of this.
Secondly, drugs. I have the fear that when these trucks coming over from Mexico, I guess, believe that the accessibility for illegal drugs finding their respective ways into this country, I am afraid that the gates are going to be not just ajar but wide open, and I am sure that you allor I hope you all have hammered out some sort of strategy to address what I believe are certainly potential problems.
Three, environment. I am hoping that the vehicles from Mexico are going to be able to satisfy the environmental standards that we impose against our motor vehicles. Now, those three issues have caused me to sleep with one eye open at night. So if you all want to address those either now or subsequently, I am all ears.
Page 28 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Secretary MINETA. Mr. Chairman, with regard to the question posed by Mr. Coble, in the arbitral panel's decision, what they said was, the United States, you have violated the NAFTA provisions. However, they said, Mexico, you must observe all the rules and regulations and laws of the United States with regard to driver and vehicle safety.
So whether it is in terms of the liability insurance requirement, that is there. In terms of environment, their trucks must meet our requirements, and in terms of the drugs, that really is more in the hands of the DEA andalthough we work cooperatively with them, in terms of these combined Federal inspection service stations. The DEA is really responsible for the drug portion of it. But in terms of the insurance requirements, in terms of their meeting our environmental requirements, those are all the same.
Mr. COBLE. Mr. Ambassador, do you want to weigh in on that?
Mr. ALLGEIER. Just to say we have been extremely and repeatedly clear with Mexican authorities that these are the standards that we would require.
Mr. COBLE. Thank you both for being with us. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. FILNER. Will you yield, Mr. Coble?
Mr. COBLE. Sure.
Mr. FILNER. Because I think you hit on some very important issues.
Mr. PETRI. You can have your own time.
Mr. FILNER. Well, he still has time, and he yielded to me.
Mr. PETRI. Okay. Very good.
Mr. FILNER. The questions were very important, Mr. Secretaryand, again, as Mr. Oberstar said, no one questions your personal commitment--but you said the standards would be met. I have a border district, as you know. I have 3,000 trucks crossing into my district. I would like you to tell Mr. Coble and this committee in more detail how can you assure us that you can inspect them all? How do you know that those requirements are met? I have seen those papers exchanged. There is no way to check them. I have seen the driver's licenses. There is no way to deal with those driver's licenses. You do not have the manpower. You do not have the technology. You do not have the resources to assure my constituents that those answers to Mr. Coble are true.
Page 29 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Yes, the requirements are there, but there is no way to inspect them. There is no way. You have to have so much more resources than you have, or even have projected here, and I live in a district where we have a state-of-the-art inspection station. I sit there and watch what they inspect, and I will tell you, not only do they only inspect a few percent of the vehicles, but they cannot inspect for insurance. They cannot inspect for safety. They cannot inspect the logs. They cannot inspect anything for which you are assuring us that they have to comply.
Mr. PETRI. You are on your own time, now.
Secretary MINETA. First of all, you are right. They don't have the resources. They were knocked out by the House. We requested 88.2 million, but they were knocked out. And then the Sabo amendment went further, to prohibit the use of any DOT funds for the processing of.
Mr. COBLE. Mr. Secretary, can you pull that mike a little closer to you or activate it?
Secretary MINETA. Again, in terms of the 88.2 million that we had requested in our budget, that was knocked out by this committee, as well as theby the vote on the floor, the Sabo amendment that prohibits the use of any DOT funds from our processing motor carrier applications. What we were doing was a twofold exercise, one as it related to putting out the rules and regulations on how to apply to the United States for motor carrier authority, operating authority. The other piece of it was in terms of the inspection, and we asked for 88.2 million, as I recall the figure.
About $56 million of that was for physical facilities, about 54 going to the States for construction of inspection facilities, and some $2.6 million going to Federal agencies for Federal facilities. 18 million of it was for inspectors. The Inspector General had said that we needed at least 139 inspectors, and so we originally had 60 in the budget, and so I layered it with an additional 80 to get up to 140, and that was going to be some $18 million. And then on top of that, we put in some $13.6, $13.7 million for assistance to the States under the mix program to dofor States to do inspection as well.
Page 30 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Now, this is a total of something like 496 inspectors, and my objective was to make sure that in terms of inspecting drivers and trucks when they came across the border, they were going to be looked at. Now, if you look at the scope of all of the traffic at the borders, there is roughly about 4-1/2 million trips back and forth across the border. They are done by a total of 80,000 trucks. About 63,000 Mexican trucks, 17,000 U.S. trucks, back and forth across the border. And of the 63,000 Mexican trucks, we inspect 47,000. Now, my intent is to make sure that when there is a border crossing that is open, that there will be an inspector on duty.
Secretary MINETA. Now I don't know what it is I have to do to try to convince people that we are earnest about what we are doing.
In terms of commercial driver license, Mexico is instituting their own program. We will have the ability at our inspection stations to go on-line into their computer system to check on the driver system. Now admittedly, they are new at the game. They are not as experienced as we are, as Canada is. But in my conversations with their Department of Transportation, their Secretary of Transportation as well as their Secretary of Commerce and Industry, we are trying to make sure that they are in fact complying with the Arbitral Panel of NAFTA, which said, ''Mexico, you've got to observe all the rules, regs and laws of the United States relating to drivers and to trucks.'' .
And so I am trying and our department from top to bottom, through the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, is trying to put in place a program to assure the American public that we are in fact trying to make these vehicles that are going to be in the United States to be safe and compliant with U.S. Laws.
Mr. PETRI. Mr. Quinn?
Mr. QUINN. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thank you, Mr. Secretary. Welcome back again.
Page 31 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. Allgeier, I don't think we have met before, but it is nice to see you here, and welcome. I don't want to repeat everything that has been said here this afternoon because many of us have heard it before. Indeed, in a bipartisan way, we have stood, Democrats and Republicans, with unions and management here in this room, I with Mr. Oberstar, on more than three or four occasions, to highlight this serious, serious problem.
It shouldn't be about trade, Mr. Ambassador, but you talk about that. So I want you to know where I am coming from. I voted against NAFTA. It is a disaster in my part of New York State if you ask me about jobs and plants that have shut down. So you have got to convince me it has been a success to start off with. I don't think we went beyond where we should have gone with the vote on Mr. Sabo's amendment. We didn't have much of a choice that day. And I think I heard you say in your opening remarks, Peter, that we need to promote openness and good government in Mexico. Give me a break. What about openness and good government in the United States of America? I am not against trade, but it needs to be fair. And fair is, if our truck drivers have to pass licensing and inspections, then so should everybody else.
I was on a C-SPAN show this morning and fielded half a dozen or eight calls from people all across the country, who pointed out to us instances where this was occurring. They also pointed out an angle if we are going to talk about trade, that it really gives an unfair advantage to some of these truck-driving companies from other countries if they don't have to comply with some of these licensing and inspection procedures. And I didn't want to talk a lot about trade, but I need to have you know where I am coming from. And I am not like everybody else who is here, but that is my perspective on this whole thing.
Now we had to vote with Mr. Sabo's amendment, and that is over. And I think Norm is correct when he says, ''I need some direction.'' What do you want us to do? We are earnest, and I think you are. Maybe what we need is an opportunity, instead of us holding news conferences as we think we have to do or some of us voting the way we did to get everybody's attention, maybe we need an opportunity to have us sit down together.
Page 32 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC You are going to hear people on the second panel and third panel later today, the Teamsters and others, who are going to talk about some of these specific instances. We have Members who have visited there. We are not making this stuff up. I trust my colleagues who have been there and have seen it and have reported back on it. Soand I am not interested in trying to make life more difficult for either of you. I am interested in making life safer and better for the people who live in my district, and these truckers and trucks are making their way up to New York.
And so maybe, Mr. Chairman, out of hearings come some good ideas and some suggestions. Maybe we need to get some members who are interested on the subcommittee, members of the administration together with some people on the panel later today and come to grips with the funding problems that you all have. You can only do what we give you money to do.
Mr. Filner is correct. We want you to be staffed. We want you to be funded. I feel sometimes as passionate as Mr. Oberstar and frustrated sometimes that it is our responsibility to help you do your job. I for one want to do that. And to the extent that the leadership that Mr. Petri and Mr. Borski provide on the subcommittee, I want to help them do that.
That is not in the form of a question. I know that. But I don't know if we are going to get a chance to let you know where this Member is coming from, and I would give you whatever time I have left for reactions from either of you.
Mr. ALLGEIER. Thank you very much. I would simply say that neither for safety reasons nor for commercial reasons should we allow Mexican drivers or any other drivers to have any standard other than the ones that we apply to our own drivers and trucks, and that should be our guiding principle.
Mr. PETRI. Thank you. Mr. Lipinski, any questions?
Mr. FILNER. Mr. Chairman, Mr. Coble
yielded his time to me. So I thought I still had my time.
Page 33 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. PETRI. We continued the time.
Mr. FILNER. I wasn't informed of that because Mr. Mineta took all my time. I ask for just 2 minutes before we go on.
Mr. PETRI. Ask Mr. Lipinski to yield. There are a lot of other members.
Mr. FILNER. Each one of the members is interested and that is why they are here. So I don't want to take their 5 minutes.
Mr. PETRI. We will allow another round.
Mr. FILNER. I am the only member of this committee whose district is on the southern border.
Mr. LIPINSKI. Mr. Filner, I will yield you 1 minute of my time. Mr. Chairman, would you please let me know when his time is up?
Mr. FILNER. I thank the gentleman for his courtesy. Mr. Mineta, no one is questioning your personal commitment here. My constituents who see 3,000 trucks go by from Mexico are the experts on this, and they have been in accidents with trucks who don't have brakes and they have been in accidents with trucks that aren't insured and they have been in accidents with teenage drivers. So we are very concerned about what occurs.
I will tell you, I watched that state-of-the-art inspection station in Otay Mesa being built. It took almost a decade to get that in place. Twenty-five out of our 27 crossings do not have inspection stations. How long is it going to take them? When they get to Texas, they haven't even agreed on what kind of inspection station. I have watched those trucks being inspected. A couple percent are being inspected. There is no way to know the insurance. There is no way to know the safety record of the driver. There is no information in those computers. I have watched that every day for week after week.
Mr. LIPINSKI. Are you using my time, Mr. Filner?
Page 34 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. FILNER. Please, don't let this happen.
Mr. LIPINSKI. The Secretary can answer on his own time. You want to answer now on your time, Mr. Secretary?
Secretary MINETA. Yes, if I might. First of all.
Mr. LIPINSKI. It is his time, right, Mr. Chairman?
Mr. PETRI. Both of your time.
Mr. LIPINSKI. Talk fast, Norm.
Secretary MINETA. I am not sure where you get this couple of percent that Otay Mesa is being inspected. There is a lot more than a couple percent.
Mr. PETRI. Mr. Lipinski.
Mr. LIPINSKI. Thank you.
Mr. FILNER. Three thousand trucks a day come through. Only about 60 of them are inspected.
Mr. LIPINSKI. Mr. Secretary, it was my understanding that this money that the House has now at least temporarily stopped was going to be used for additional inspectors and for additional facilities. But it was also my understanding that that really would not be operational for 18 months after the beginning of the year. And it was my understanding that we were going to start allowing the Mexican trucks to come into this country unfeathered in January of next year. Is that a misunderstanding I have?
Secretary MINETA. Not true at all.
Mr. LIPINSKI. When is the United States Government now prepared to allow the Mexican trucks to come into this country unfeathered, totally, completely; any State in the Union?
Secretary MINETA. We have awhat do you call it conditional authority for an 18-month period, and then after that there would be permanent authority being given.
Page 35 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. LIPINSKI. When does the conditional authority start?
Secretary MINETA. From the time permission is given for them to enter into the United States.
Mr. LIPINSKI. Okay, well, we are talking about the President, the administration giving permission, correct?
Secretary MINETA. That is right. But that doesn't mean at that point that we have not done any of the checks relating to that carrier.
Mr. LIPINSKI. But right now, there is no time that that would go into effect. We are still in a state of suspended animation.
Secretary MINETA. Yes, because the rules that we put out there, the comment period for it ended 2 weeks ago. We will probably have our final rules hopefully, as I said, sometime in October. So we don't have that finalized yet. But we set out the rules in May as to whatwhat do you call itin our proposed notice of rulemaking on what our intentions were.
Mr. LIPINSKI. Wouldn't it be more practical, though, since there is such great concern in this country about unsafe trucks from Mexico on our highways and byways, to have all the inspectors trained, in place, all the facilities built, in place, before we start allowing these Mexican trucks to come into all the other States in the Union, move beyond the 5-mile economic zone that we have at the present time?
Secretary MINETA. We are recruiting people right now. Those who are on board are either already trained as inspectors or going to be trained. But we are recruiting for the additional group that we hope to have in place by the beginning of the year, and so we are trying to gear up to a January date.
After President Bush and President Fox met in February, a week after the Arbitral Panel came out with their decision, I sent a team down to Mexico on March 22 and 23. Now they wanted us to open up the border in September, and I said, ''there's no way we can do it in September.'' so through the negotiations process, we decided on January 1, 2002. So that is what I geared everything to, to comply with the January 1, 2002 date and then put our team together in terms of how many inspectors and the procedures by which the Mexican truck operators are going to have to apply to the United States.
Page 36 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. LIPINSKI. And at that time, you felt you would be sufficiently up and running to allow this to occur, the Mexican trucks coming in here in January, 2001?
Secretary MINETA. 2002.
Mr. LIPINSKI. 2002, excuse me.
Secretary MINETA. Again, remember that the traffic that we have right now is mostly drayage, and I don't really anticipate all of a sudden on the 1st of January, 2002, a lot of trucking companies are going to want to go to Cleveland, to Superior, Minnesota, to New York, Miami or wherever. It is still going to be very largely a drayage operation.
Mr. PETRI. Your time. Mr. LaTourette.
Secretary MINETA. You realize that at some pointand to me, the Class I carriers in Mexico, frankly, are not much different than U.S. Carriers.
Someone was talking about out-of-service rates. In California, the out-of-service rates are very similar for Mexican trucks as they are to run-of-the-mill California trucks running back and forth.
In Texas, that is not the case. There is a difference. But it is also a function of inspections. The more inspections you do, the out-of-service rate tends to go down. And that is what makes the California program so effective.
But California, above their $8 million that they get on NCCP, they put in another 35, $40 million of their own money in order to do the construction of the facilities and those additional inspectors there at Otay Mesa and Calexico. That is not the case with other States, and that is part of the problem with the whole NCCP program. It is just not as it relates to NAFTA. But look at the number of States that only have an NCCP program constituted by the dollars they get from the NCCP program. And very few States add their own money to the NCCP program that they get by formula. California adds another 35 million. And that is why their program in terms of CVSA decals on their trucks and inspecting them every 90 days is something that we want to adopt as our procedure. So that when that truck iswhat do you call itgetting its license to operate, it sticks a decal on there, that CVSA decal. So that they are going to be, to me, adequately inspected and they are not going to be given a break of any sort, because that is, you know, in terms of the safety commitment that everyone talks about here. We are geared to that.
Page 37 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. PETRI. Mr. LaTourette.
Mr. LATOURETTE. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Mr. Ambassador, Mr. Secretary, nice to see you again.
Secretary MINETA. Nice to see you again, Steve.
Mr. LATOURETTE. Following up where Mr. Quinn left off for just a minute, it is not only a jobs issue, but also the safety issue that is on everybody's mind. But I just had a fellow in my office who imports or brings in a filament for his product. And because we are located in Cleveland, he gets the filament from Vermont. His competitor gets it in Mexico. And because of the freight differential that exists, it becomes a trade issue. This fellow from Cleveland, Ohio is at a disadvantage because his competitors use carriers that don't have the same safety considerations and training considerations as the folks that bring his stuff to Cleveland.
So I appreciate all of the attention that you are going to give to it. And I, for one, trust the Secretary to do what he says he is going to do.
But I would ask you this, Mr. Secretary. It looks like the Congress has put you in a tough spot and that is over here in the House, we have asked youor you are expected to do something under the country's NAFTA obligations and then we haven't given you the money to take care of it.
Over in the Senate, they have given you some of the money to take care of it, but they have imposed a list of conditions that you are expected to comply with. And that is what I wanted to focus on. And perhapsand you know why the Sabo amendment came about. That is because of the rules that we have. We are not supposed to legislate on appropriations bills. And so instead, we have a denial of funds for a specific purpose.
But the question I have for you, Mr. Secretary, on the last page of your testimony you have indicated that you are grateful to Senator Murray and the Senate for restoring the funds, but that you have serious concerns about the numerous conditions. And as I understood those conditions, they are designed to do a lot of the things that you have been talking about. So I am wondering that if in the short time that I have that you could outline what it isas we have to move forward with the conference with the Senatewhat it is that you are concerned about relative to Senator Murray's conditions.
Page 38 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Secretary MINETA. There are specifics, and I don't know the details on all of them. I do recall that there were something like 22 concerns that we had about the Murray amendment.
One of them is, for instance, a requirement that all border crossings must be equipped with both weigh-in-motion devices and static scales. Now, frankly, I don't know why this requirement is in there for both the weigh-in-motion device as well as scales. And if we are required to put in weigh-in-motion devices, that is another $750,000 cost, and with the 27 crossings, it would be just about out of sight. And yet a number of the crossings, including Otay Mesa, Calexico, Laredo, and a number of others, do have static scales.
So just that portion would then mean an additional $13 million in costs to the Department of Transportation. They require insurance and that it be based on, I believe it was U.S. insurance companies. Generally, we don't say U.S. companies. We say companies that are licensed to operate in the United States.
And sobut in any event, there are a number of these. There are a couple of certification issues as they relate to whatwhat do you callthe IG has to do. I think it takes away from our departmental responsibilities. But in any event, I can get the details of that to you. In fact, I will submit it to the committee for the record.
Mr. LATOURETTE. That is what I was going to ask you. If you have the list of 21 or 22 concerns, if you would submit that in writing, we would appreciate it very much. I thank you, Mr. Chairman, and yield back.
Mr. PETRI. Thank you. Mr. Mascara, do you have any questions?
Mr. MASCARA. I do not have any questions, but I would like to welcome Mr. Mineta. It is always good to see you, and I hope that we can get the Congress working in cooperation with you and the White House to effectuate those conditions that we have all agreed to under NAFTA.
Page 39 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC And I agree with our ranking member Jim Oberstar that this is not about trade. This is about safety. And all of us spend a lot of time on our Nation's highways. And when we expect those people in this country who operate tractor trailers to live up to certain rules and standards, we should expect that also of our counterparts in Mexico.
So I am hoping that we can all come together to resolve this problem. It is a serious problem.
Secretary MINETA. You are absolutely correct. I mean Mexican trucks we know can carry 135,000 pounds. Canadian trucks can carry 118,000 pounds. The U.S. is 80,000 pounds. Trucks coming into the United States have to observe the 80,000-pound limitation.
So, again, you are absolutely right. These are the kinds of rules and regulations that countries are going to have to adhere to in order to be operating in the United States.
Mr. PETRI. Mr. Duncan?
Mr. DUNCAN. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Let me ask you, our briefing papers say that in 1999, there were approximately 8,400 Mexican companies that had permission or authority to operate in the United States. And also, we are told that there is 4-1/2 million northbound crossings in 2000. And I am curious, is the 8,400 number still fairly accurate? And also, I am curious also about the 4-1/2 million crossings. Is that a number that has gone way up, say in the last 5 years? Is this something that is really growing rapidly where there are half that many crossings 5 years ago or do either of you have any information like that?
Secretary MINETA. First of all, Congressman, on the 8,400, roughly that is correct. It may be a little higher, in the 8,700, 8,800 range, but you are in the ballpark.
On the number of crossings, that has notit has gone up onlet's say, about a 6 to 8 percent increase. But it has not been a dramatic increase. And again, those are allmost of thosein fact, all of those have been just drayage crossings within the 20 miles in the commercial border area.
Page 40 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. DUNCAN. I apologize if I missed this, but do you have any figures as to how many accidents Mexican trucks have been involved in in the past year?
Secretary MINETA. In the commercial zone, it is .07 percent is the accident rate.
Mr. DUNCAN. What do you mean in the commercial zone?
Secretary MINETA. Within the 20 miles of the border.
Mr. DUNCAN. I am talking about nationwide.
Secretary MINETA. As far as I know, I believeif I can remember correctly, I believe it was 56there was one accident outside the commercial zone.
Mr. DUNCAN. Only one?
Secretary MINETA. There may be other trucks where the driver just says, ''I am off to Cincinnati,'' and drives off. But from our Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, they say one recorded accident.
Mr. DUNCAN. Well, I find thatand I don'tyou know that I respect you more than almost anybody, Mr. Secretary. But I find that a little hard to believe that you could have 4-1/2 million northbound crossings and you only have one reported accident.
Secretary MINETA. Again, those crossings are only within the commercial zone. That is all we can do.
Mr. DUNCAN. So we don't allow Mexican trucks to come beyond the commercial zone; is that right?
Secretary MINETA. That is correct.
Mr. DUNCAN. You knowwell, okay. I didn't understand that. And are thoseMr. Filner askedhe said something about these uninsured trucks hitting his people. He said 3,000 crossings. Is there any requirement that these Mexican trucks have insurance?
Page 41 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Secretary MINETA. Absolutely.
Mr. DUNCAN. Do they have to have insurance with U.S. insurance companies or.
Secretary MINETA. If that is a specific requirement within the Murray amendment that says the insurance must be with a U.S. insurance company. There is some thoughtand Peter would maybe be in a better positionbut there is some thought that that may be a WTO violation.
But Mr. Ambassador?
Mr. FILNER. Mr. Duncan, would you yield for just 1 second? The question is not whether they are required to have the insurance. Ask how do you inspect and verify that they have it. That is the issue. The requirement is there. And that is what the Secretary keeps saying. The issue is you cannot verify that they have it. The papers are so haphazard. There is no way to verify it.
Mr. DUNCAN. Well, what do you say about that?
Secretary MINETA. On my own time, let me answer. We checked with the insurance company.
Mr. DUNCAN. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. FILNER. With which insurance company?
Secretary MINETA. The insurance company they tell us they are with. If they tell us we are with Great American Insurance Company, or with Travelers, we then check with Travelers Insurance Company.
Mr. FILNER. They verify that.
Secretary MINETA. If the insurance is there with them, they verify to us that, in fact, the motor carrier is insured with Travelers, or whomever it is.
Mr. PETRI. Mr. Pascrell.
Page 42 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. PASCRELL. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Mr. Secretary, Honorable Secretary, you have an impossible task. Most of these trucks that we are talking about, we not only don't know the condition of the trucks, we don't know what is in the trucks. In the name of tradein the name of trade, in the name of quote, unquote, ''better relationships,'' in the words of Woody Allen, ''this is a travesty of a disaster,'' in every sense of the word. And I have listened very carefully. And it is back to the videotape of the last 6 years of the response to Mr. LaTourette and Mr. Quinn and other members of this panel.
And with all due respectbecause I have the greatest respect for you, as you well knowyou have an impossible task. And when we look at what the mandate of the NAFTA Trucking Dispute Panel, which is a joke, they are threatening the United States of America because we are not complying. Well, let's go back to all of what NAFTA asked us to do and we will see who has responded appropriately and who has not. We have lost 900,000 jobs. You bet your life this is about trade. And, of course, we are talking about here specifically safety of not only those people who drive the trucks, but the people who are on the ground. You have a lot of explaining to do, both of you.
If you are going to defend the policy and the philosophy that what we want to do is get to a point where we will not have the borders and let the trucks come over the line willy-nilly, that is not acceptable to the American people, and I hope it is not acceptable to the Bush Administration. You have a lot of explaining to do about the commitments that were made 7 years ago on this trade policy now that we are going to be debating another trade policy tomorrow or perhaps the next day.
One percent of the several million Mexican motor carriers entering United States border are inspected. In fact, the life of the trucks coming over the border are between 10 and 14 years. Our trucks are between 3 and 5 years. We can't even sell our old fleet to them because of the agreements we made in the NAFTA agreement. This is a one-sided deal, not unlike any other trade deal we have made in the last 7 years. So we are consistent. This time, we are talking about trucks.
Page 43 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC When I speak to the folks in my district, the Eighth Congressional District of New Jersey, that have been displaced or thrown out of jobs because of what is happening in our trade agreements, somehow we talk about such things as trucks that are coming over from different parts, from different countries that have very, very different standards. We talk about different standards in the environment. We have talked in our trade agreements about who can work and who cannot work. We don't expect everybody to have our standards. We can't dictate those standards. But we should not surrender. And the Congress of the United States should not surrender its responsibilities so that the President, whatever party that President is from, can dictate to us what the trade policies will be. And that is what has happened in NAFTA. It got worse. It did not get better.
Do you hope some day that the borders will not be borders and that the trucks will be able to go anyplace in the United States beyond the 20 miles? Is that what you hope for, Mr. Ambassador? Is that what you wish? Is that what you wish upon us?
Mr. ALLGEIER. No. What we wish as a policy is that Americans, in the conduct of their commerce, whether they are truck drivers or manufacturers of trucks or whatever, that they will be treated in foreign countries, and specifically in Mexico and in Canada under the NAFTA, as fairly as we treat the other countries. We seek reciprocity and we seek no diminution in the standards that we apply. If someone wants to operate as a trucker or as any other career, they need to abide by our standards.
Mr. PASCRELL. To the Chair, if I may?
Mr. PETRI. We will be a little lenient, but it is unfair to the other members.
Mr. PASCRELL. Do you consider the NAFTA agreement to be a reciprocal trade agreement?
Mr. ALLGEIER. Yes.
Page 44 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. PASCRELL. I am glad I don't have any more questions.
Mr. PETRI. Mr. Bereuter.
Mr. BEREUTER. Mr. Secretary and Mr. Ambassador, good afternoon. Americans feel, of course, very strongly about truck transportation. They understand it is a vital part of our economic infrastructure and growing more important all the time. And I think rather than having a lot of explanation, what happened in the last 7 or 8 years, you are faced with the responsibility for trying to play catch-up on things that should have been put in place to make sure that we properly implemented NAFTA. I voted against the Sabo amendment, because I thought that was the wrong approach at that time. And I sympathize with the concerns that are expressed by members, but also your concerns of coming in here now and finding that many years have been wasted, in effect, on the lack of preparation for implementing the requirements of NAFTA related to Mexico and Canada.
Mr. Secretary, I want to use just a minute to tell you that I hope you will look at the pending hours of service issue that relate to a 1995 exemption for farmers and farm suppliers, because I feel that the proposed regulations are a violation of congressional intent. I was involved in that 1995 legislation. And I hope that you will look at it, Mr. Secretary, and see if, in fact, you may be headed, through your people, in the wrong direction in that respect and inconsistent. So I would appreciate if you would get back to me and look at that issue.
In the meantime, Mr. Secretary, I wish you well. And we need to play constructive roles, so that people who have concerns legitimately expressed, find some way for him to alleviate his concerns and for you to accomplish your responsibilities. And I think we all need to be helpful in that respect.
Secretary MINETA. Thank you very much, and I will respond to you on the ag exemption.
Page 45 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. PETRI. Mr. Holden.
Mr. HOLDEN. Mr. Secretary, it is nice to see you again. Those of us who know you know that when you give us your word, it is as good as gold and we can take it to the bank.
But I have to give you a head's up, Mr. Secretary, because I was part of the delegation that went down to the border in California and in Texas, and there are many great hurdles ahead of you to meet what you say in your testimony that you are going to do.
My colleagues have raised a number of very important ones dealing with safety inspection and valid driver's license and valid insurance.
I just wanted to raise two other ones that were not really elaborated on, and I am sure you know this from your people, but your problems in Texas are about as fundamental as they can get. They cannot agree where the inspection facilities should be located. The officials in Laredo do not want them on the bridge because it backs up the traffic and the cash register doesn't run as fast as they would like it to run. Well, the treasury is not as important as the safety of the American citizens. So we need to have those inspection facilities on the border, so there is no opportunity for diversion of trucks once they cross the border.
And secondly, I would like to briefly follow up on a very important issue that Mr. Coble raised and that is dealing with the auto emissions testing and the standards for Mexican trucks compared to American trucks.
As you mentioned and Mr. Filner mentioned and many other people, the operation on the California border is much better than it is in Texasmuch better, not even comparable. But I asked a question in California, ''What are you doing about auto emissions inspections?'' and quite honestly, the inspector laughed at me. It is not on the radar screen. It is not on their agenda. So we have an awful lot of work to do.
Mr. Secretary, I really don't expect an answer for the issues I raised right now. I just want you to know that we believe, we know you are sincere in what you say. I just don't know how you are going to get it done in the time period. And we want to work with you, but if it is not done, we are going to take every legislative opportunity that we can to see that unsafe trucks do not get into our country.
Page 46 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Secretary MINETA. You are absolutely right. As I said, if we are not going to be able to do it in time, then we will delay it. If we do not have enough resources, we will ask for it.
Mr. PETRI. Mr. Isakson.
Mr. ISAKSON. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Mr. Secretary, good to see you. Welcome. I have a sneaking suspicion, I think the vote on that amendment, although ostensibly the debate was about safety, was more about three surrogate issues, two of which have been raised and one has not, and I would like to raise them and then ask you to respond.
I think there is no question NAFTA was a part of that debate, and that has been addressed. I think drugs were a part of that debate. And I think what Mr. Coble raised is very important.
And the third issue which I haven't heard raised, but to me was a part of that debate was illegal immigration. When I voted on that amendment a few weeks ago, I voted against that amendment because I have the utmost confidence in you and the Department. I don't think the United States Government would ever intentionally have a double standard of safety, regardless who the carrier was in the Nation.
I got a lot of phone calls. Not a one of the phone calls was about safety. But the calls were about contraband coming in on those trucks or illegal aliens coming in on those trucks. And I would just like to suggest in answer to your question when you said a little bit ago, ''what is it I have to do,'' I don't think you have to do anything to improve upon the respect this committee has for your ability. We trust you and we believe you will do a good job on safety. I do think that if this issue progresses, there is not at least some discussion of cooperation with DEA and the immigration officials on the enforcement side, because you will have accessibility to vehicles that could carry either individuals or contraband into this country.
We have a tough time enforcing our borders now. I am a proponent of legal immigration. I have supported the H-1B, but that was a surrogate debate that day for those three issues in my opinion. I am not dismissing safety. Please don't misunderstand me. But the debate was really about NAFTA, drugs, and illegal immigration.
Page 47 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC And I think as you develop and articulate how you are going to carry out these inspections, I would personally think it would be in the best interest of the Department and I think the best interest of the country to say how you are going to cooperatively interface with DEA and Immigration, so that when your inspections uncover violations, the public is sure that enforcement is taking place and that that is also a part of your mission, either in cooperation with those agencies or of your own volition.
Secretary MINETA. Thank you very much, Congressman. As you have indicated, drugs as DEA, immigration as INS, and there is an interagency task force working on these issues. And so that message I will take to them of the highest order.
Mr. PETRI. Thank you, Ms. Berkley.
Ms. BERKLEY. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Welcome, Mr. Ambassador.
Mr. Secretary, it is nice to see you again.
As you are aware, in 1995, Congress designated a priority trade corridor connecting Mexico and Canada as the CANAMEX Corridor. This route runs through five states, Arizona, Nevada, Utah, Idaho and Montana. In Nevada, the trucks come up through Boulder City and Henderson and then they go into Las Vegas, where they travel on two of the busiest arteries in my district, U.S. 93 and I-15, which, Mr. Secretary, you know well as the Spaghetti Bowl, one of the most crowded and busiest arteries in all of the State of Nevada if not the western United States.
Everyday, my constituents are going to be travelling side by side with Mexican trucks on our local roadways. The mayors of Boulder City and Henderson and the City of Las Vegas are almost apoplectic as time goes on, and I think they are reflecting the concern being expressed by their constituents that they are very worried that the CANAMEX Corridor is going to turn into a corridor where disaster lurks and our families are going to be compromised because of the lack of safety of Mexican trucks.
Page 48 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I have a few questions that I have been asked to ask you by my mayors, and I suspect when you come to Las Vegas in August you will hear this from them as well. But they are very concerned, especially at the Spaghetti Bowl en route to Apex, that the Mexican trucks are going to be transporting hazardous materials such as petroleum, chemicals or hazardous waste. How do we protect our roadways and our people from hazardous materials going across the most populous areas of the State of Nevada?
Secretary MINETA. Again, all of the HAZMAT rules that exist will have to be complied with. And so to me, again, there is no difference in a U.S. truck or a Canadian truck or a Mexican truck, if it is carrying hazardous materials, has to observe all of the rules and regulations that the Department has promulgated.
Ms. BERKLEY. Let me ask you something in conjunction with what Mr. Filner spoke of. Having the regulations in place are one thing. Being able to inspect them and make sure they are being enforced are quite another. How will we go about doing that?
Secretary MINETA. Well, that is what we are hoping to do with the inspector work force that we will have. The total work force, including State and Federal, we hope to be about 495 people along the border. Now once they go beyond the border arealet's say 2 years from now, after we are into the operating procedure in which long-haul trucks are going off to various locationsyou know, State highway patrol, others will be doing the enforcement work as they do of any truck right now. I think the.
Ms. BERKLEY. What if the funds are not available by the timeby January 1, 2002?
Secretary MINETA. Which funds are not available?
Ms. BERKLEY. The funds in order to hire the additional people to do the inspections.
Secretary MINETA. If we don't have the funds to hire people, I just won't be able to open up on the 2nd of January.
Page 49 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Ms. BERKLEY. I see. And let me ask you another question. Many of the States, especially those with highways that are part of the priority corridor, like the State of Nevada, will experience, obviously, an increase in truck traffic when the borders are open. Are there any additional resources being planned to be allocated to the States for highway maintenance, for hiring extra highway patrol? I know the State of Nevada is experiencing a little downturn and the legislature cut funding across the board in all areas, including transportation, including education. Where will they get additional funds to hire additional highway patrol and other agencies, groups?
Secretary MINETA. It is hard for me to predict what is going to happen under the 2003 budget. We are going through the throes of the fiscal year 2002 appropriations process. And in the 2002 appropriations process, we have asked for increased funding for NAFTA implementation.
In other areas, there has been slight increases, not large increases. But in other areas of our transportation budget, we have received, I believe, about 4.3, 4.5 percent increase.
Ms. BERKLEY. Let me ask another question. I am personally a strong opponent of allowing triple-trailer trucks on our highways. Will trucks of this size be allowed to cross the borders?
Secretary MINETA. In the 1991 ISTEA legislation, we prohibited LCVs back to the June of 1991 date. And so, those are all frozen. And there are no LCVs that would be allowed to operate other than those that were operating in those States in June of 1991.
Ms. BERKLEY. And do you know if the Mexican government is going to be able to have enough funding to develop an accurate data base on safety records of trucking companies? I understand from what I have heard from my colleagues, there is a serious lack of data bases and computer knowledge, expertise? Is the Mexican government going to be able to share these burdens with us and be able to develop these data bases?
Page 50 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Secretary MINETA. They are developing the data base right now. And we will have on-line capability to access their data base. It is admittedly slow in coming. Their financial resources are limited, as ours are. It is just that we have had a longer experience period in which to build our data base. But I am confident that what they are building is a good data base.
Ms. BERKLEY. And did I hear from one of my colleagues that it took 10 years to build one of these things? Was that not what you heard?
Secretary MINETA. I missed that if there was some reference.
Mr. PETRI. We are over time. Mr. Kirk?
Mr. KIRK. Good to see you both and thank you for coming. You could imagine with no service restrictions and no logbooks and commercial drivers under the age of 21, we certainly have a lot of concerns.
But I am wondering if we could look outside the box for a moment, because as this hearing is plainly showing, we have problems with the data base. But there are other data bases. In Mexico, we have a very strong insurance industry that insures Mexican drivers and has to collect data on their performance and their background. Is there a way that we can enhance the data base by reaching out to the Mexican insurance industry to look up the records of these drivers and their rates? They certainly must calculate who is good and who is bad in the decision whether to insure each driver.
Secretary MINETA. That is an idea I think we ought to explore. In response to Mr. Filner's question, we do accesswe do request information of U.S. carriersthe U.S. insurance carriers. Maybe that is what we ought to be doing of Mexican insurance carriers. We will explore that.
Mr. KIRK. I remember the controversy when Portuguese and Greek trucks were admitted into Britain. Is there any evidence that we can draw from the European experience?
Page 51 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. ALLGEIER. I think we can certainly look at how other countries in free trade areas have handled these sorts of issues, and that might be a source of some of the creativity you were suggesting.
Mr. KIRK. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. PETRI. Mr. Matheson?
Mr. MATHESON. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Mr. Secretary, I certainly appreciate you taking the time to be here today and offer your thoughts on what I think is a very important set of issues.
I come from Utah. It is a State that you know well. You were there most recently to help open our rebuilt Interstate 15. And as Ms. Berkley said, I-15 is one of the CANAMEX Corridor routes. It runs the length of Utah. It goes across desert wilderness. It goes across high mountain terrain. Weather can change within an hour. You can go from sweltering heat to snow squalls to torrential rains within a short amount of time.
The Utah portions of Interstate 15 and Interstate 70 are my State's two most used thoroughfares and two of the most hazardous stretches of interstate in the continental United States. I, like many of my constitutes, am concerned with the lack of driver certification for Mexican truck drivers and with the Department of Transportation's potential willingness to agree to questionable certifications.
In my State, safe and certified drivers from out of State can become jittery when they encounter the change in terrain and weather they see in Utah. And I can only imagine what that would be for drivers who have never experienced that before in terms of those conditions.
Now many accidents that occur in our roads are, in fact, related to driver error. And in the past few months, I had the opportunity to become acquainted with technology that can very effectively simulate conditions of American roads and adequately test skill levels of drivers in terms of looking and responding to various situations.
Page 52 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC So the question I want to ask you today was if you would think that the Department of Transportationhow they are inclined toward the notion of testing and certification of Mexican drivers using driver simulation technologies as a way where the Department of Transportation could understand that there is a measurable way to see if drivers are adequately trained and have the skill levels to be on our highways.
Secretary MINETA. The only thing I would be able to respond on that is that I would have to take a look at the cost of doing that. And again, in terms of is this something that would be applicable to U.S. drivers, Mexican drivers, Canadian drivers.
Mr. MATHESON. This technology is used by many U.S. companies, whether it is for trucking companies, whether it is for airport incursions.
Secretary MINETA. I understand the technology. When I was at Lockheed Martin, we did the driver simulation program for the Army under a DARPA contract. At DOT we do it with the University of Iowa. So I know the technology.
Now whether we could do this in terms ofwe could do it. The question is how much and in terms of applicability to all drivers.
Mr. MATHESON. I just wanted to raise the issue because I think it is a consideration. We talk a lot about the safety of the trucks. We also ought to be talking about the safety of the drivers as well.
With that, Mr. Chairman, I yield back my time.
Mr. PETRI. Thank you. Mr. Otter.
Mr. OTTER. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and thank you, Mr. Ambassador and Mr. Secretary, for your time in being here. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for moving this along on a timely basis. Being at the bottom of the political food chain here and also the time clock, I was beginning to get a little worried. And perhaps the first thing we have got to do is discipline ourselves to the 5 minutes.
Page 53 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. PETRI. As you know, it is a very big subcommittee; 56 members is a little unwieldy.
Mr. OTTER. That was on your time, I hope, Mr. Chairman, and I guess more in the form of statements more than anything else, but I do have a few questions that I want to talk to you about.
But I feel that because I did engage in the debate a couple of weeks on 2299, which was the Transportation Appropriations Act, that along with Mr. Isakson I would like to characterize what the debate was on. Yes, it was on NAFTA. Yes, it was on drugs. Yes, it was on immigration. But it was also a very discriminatoryno matter what else has been said, as far as I am concerneda debate in race profiling in trade. First time I had ever seen that. First time I ever heard that, because we concentrated our comments on one race, on one group of people without even directing our attention in any other direction.
And so, I would like to include that in my remarks as well, because we looked no place else. In fact, if the ranking member of the Transportation Committee is indeed correct that Canada has a better safety record than we doI think he said 17 percent, 25 percent for the United States36 percent, you know that is only 1 percent off and maybe Canada ought to think about not letting our trucks, who are more dangerous than their trucks, into Canada.
But having said that, I am not suggesting that that become part of our trade policy or part of our safety policy, but I do think that it shows that we are on a slippery slope here and that what we speak are probably not as from sincere a tone as we might otherwise profess.
In the 1930s, 682 miles of Highway 95 in Idaho going from Canada to the Canadian-Nevada border was designated as part of the Pan-American Highway, 26,000 miles, Anchorage, Alaska to Tierra del Fuega, Argentina.
Page 54 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC It is interesting that finally when we get some leadership that is going to make that a reality, which it has never been, that suddenly we want to throw in all kinds of extraneous problems and extraneous issues in order to stop that from going forward. I agree with some of the members who have talked about the disaster of NAFTA in the last 7 years. Conceived as it was, NAFTA was never meant to be as it has been enforced for the last 7 years.
As Lieutenant Governor of Idaho, my primary responsibility was trade. I visited 82 countries not only in my capacity as Lieutenant Governor and the head tradesman for the State of Idaho, but also as a member of an international development company which I was a president of agricultural company. We sold french fries to all the McDonald's in the world. And that was a convenient and an easy thing to do, but it also taught me an awful lot about trade.
And you can't be a carpetbagger. And I find us today engaged in carpetbagging in international trade. We want it one way our way, and we want it the other way their way. We want to protect certain jobs and those in transportation. We don't discuss the fact that with 4,500,000 crossings, each going 20 miles each way, that is 190 million miles in the United States that these trucks have driven. And if the record is correct and if the Secretary is right, we had one accident in that time.
I guess one of the questions that I do have if we are not engaged in profiling only the commercial trucker, how many inspections were engaged in on the 78,000,000 cars that crossed last year on the Mexican borders? Could you answer that question for me, Mr. Secretary? We had 78,000,000 cars that crossed from the south into the north last year at the Mexican-American border. How many of those cars were inspected?
Secretary MINETA. We inspected none of the cars. As far asin terms of their safety requirements or.
Mr. OTTER. How about the smog devices that have been talked about, the environmental damage that may be done; all the other reasons we want to inspect 63,000 trucks. No inspections, no safety inspections, no environmental inspections.
Page 55 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Secretary MINETA. Our agency, only as it relates to commercial trucks and buses.
Mr. OTTER. Hauling 210 million people back and forth across the border. So that is my problem that I am really having with this.
Mr. Secretary, can you tell me how many, what percentage of the Canadian trucks are inspected?
Secretary MINETA. Mr. Congressman, we have no U.S. inspection of Canadian trucks on the U.S. border. They are done on the Canadian side, and some of the requirements I know are done by self-certification, but in terms of our U.S. inspectorswe have no Federal inspectors along the Canadian border.
Mr. OTTER. Of the of the thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. PETRI. Thank you, Mr. Otter.
Mr. HONDA. Thank you, Mr. Chair, and welcome back, Mr. Secretary, and Mr. Ambassador. Just to take you back to the last question, the question was how many inspections were made by DOT of passenger cars, 87 million cars. I think the answer is correct that none of them were, because I don't believe that is your jurisdiction. It is INS that inspects and checks passenger cars at the border. Is that correct, or is DOT also responsible for passenger cars?
Secretary MINETA. We are not.
Mr. HONDA. So the question is irrelevant in terms of DOT. There is a distinction between passenger cars and the trucks that are crossing the DOT inspection areas.
I agree with some of my colleagues that the task you have before you is going to be great, and it sounds like from what I am hearing that there is going to have to be more cooperation as far as giving the appropriations so that you can do the job that you said you were committed to by 2002. That is one thing.
Page 56 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC So I guess the appropriation cycle is going to begin for us here.
So we have a chance to do well on the problems that we have identified, to come up with the monies to hire the 495 inspectors, and to come up with the cash to take care of the infrastructure at the inspection sites. I understand that of the 27 crossings, there are only two that have permanent inspection sites, and those are in California. We are lacking the infrastructure for inspections at the other 25 sites in Texas and Arizona.
It sounds like we are going to have to come up with the cash on our side in order for us to make sure that we have the kind of safety requirements that we want and the inspection sites that we want at the border.
Secretary MINETA. Mr. Honda, it is not that the other sites, that there is no inspection being done. It is just that the kinds of facilities that we have are probably not really conducive to the kind of thorough inspection that Mr. Filner or Mr. Oberstar would like to see. If you were to go to Otay Mesa or Calexico, the person could get in the pit, look under the truck from a regular inspection station that you might find on a typical California highway.
The problem is that in other areas, they don't have the facilities. SoI mean, they are on crawlers. They are doing other things to inspect the trucks. But trucks are still being inspected at the border crossings. What we are trying to do is to build facilities that will be efficient so that we can get the trucks inspected and through there, get rid of those 7- and 8-mile long lines where the trucks are waiting for hours to get through. And at the same time, make sure that we do a good job of inspecting the trucks that are crossing the border.
There was something that was a little disturbing that I heard a little while ago, Mr. Chairman, when someone mentioned 1 percent of the trucks I think were being inspected, and I don't know where this 1 percent comes from, because, you know, I am not too good at math, but I know we are doing a heck of a lot more than one percent, and I guess my question is one percent of what? But in any event, that is just sort of a question I have.
Page 57 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. FILNER. Will you yield to me to engage in a colloquy here? I don't want to take it if you haven't finished your questions.
Mr. HONDA. Go ahead.
Mr. FILNER. You have been to Otay Mesa, Mr. Secretary?
Secretary MINETA. Pardon me?
Mr. FILNER. You have been to Otay Mesa?
Secretary MINETA. I have been to Laredo, Otay Mesa, Calexico and Nogales.
Mr. FILNER. And you are familiar with the way they inspect. How long does that inspection take roughly, a level one inspection?
Secretary MINETA. Oh, I would say a level one is probably, what, about 3 hours? I am sorry. Half an hour to 45 minutes.
Mr. FILNER. Closer to an hour.
Mr. PETRI. We have worked out a wayshe will have some extra time, and she will yield it to you, because I think weif that is all right, we will return to that line of questioning.
Ms. JOHNSON. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman, and Mr. Secretary, Mr. Ambassador, it is very nice to have you. Mr. Secretary, you look so natural in this room on this end, it is hard to question you as a witness. You know, this is a difficult situation for Texas, because Mexico is one of the best trading partners that we have, and they add so much to our economy, and yet constituents continue to complain about what they consider drug trafficking and safety. And unless we do have the on-site inspections, accident and carrier information and other elements of a safety regime willwe will not have sufficient information to identify the problem so that we can be a part of helping to solve them.
Page 58 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC What position is the Department in at this time to facilitate some type of on-site information? Do you have any degree going on now?
Secretary MINETA. Well, in terms of inspections, yes, we do border crossing inspections right now. Again, these are commercial drayage operations that stay within the 20 miles of the border, and inspections are conducted on vehicles. Now, are they done on every vehicle that crosses? No, they are not done on every vehicle. But as I mentioned earlier, the grouping of vehicles is somewhere in the area of about 67,000 trucks that do the 4-1/2 million movements across the border. And of the 67,000 trucks, I believe we inspect about 45, 46,000 trucks.
Ms. JOHNSON. Do we keep any kind of record on the accident of carriers? We are talking about safety.
Secretary MINETA. Within the commercial zone, yes, and I have been told that that accident rate is .07 percent.
Ms. JOHNSON. So it is really not that significant at this time, then.
You know, I know what it is like to be given responsibility and not be given the finance that goes with that responsibility, and I know that is the position that you are in, and that is really our responsibility to do that. I do think, however, that we need to put something in place that could be a part of helping them with compliance in terms of determining what is considered an unsafe truck, weight, what have you, and I know a lot of that is being done. It is somewhat troubling, because I think for a country that is still a part of the developing world, it is difficult to satisfy the demands that we have in buying our goods and they are trying to get them to us, and demanding the safety. And I know that that is important.
We don't hear about the trucks that get here and don't have a problem. Periodically, though, we read about where there was a big drug bust, and that is what gets the attention of the people most especially, since I am from a very large urban area that have problems with drugs and especially with young people. People really think that this is a major route of entrance for these drugs in the area where I am, and most of the hostility is in that area, because I-35 goes from Canada to Mexico, with most of it being through Texas.
Page 59 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Trucks are so heavy on that highway, that it is slow going from Dallas to Austin, to 3 to 4 hours, where it used to be a lot closer after I-35 was in there. But it is all traffic. I think about economy. But you can't ignore the fact that there is much concern about what citizens call illegal trucks, and they are not necessarily illegal, I don't think, but that is the eye of the beholder, and it seems to me that that is an area we are going to have to work together to try to correct and educate.
My time is up, and I really don't have any more questions, but I would like to be a part of any solution, if I am needed, to see if we could have some way of which we cannot interfere with the trade, not interfere with the goods that we demand from Mexico, and those that we sell to Mexico, but at the same time, see if we can improve the standards, probably on both sides of the border.
Secretary MINETA. And I pledge to work with you.
Ms. JOHNSON. Thank you.
Mr. PETRI. Mr. Borski.
Mr. BORSKI. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Mr. Secretary, I would like to get back to Otay Mesa and Laredo, because that is where we happened to visit not too long ago, and my understanding is in Otay Mesa, that every truck is inspected and given a sticker, a CB.
Secretary MINETA. CBS 87.
Mr. BORSKI. that is good for 90 days, and the out-of-service rate at Otay Mesa is similar to our experience in the recollection of the country, so that the trucks that are inspected on a normal basis have the same experience as we do. There is a permanent inspection facility there. They do a good job and I feel very comfortable with it.
Heard, on the other hand, the day we visited, happened to be a Sunday, and out of seven or eight trucks inspected, five were taken out of service. There are 4,000 trucks, more or less, that cross in Laredo today. There is no permanent inspection facility. There is a space, as I understand it, for two trucks to be looked at, and you have to virtually be a contortionistperhaps you could reset the time, Mr. Chair.
Page 60 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC You virtually need to be a contortionist to get under a truck to try and look at it. So I think part of the dispute is over how many trucks are inspected, looking at Laredo, you can see that very few can ever be looked at in a single day. And my theory is if we open the borders and have the same noninspection, if you will, facility at Laredo, 4,000 trucks can go anywhere they want in the United States.
So the experience I see in Otay Mesa is one that seems to work, and Californians put up their own money, built these inspection stations and again, I feel pretty comfortable. I just don't have that same level of comfort elsewhere along the border. And I guess my question to you is do you or does the administration oppose establishing permanent level one inspection facilities and having inspectors on duty during all commercial hours before granting these operating authority to Mexican-domiciled trucks?
Secretary MINETA. That is our objective. That is what I am trying to get at, in terms of permanent facilities, in terms for inspection purposes. Right now I would think it takes longer in terms of the drug surveillance work that is being done rather than the safety inspection, but our objective is to try to get to use the Otay Mesa example as a way to operate. And so what we are talking about is the use of the CVSA approach. Every 90 days having a decal on the side of the truck with the Federal U.S. DOT ID number and get to that point.
Mr. BORSKI. But my question is why not do that before we grant this authority? Our experience in Texas, we were informed it would take perhaps 18 months from the day you start to build this facility. We have until January 1st toand our border is going to be open.
Secretary MINETA. Again, if the facility isin order to be able to have the kind of efficient operation we would like to have, it would require a facility at all of these 27 stations, or 25, other than the two that exist. And so, again, if we had the money to do thatand that is what the 56 million, roughly, is to do, is to build the facilities at the border crossings so that we can do that. And then the other money is for the inspectors. And that is what we are trying to replicate.
Page 61 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. BORSKI. Before granting authority or after? My question is.
Secretary MINETA. When you say granting authority, if it is the operating authority, in terms of the conditional authority, would we have all 25 stations in place? Probably not. But in terms of any vehicles with the number of inspectors that we are hoping to get, what I am saying is that every vehicle that crosses the border when a station is open will be inspected.
Mr. BORSKI. And I appreciate that, but again, why don't we hold those border crossings until those permanent inspection facilities are in place? Then we.
Secretary MINETA. Because instead of having, you know, a pit where you can go ahead and inspect the trucks, people are going to be on their crawlers, and until we get those facilities open to be able to be more efficient about it, we will have to do it the old-fashioned way. But what we are trying to do is to make it a more efficient operation, be able to have it like Otay Mesa and not have people in their coveralls on their back, on an oily pavement with a flashlight looking up into the bottom of a truck. But until we get to the point of building those facilities, we will continue to work as we are now, inspecting trucks when the border crossing is open, inefficient as it may be, we will continue doing it that way.
Mr. BORSKI. Again, I think that is extremely inefficient, and that is my major concern. I think if you could say that we build these facilities, then we are going to let these trucks come through, you have got a long way to winning me over. But the way the process is set up now, I just don't see it happening.
I have one further question.
Secretary MINETA. Well, the thing is that, remember, operating authority is one thing. To me, an inspection is something else. And to me, the more critical is the inspection of the vehicle at the time it crosses.
Page 62 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. BORSKI. I agree. Until we have those inspection facilities, I don't think we ought to open the border.
I have one last question, and maybe I can get.
Secretary MINETA. The border is open right now, Mr. Borski.
Mr. BORSKI. I know.
Secretary MINETA. And we are not inspecting every truck coming across.
Mr. BORSKI. I know.
Secretary MINETA. My objective is to inspect every truck coming across.
Mr. BORSKI. I know, but the problem now is they are limited to an area along the border, and pretty soon they are not going to be limited at all. They can go anywhere they want. And until they can have a permanent facility there, I don't think we ought to let them through.
The other quick question is on money, I also have a concern about the use of the trust fund dollars for border crossings. If NAFTA is as successful as we hear it to be, why didn't the administration ask for an urgent supplemental on funding for border crossing facilities? Why should it come out of all the people in the United States who pay their gas tax and hopefully their return is going to be on fixing their roads and their transit systems, not the border crossings? If we have this benefit from NAFTA, it seems to me the administration ought to ask for emergency funding or general funds. But I have a realabout using the trust funds. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. PETRI. Thank you. Let me just explain the situation. I want to conclude this panel with about another 3 minutes of questioning, and then we are going to suspend for an hour, as there are a whole series of votes on the floor, come back atif the panel members don't have other commitments who are in the last two panels, come back at 5:15 in 2253 and conclude the hearing there. That will give people a chance to arrange the logistics upstairs. There is another event going on in this particular hearing room, and we have other problems continuing here.
Page 63 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC So we will be about to break up, recess. I want to thank both of you for being so patient and answering so many questions, and I just have one area I wondered if you could comment on, Mr. Secretary, briefly, and that is that we know that safety inspections offor safety are a federal-State partnership, and most of it is actually done by the States, your State, your home State of California has done a fabulous job with their own resources at the border.
So there are two stations there, the Federal station for doing border inspection, for contraband and for immigration and all of that, and the safety inspection done by the State of California, where every truck is inspected four times a year, and if there is athey don't have a sticker, they do it right there, send them back. Texas does not have that. But the fees from the inspectionsand there are feesgoes to the State.
So why should the Federal Government be paying for all the costs or what arrangements will be made with Texas and the other border States if the Federal Government is going to pay for the facilities, are they going to reimburse us for the safety inspection facilities? We already have the Customs facility at the border. Why can't we figure out some way to encourage the States to go ahead and do that part as California has done, and they will be able to pay for it out of the safety inspection fees that they collect? Have you figured that whole thing out?
Secretary MINETA. I am not sure how the fee system works, but I would assume that if they are State fees, I am not sure that there are Federal fees for Customs. And so these may be State fees.
Mr. PETRI. But we are building the facilities and helping them with personnel, and Texas collects fees. This is not a deal that is normal with the other 49 States, and we need to address that.
Secretary MINETA. I will take a look at that, Mr. Petri.
Mr. PETRI. Thank you very much, and with that.
Page 64 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. OBERSTAR. Mr. Chairman.
Mr. PETRI. Yes.
Mr. OBERSTAR. I did not understand that this panel would not be held over, because I know that Mr. Lipinski has further questions. Mr. Filner has further questions. I have a series of things that I want to pursue with the Secretary. I just wonder if it isn't possible to.
Mr. PETRI. We were doing one round of questioning, and I think inthey will come back another day if necessary, but.
Mr. OBERSTAR. Well then, I think at the very earliest opportunity, next week, we should have this panel back, because I have a number of questions that I need to pursue.
Mr. PETRI. Well, and as you know.
Mr. OBERSTAR. before we come to any kind of closure on this.
Mr. PETRI. each member would be free to submit questions in writing for written responses.
Mr. OBERSTAR. Well, I don't want a written response. You want to be able to engage in a verbal exchange on this matter.
Mr. PETRI. Well, we will make an effort to accommodate you.
With that, the hearing is recessed for an hour.
Mr. PETRI. The subcommittee will reconvene. Mr. Mead is not yet here but was here earlier, and theI understand the Secretary of the State of the State of Texas is here, and to introduce him is our colleague, Ciro Rodriguez, and we look forward to your being back.
Page 65 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. RODRIGUEZ. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Let me just take this opportunity to introduce a fellow colleague that we went into the Texas House as legislators together and we were classmates, he served 14 yearsabout 14 years in the Texas House. He is not only an attorney, but he also has a Ph.D. He is a businessman, and he is one of the things that is important, that he is a hard-working individual, and he is very trustworthy.
It is my honor to present to you, the committee, and I want to thank you, Mr. Chairman, for allowing me to do this, the Honorable Secretary of State from the State of Texas, Henry Cuellar.
Mr. PETRI. Thank you.
TESTIMONY OF HON. HENRY CUELLAR, SECRETARY OF STATE, STATE OF TEXAS; HON. KENNETH M. MEAD, INSPECTOR GENERAL, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION; MICHAEL E. MATHIS, DIRECTOR, GOVERNMENT AFFAIRS, INTERNATIONAL BROTHERHOOD OF TEAMSTERS; DUANE W. ACKLIE, CHAIRMAN, AMERICAN TRUCKING ASSOCIATIONS; CAPT. STEVE VAUGHN, PRESIDENT, COMMERCIAL VEHICLE SAFETY ALLIANCE, AND COMMANDER, CALIFORNIA HIGHWAY PATROL; AND JACQUELINE S. GILLAN, VICE PRESIDENT, ADVOCATES FOR HIGHWAY AND AUTO SAFETY
Mr. PETRI. We are combining the second and third panels, and the other witnesses who willwe will be hearing from and then questioning are the Honorable Ken Mead, who is the Inspector General of the Department of Transportation, Mr. James Hoffa, the president of International Brotherhood of Teamsters; Duane Acklie, chairman, American Trucking Association. Captain Steve Vaughn, president of the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance; and Jacqueline Gillan, who is the vice president, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety.
And we will begin with Mr. Cuellar.
Page 66 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. CUELLAR. Thank you, Chairman Petri, Ranking Member Borski, members. My name is Henry Cuellar and I am the Texas Secretary of State appointed by Governor Rick Perry in Texas. I serve as the liaison for the Mexican border affairs for the State of Texas. Like my good friend Ciro Rodriguez said, I was a House member that represented the city of Laredo for the past 14 years. As you know, Laredo is the Nation's largest inland port. I was born, raised in Laredo. My family, friends still live there, and of course, the issues y'all are discussing today are part of my effort life, because they directly affect the people that I care about. As a resident of a border community, I have the opportunity to see how border policies affect real people in their day-to-day lives. Texas supports the position that we could open our border to trucks from Mexico, and this can be done safely. This should be done on a case-by-case basis, and, again, the Mexican trucks must meet both U.S. and State laws in order to come into the United States.
We were pleased that President Bush recognized the importance of this issue by proposing $88 million in funding for border safety inspectors and construction of new inspection stations. Now, what are we asking for? Very simple. Mexican trucks that are found unsafe should be barred from American roads, just the same as the American and Canadian trucks that are found to be unsafe. A truck from a NAFTA nation that does comply with U.S. standards should be allowed on U.S. roads. Mexican trucks should haveand this is the key wordhave the opportunity to meet the standards as their U.S. and Canadian counterparts.
This is the same conclusion that was reached by NAFTA arbitration panel, and as you know, we have the experts in this particular committee. The panel did look at the issue of safety, whether they made that particular decision. But we must have enforcement and inspection infrastructure to ensure our safenot only safe and compliant trucks across the border. What is important is one personnel to infrastructure and technology, all of those three items must come together, not one at a time. We do have majorand I know, Mr. Borski, you quoted a Major Cory Clayton. He is here with us, and, again, talking about the work that we have done there, I think we can do it working together, but we need your help to do this. Texas faces historical, significant and very unique transportation challenges.
Page 67 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC If I can just give you just a quick overview. 80 percent of the U.S. trade occurs by truck. 70 percent of that crosses the border in Texas. Over half of the $87 billion dollars of U.S. trade and Mexico trade usesthey use the Texas roadways. When you look at this, there are differences between States, and I emphasize, there are differences between States. The Texas-Mexican border spans roughly 1,200 miles. Out of the 27 ports of entry along the U.S. Mexican border, 15 of them are in Texas. When you look at the amount of traffic at just the southern eight ports of Texas, they handle more than the other 19 ports.
In fact, when you look at just Laredo where I am from, Laredo alone has more crossings than all of the other three States combined. What does this do to our roads? The major U.S.-Mexico trade courier runs from Laredo to San Antonio. Each year it is travelled by more than 1 million trucks. In fact, if you park those trucks end to end, they form a Line 9,500 miles long, one fifth of the circumference of the Earth. Just imagine from a line of trucks stretching from Washington, D.C. to Australia will do to roads.
The Texas roads serve above and beyond the call of duty when they do carry the majority of the U.S.-Mexico trade. What is important here is that this trade benefits the whole country, not just Texas. The goods passing through our States are bound for places like New York, Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan and other States. So NAFTA traffic really is a national issue anda Federal issue, should I say, and not just a border-State issue. We feel it is only reasonable what we ask our partners, our Federal partners for additional Federal funding to support this endeavor, because this endeavor will benefit the whole Nation as a whole.
What are we doing in the State of Texas? I believe we are doing our fair share. The last 10 years, the Texas Department of transportation has put in $2.9 billion for the border infrastructure. The next 4 years, our intent is to put $1.5 billion dollars for borderfor the border area that we have. DPS has invested millions of dollars for the border also to address some of these issues.
Page 68 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC In 1999, Texasand I was a member of the legislature at that timepassed a bill requiring that the Texas Department of Transportation select certain sites for commercial inspection stations at three of those major border cities. In order to maximize this efficiency, what we ask forwe ask that we should have a one-stop center put in the Federal, State and local facilities in one place. However, as you know, the Federal agencies inform the State of Texas that they could not relocate from their existing facilities, and as a result, that particular bill has not been implemented.
And as you know, also, right now our State inspectors go into the U.S. facilities, and they have been verythey cooperated with us, but when Customs gets busy, they do ask us to step out, because they have got their primary functions there.
We have been looking at other things in this issue, and what we want is safe and efficient transportation in the U.S., and this requires those inspection facilities be at or near existing border crossings, but at the same time, we must get the input of the local government, and of course, the private sector.
DPS has been very innovative in some of the things they have been working on, and let me give you one example, and I am a big supporter of this. DPS has gone into Mexico and has trained hundreds of commercial safety inspectors and drivers from Mexico about the standards that they should expect to meet when they cross into the United States, and I think the more work we do on the Mexican side as part of the solution, I think this will be good for all of when we address this issue.
In 1999, another thing that we have done in Texas, the Texas Department of Transportation commissioned a study called the Texas Model Border Crossing Project, and it found that a reduced-stop automated border process is feasible for most trucks. They address the need for a process where they can act as a catalyst to trade, while at the same time allowing regulatory agencies to continue activities at or above the current level of efficiencies.
Page 69 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. PETRI. Thank you.
Mr. CUELLAR. What do we needand if I can just summarize a couple things. Texas, we have said thatwe have estimated that we need about a hundred million dollars to construct our eight facilities, major facilities in the busiest border crossings. Of course we need additional resources that are needed for law enforcement, staff and equipment to conduct the needed inspections and enforcements. We support U.S. Customs in their request to finish the automation improvements to their systems. We support the commercial vehicle safety alliance, the decals, because, again, we need to look at all the process, that we need to look at, and of course the more inspections we have, the more voluntary compliance we have because of those inspections.
I think it is time that we open the roads to Mexican drivers that abideand I emphasize that, abide the letter of the law, both U.S. and State law, because they have to comply with not only the U.S. law, but also the State law, whether it is safety or weight limits that we need to look at. It is the right thing to do, and it keeps the promise that we made about 8 years ago.
Mr. PETRI. Thank you.
Mr. CUELLAR. What we are looking at, Mr. Chairman, is basically a situation thatyou know, I am from Laredo. It is my hometown, and the people from Laredo and millions of other people that live in the border have been living with an open border for many years, and we have been doing this, in my opinion, safely. Texans support NAFTA and the full implementation of NAFTA.
Mr. Chairman, and members of the committee, you know, we appreciate your leadership and your support on this national issue. It is an issue that needs to be addressed in a bipartisan manner, and I hope all of us, the Federal partners, the State and local partners, can sit down together to find a solution.
Page 70 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. PETRI. Thank you. Mr. Mead, sorry, but you are making a little overtime here. We look forward to your summarizing your statement in 5 minutes and the other witnesses as well.
Mr. MEAD. Will do. Our testimony is based on three reports that we have issued, and I think you have those. I want to focus on the current conditions of safety at the border and actions that need to be taken to implement a solid safety strategy. You should know that my staff has been to all 27 crossings, and we are speaking from that vantage point. Before I go into the safety, I want to just recall the action Congress took a year and a half ago when it passed the Motor Carrier Safety Improvement Act of 1999. We shouldn't let our current focus on Mexican trucks obscure the condition of our own industry that we need to continue to emphasize: over 5,000 people die in large truck crashes a year, as Mr. Oberstar was pointing out earlier.
We found a direct correlation between the condition of Mexican trucks entering the U.S., the number of inspectors present and the number of inspections performed. There is a chart on Page 5 of our testimony that illustrates this point. The out-of-service rate for Mexican trucks decreased from 44 percent in 1997 to 37 percent in 2000. That correlates with an increase of inspections from 17,000 in 1997, all the way up to 56,000 in 2001, a very direct correlation. The out-of-service rate for U.S. trucks nationally is about 24 percent. A number of comments were made about the Otay Mesa, California inspection facility. Our visit there confirmed that it is a Cadillac facility and the out-of-service rate is 24 percent illustrating what an inspection presence can do. One of the larger commercial crossings in Texas still has an out-of-service rate of 50 percent. We have spoken extensively with the Secretary about key elements of the safety strategy. I think there is substantial agreement on what needs to be done. The key is going to be in the implementation, in the details, and how quickly it can be done.
The first element of the safety strategy is staffing--placing inspectors at all commercial border crossings during all operating hours. That is why you need 140 inspectors minimally, to have coverage during all operating hours. My staff was at Laredo on a weekend, and trucks were coming right through, because normally, it is not staffed on the weekend. However, I think when you went there on the weekend, that it was staffed. Some truckers know what happens there on the weekend.
Page 71 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC It is important that that budget request be funded in our judgment to add at least 80 inspectors. The second element is safety reviews and inspections. We think that it is important to perform a safety review before granting Mexican carriers conditional authority to enter the interior United States, and to physically inspect long-haul vehicles and their drivers before they are allowed to enter the United States. I want to point out here that under the law that was passed in 1999, there was a new entrant program established, and that applies by law to domestic and international carriers. The United States has not yet implemented that for its own carriers, so we need to move out in tandem on this. You know, what is good for the goose is, I think, good for the gander, so to speak.
Third and fourth, taking strong and prompt enforcement actions against carriers that don't comply with the safety regulations and authorizing States to place vehicles out of service when they operate illegally in the U.S. You will probably recall that in 1999, we reported to this committee that 52 Mexican-domiciled carriers were operating illegally in 20 States outside the border Statesand this was before the border was open. This problem persists. And fiscal year 2000 inspections throughout the U.S. show that 56 Mexican carriers operated illegally in 25 States outside the border States. The 1999 law that you passed provided stiff penalties for this, and it also provided for disqualification, even to enter the commercial zones. That law has not been implemented, and it ironically expires when the border is open. So that is something that I believe you will want to carry over.
The final element is facilities, and then I will close. I wanted to give you a few statistics on the facility situation. You can have all the people inspecting trucks that you want, but if you don't have a place to put these trucks out of service, you are going to have some problems. Currently, the only and permanent inspection facilities at the U.S.-Mexico border are the ones in California. Construction is underway for two more permanent State facilities, one in New Mexico and one in Arizona. At the 25 crossings that don't have permanent facilities now, the inspectors they use space provided by U.S. Customs. You have been there and you are probably aware of this. At eight of the crossings, DOT has small portable buildings, and they are very small. At 19 crossings, they only have space to inspect one or two trucks at a time, and at 14 they have one or two spaces to park trucks placed out of service, and you are going to need more space than that.
Page 72 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC We think there are some opportunities here, where different agencies of the Federal Government working together can deal with this nearthis problem in a near-term way. We can't solve the permanent problem right away. We talked to GSA. We found that land is available on and adjacent to 16 of these crossings, but it is not land owned by DOT, it is land owned by another agency. They have plans for this land, but the plans are currently unfunded. Since part of the problem here is just having the space to put a portable building or a parking lot, we thought that if the right heads of agencies got together because this is such a big priority--we could make productive use of this land and accomplish two objectives at once. That concludes my oral statement, sir.
Mr. PETRI. Thank you. The chairman, very patient chairman of the American Trucking Association, Duane Acklie.
Mr. ACKLIE. Good afternoon, Mr. Chairman and members. My name is Duane Acklie, and I am the chairman of the American Trucking Association, commonly referred to as ATA, the National Trade Association of the trucking industry. I am also chairman of the Crete Carrier Corporation based in Lincoln, Nebraska, serving customers in Canada, Mexico and the United States. ATA supports the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA, because it represents increasing traffic flows which translates into more business for trucking companies and the creation of more jobs and opportunities for industry. ATA has long viewed free trade as an important tool in improving our country's economy.
According to numbers from the U.S. Department of Commerce, since NAFTA was implemented, trade between the United States and Mexico has more than tripled from 81 million in 1993, to 246 billionand I said 81 million, and I should have said 81 billionI am so sorry, and I stand corrected in 1993to 246 billion in 2000. When measured by value, trucks move over 80 percent of the U.S.-Mexico trade and move 70 percent of the U.S.-Canada trade. Because of these NAFTA-related increasing traffic flows, motor carriers from all three nations express their desire for development in an efficient and safe trucking system that could better meet the transportation needs of expanding trade relationship established between Canada, Mexico and the United States.
Page 73 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC In 1994, when NAFTA was implemented, there were about 2-1/2 million truck crossings at the U.S. border. In year 2000, nearly 5 million truck crossings took place at our southern border. ATA's position is simple. Their members have worked hard to improve safety on our highways, which can be seen in the reduced rate of truck industry accidents per million miles travelled in each of the last 3 years. As truckers, we cannot afford to have a record blemished by unsafe truckers from either the U.S., Canada or Mexico. ATA generally supports the process by which applications from Mexican motor carriers to get U.S. operating authority will be reviewed under the proposed Federal motor carrier safety administration rules on a case-by-case basis. This application process will ensure that the Mexican motor carriers understand and have the capability to comply with U.S. safety standards.
The information requested from the Mexican carriers go beyond what is required from U.S. and Canadian carriers seeking authority. Today cross-border freight is primarily handed off on the U.S. side of the border at one of the 27 truck border crossings, but predominantly in the commercial zones in Texas and California. The partnership freight is handled on the U.S. side by a U.S. carrier and on the Mexican side by a Mexican carrier, with a middleman or a carriage hauler in between, ferrying loads back and forth across the border to warehouses or freight yards for pickup and subsequent final delivery. In other words, one shipment from the United States to Mexico generally requires three drivers and three tractors to move a single international freight movement.
Opening the border will allow a free interchange between the responsible U.S. carrier, and the responsible Mexican carrier, or allow the U.S. carrier to go into Mexico and the Mexican carrier into the U.S. Our company will continue to interchange at the border with a very limited number of carriers we now use. But we will eliminate the cross-border carrier, and that is the one that generally has the 15-year-old truck that is not as safe as what the long-haul Mexican carrier operates, or which we operate in the United States. We are a small carrier, and our interchange carrierprimarily interchange carrieris a small carrier with 34 trucks, none of which are older than 4 years.
Page 74 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Our Mexican carrier has delivered our freight in Mexico in a safe and responsible way. We have not had theft. We have not had hijackings. We have not had damaged trailers. All of our trailers have been taken in by the Mexican carrier. NAFTA's trucking provisions require all foreign carriers operating in the United States to abide by all U.S. standards and regulations. We support that position 100 percent, and that includes, for examplewe probably hear that there is not a logging provision in Mexico. Well, under the U.S. provisions, of course, there will have to be a week's logs when they arrive at the U.S. border station. Those logs will be checked to see how many hours they have left, to see if they can lawfully drive, the very same thing as we do on U.S. highways, so to require these carriers to move into logging and to safety regulations and so forth that we file. In the opinion of ATA and its members, we believe that California has demonstrated the strong enforcement and proper inspection facilities at the border are effective and safe in assuring that cross border trucking equipment and operations comply with U.S. safety standards.
The fact is that every trucking company and every driver entering the United States will be required to meet each and every USA safety requirement after undergoing a comprehensive review through the proposed Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration application process to comply with U.S. standards.
It appears that Congress was struggling to find a method to ensure safety up front before the carriers are certified. As Mexican carriers apply for operating authority, they will need to obtain insurance to operate in the United States. This is going to be another check. Each U.S. carrier today, when they renew their insurance, gets a safety inspection from the insurance carrier that is going to write their insurance. There is not an insurance carrier that is going to write insurance for a Mexican carrier without undergoing checking their hiring procedures, checking the quality of drivers that they hire, checking their accident ratios and doing a full examination of their equipment. Such a review would include capturing information regarding hiring, training, maintenance practices and overall safety management.
Page 75 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The Mexican trucking companies will undergo not only a thorough application process before the FMCSA, but also a far more thorough review by those insurance carriers. I suspect that is going to be one of the most important examinations and reviews. As a practical matter, I believe it will be many years before we see any substantial number of Mexican trucks operating the long-haul deliveries in the U.S. The larger carriers will use a U.S. driver to take the tractor and trailer to the Mexican border, or the Mexican driver will take the same tractor and trailer and proceed on to the destination. When that same tractor and trailer return to the U.S. border, it will be again staffed by a U.S. driver.
With carriers like our company, we will merely exchange the trailer at the border with a responsible motor carrier, eliminating the carriage agent that we now use.
Mr. PETRI. Thank you.
Mr. ACKLIE. It would also beI would also like to comment on for just a minute if I could, on Canada. There have been some discussion that there wasn't a database, there isn't a database as far as Mexican carriers. They didn't have drug testing and alcohol testing down there. That was true before we started in Canada, and it quickly came about that that database was captured and the drug and alcohol testing went on if they were going to enter the United States. In Canada, of course, there is a constitutional provision, I understand, on random testing. So they don't do it in Canada on random, but if they are going to operate in the United States, they have to do a random. Same thing would be true of the Mexican carrier.
Finally, I would only say to you that the ATA strongly believes that motor carriers are operating in the United States no matter what the nationality must abide by U.S. safety standards. However, ATA is concerned that the attacks on our Mexican counterparts are based more on incomplete understanding of motor carrier safety and prejudice towards Mexican carriers, instead of being based on the hard facts related to safety.
That, Mr. Chairman, concludes my remarks. Thank you very much.
Page 76 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. PETRI. Thank you, sir. Captain Vaughn.
Mr. VAUGHN. Sir, I will speak quickly to stay within my 5 minutes, so please excuse me if I am speaking quickly. My name is Steve Vaughn and I currently serve as the president of the Commercial Vehicles Safety Alliance. Thank you for allowing me to testify on behalf of CVSA. If I may, Mr. Chairman, I would like to submit a written statement for the record which supersedes the statement that was applied by CVSA on Monday, July 16, 2001. We have made some technical changes to text 4 of our previous admission.
Mr. PETRI. So ordered.
Mr. VAUGHN. I will offer you CVSA's perspective on the most recent border plan for consideration that was addressed in a very comprehensive manner last week by the Senate Appropriations Committee.
I will also discuss the approach CVSA has recommended since this issue has become a very high priority at the beginning of the year. And lastly, I will briefly touch upon the rulemaking recently proposed by the Department of Transportation.
CVSA offers support and assistance in the directive of the Senate Appropriations Committee and a full safety compliance review of the Mexican carrier be conducted before entering the U.S. However, as a practical matter, we submit that a slightly different approach be considered. As I will shortly point out in more detail, conducting case studies is one of the initiatives CVSA recommends in our plan. We would think that this would better serve the intended results of the specified directive, as well as many of the other provisions.
We have studied those provisions and determined the appropriate level of inspectors and we will assist in determining the appropriate level of inspectors and facilities at the border. We urge that serious consideration be given to limiting the opening of the border to those border crossings designated by each border State as a commercial motor vehicle crossing. We think that the State participation in identifying those sites is critical. Almost 96 percent of all the commercial vehicle traffic occurs at 10 of the 27 ports of entry by phasing in the opening of the border and limiting commercial traffic to 10 openings, a more realistic determination of the need for full-time staffing and other infrastructure requirements can be made.
Page 77 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Just as important in the short-term, it will be easier for the U.S. DOT and border State enforcement agencies to better allocate and concentrate resources where they are needed the most. As I already indicated earlier this year when the NAFTA issue rose to the forefront, CVSA developed a plan to address this issue. It is designed to gather information on and educate those carriers that seek authority to do business in the United States. At all of the NAFTA discussions in recent years, little, if any, data on those carriers has been collected.
This lack of information with respect to Mexican carriers is largely due to the fact that one, until recently, there have been very few safety requirements on Mexican carriers, which would be comparable to those placed on carriers in the United States and Canada. Two, there are a limited number of personnel trained and continually performing oversight functions in Mexico. And, three, the current motor carrier safety information infrastructure in Mexico has not been in place long enough to capture and record all the results.
The key elements of the CVSA planning includes, in conjunction with Mexico; prepare an analysis of the Mexican government's current and planned safety regulations, policies, procedures, penalty structures as related to the oversight of the commercial vehicle industry; conduct one-day case studies or audits on the Mexican carriers at their place of business, seeking authority to operate across the border. These on-site visits in Mexico will be including the evaluation of safety management practices, review of crash records, knowledge and compliance with U.S. regulations, vehicle inspections, driver selection and training, dispatch operations, maintenance programs, drug and alcohol testing programs and overall company management. Most importantly, these teams that go in will consist of U.S. personnel and Mexican government officials; conduct CVSA inspection familiarization seminars or similar-type programsseminarsacross Mexico to be coordinated with the government and industry associations.
As was testified to here just a few minutes ago in Texas as well as California, that has been taking place and has been proven to be very effective; develop educational kits for motor carriers and drivers that would be provided during case studies, inspection seminars and roadside inspections; develop options for technology implementation. It is here and it should be looked at very closely.
Page 78 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC As indicated by General Mead, an additional tool to assist in the screening is the CVSA decal which is applied to vehicles that have been inspected and have met the critical safety defectsor do not have any critical safety defects; create a database for recording and managing the information from the above activities.
Mr. Chairman, it is important to recognize that this approach will allow the existing institutional and technology infrastructure to be used to facilitate operations in the field without having to make major changes in policy, procedures, legislation, or expend a large amount of resources. Equally important is that these activities are front-loaded so that we can have information to make more informed decisions on what we need to do and what we do not need to do. This information is critical, since many of our member agencies, which consist of the law enforcement agencies of all 50 States, provinces in Canada and the country of Mexico. We are making and implementing commercial vehicle safety programs based on carrier performance.
We feel that the CVSA organization is uniquely qualified to be a partner in leading this plan, and with our mission and goal to foster uniform international commercial vehicle safety standards. While we appreciate the efforts made by the Motor Carrier Safety Administration in issuing its rulemaking, we have some serious reservations about this approach in confining NAFTA planning to rulemaking alone. It precludes the necessary collaboration and partnership with the States with groups such as CVSA that can be of great assistance in this whole effort. We also have concerns that DOT's proposal places the entire emphasis on enforcement activity after the border opens on States, and it will increase the burden on State inspectors. Our detailed analysis and concerns about the proposed rules have been filed to the docket.
We hope the Secretary Mineta will stress to FMCSA the importance of cooperative true partnership approach on the NAFTA issue. We believe that provided with the proper direction and authority by working in a collaborative fashion, we can make our commitment to Mexico, provide the appropriate safety assurances to the travelling public and limit the operational impacts for both industry and enforcement.
Page 79 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for this opportunity.
Mr. PETRI. Thank you.
Ms. GILLAN. Do I need a microphone? My children think I have a very loud voice.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. My name is Jacqueline Gillan, and I am vice president of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, a coalition of consumer health safety, law enforcement and insurance companies and organizations working together to advance highway and auto safety. The hour is late. For those of us that have been at it this morning since 9:30 in the Senate Commerce Committee, I thought what I would do is touch upon some issues that other people have not brought up in the issue concerning opening our borders.
I just wanted to add that this is an issue the public cares very much about. I work on a lot of highway safety issues and truck safety is the one the public gets right away and there is very much concern about this issue.
Advocates supports the additional efforts that were announced by DOT today to strengthen border inspections. Particularly we support the IG's proposal for the automatic inspection and reinspection of every Mexican motor carrier operating beyond the commercial zones. However, these additional efforts are still inadequate, and there is a need to enact the bipartisan proposals in the Senate version of the DOT appropriations bill, as well as House resolution 152. There is an enormous personal and financial cost to the 5300 people that die every year in truck-related crashes, and the FMCSA just recently released figures showing that there is an annual cost to the United States of $24 billion. So we are already paying a high price for not having safe trucks on the road. We have also heard from many of the witnesses about the inadequacies and deficiencies at the border.
We don't have permanent inspection facilities at most of the border crossings. We have too few inspections, but too many trucks are put out of service when we do these inspections. We have unreliable, unavailable safety data, and we have the absence of a basic safety system of motor carrier oversight in Mexico.
Page 80 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The decision of the NAFTA arbitration panel permits the U.S. to apply different standards to uphold the safety, and paragraphs 300 and 301 of the ruling clearly allow the U.S. to apply, if found necessary, different and more stringent safety standards to ensure the safety of the U.S. public. The U.S. does not have to provide favorable operating authority consideration to all or even a specific number of applicants from Mexico, and that Mexican motor carriers that fail to meet reasonable case-by-case examination of their safety condition may be barred. This ruling is really a baseline interpretation of the rights and responsibilities of the United States in controlling cross-border motor carrier safety.
Advocates believes that FMCSA is following a course of action that degrades safety and ignores procedures permitted by the NAFTA arbitrage panel. I just wanted to bring as an example the application procedure. We are concerned about this application procedure where DOT is going to be making decisions about whether to grant operating authority. If you look at the proposed rulemaking, there are five pages of questions on safety considerations that the carrier has to fill out about whether they are complying with hours of service, whether they are doing alcohol and drug testing, the qualifications of their drivers, and whether they understand issues concerning vehicle condition and HAZMAT operations.
Unfortunately in the questionnaire where you are supposed to indicate your knowledge and intent to follow these laws, there is only a ''yes'' box. There is no box to answer ''no'', which I think goes to the issue of what we are doing. This is in the recent rule that DOT proposed. This is the paper application. There is no box to indicate ''no'', that you are not going to abide by any of these requirements. I think that says it all.
Safety compliance reviews of carriers from Mexico will be conducted only after reviewing the application and granting conditional operating authority. We think that these safety audits should be done on site before operating authority is granted, and we think that is the only way to ensure safety. There has been a lot of discussion today about the kind of equipment and the kind of drivers that we will be seeing. There is nothing like an on-site safety audit to get that information. A lot of the information about new equipment is anecdotal. We are all hoping that this is going to be the case, but I think if they do these on-site safety audits, they will be able to be assured about the quality of the drivers, the quality of the equipment, and whether these will be safe drivers and safe trucks coming across the border.
Page 81 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Advocates believes that the comparisons between Mexico and Canada regarding commercial carrier safety oversight are misleading, and that critics use this to try to stop our looking at the Mexican freight and passenger motor carrier services in a careful way. Canadian motor carrier standards are very similar to the U.S., unlike Mexico, where there is no functioning safety regime in Mexico implemented or enforced by the government.
Advocates has several recommendations, and we, as I have said, support the provisions that were put in the Senate appropriations bill.
Our recommendations mirror those provisions. We believe that there should be the on-site safety reviews. We support strengthening the border inspection facilities and the administration's increased budget request. Unfortunately, the 2002 appropriations bill doesn't go into effect until October 1st. Then we are looking at only 3 months to hire all of these inspectors and make all of these infrastructure improvements.
Additionally, you know, we are talking about $115 million added to DOT's budget. Interestingly enough, my assistant found this on the Internet. This is a resolution that was passed by the State of Texas this last session, where they are asking Congress for $11 billion to prepare for opening the border. And so I believe that the State of Texas probably knows quite well what their needs are and what still needs to be done there.
We believe that there should be weight scales at all U.S. border crossings to confirm that each Mexico-domiciled truck or bus conforms to Federal weight limits. Overweight trucks are harmful to the motoring public, and they are harmful to our roads. Increased weights in trucks results in more crashes and crashes of greater severity, and we think it would be important to make sure that those trucks coming in comply with our weight limits.
As Inspector General Mead suggested, one of the important provisions that was enacted by Congress with the leadership of this committee in 1999, was a requirement for a proficiency test for all new and domestic motor carriers. We support DOT moving forward with that and requiring those proficiency tests for all new motor carrier entrants.
Page 82 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. PETRI. Thank you.
Ms. GILLAN. And lastly, as the Senate bill provides, we support DOT going ahead with another important provision in the bill, which would provide for the training and certification of sufficient private contractors for conducting safety audits on the Mexico-U.S. border. Advocates was late coming around to support this issue, but we realize that we will never have sufficient Federal personnel to do the job, and we would like to see them go forward with this rulemaking.
That concludes my statement, Mr. Chairman. I just want to say that these recommendations are minimal. They cover the very basic safeguards that every American on our road and highways deserves and indeed demands. Thank you very much.
Mr. PETRI. Thank you.
The final witness is Representative of the international brotherhood of Teamsters, Mr. Mike Mathis, the Director of Government Affairs representing James Hoffa.
Mr. MATHIS. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and members of the committee. My name is Mike Mathis. I am the director of the government affairs department for the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. Obviously I am not Jim Hoffa. He sends his regards. Because of the late hour, he was called away to a meeting he couldn't get out of, so I appreciate the opportunity to testify on his behalf. Our union has submitted extensive comments for the record, but in my testimony I would like to summarize what actions we believe should be taken before the current moratorium on cross-border trucking is lifted. Before I start, I would just like to point out that President Hoffa met on Monday in Detroit with President Vicente Fox as one of his visits into that city, where they had a chance to discuss trade and the cross-border organizing issue, and they had a veryPresident Hoffa thought it was a very successful meeting, a very honest exchange of ideas.
President Fox acknowledged that Mexico needs safer trucks and a better system to train and monitor their drivers. Of course, we don't argue with that, but both President Fox and President Hoffa had a good discussion, and he wanted me to pass that on to you, that, in fact, he did meet with him. And is entertaining an opportunity to go to Mexico and meet with him in the future.
Page 83 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC First of all, let me dispel a few myths about why the Teamsters Union is so concerned about this issue. First of all, about 600,000 of our 1-1/2 million members turn the key every day in the truck or vehicle to start their day. Their workplace is our Nation's highways and city streets, and these drivers deserve as safe a workplace as any factory worker in this country. Since 1994, the Teamsters Union has told Congress and the administration that neither the U.S. nor Mexico had safeguards in place to assure highway safety.
After Congress and many other groups, including the Teamsters, raised safety concerns, the Clinton administration wisely chose to institute the current moratorium. Now for those who would believe that the border remained closed as a political favor to the Teamsters should just read the words of the latest Inspector General report, which I know you have heard much of, the review, the administration's own submissions to the NAFTA dispute resolution panel. I will get to those in just a minute, but first I want to address another issue.
Some claim the only reason the Teamsters care about Mexican trucks is our fear that lower wage Mexican drivers will take our jobs away. Certainly that is an issue that we are concerned about, and we are concerned that unscrupulous employers will entice and exploit Mexican drivers to violate our cabotage laws and make deliveries from point to point in the United States when delivering international loads. However, we welcome an opportunity to talk to our Mexican brothers and sisters about better wages and working conditions, much as President Hoffa discussed with President Fox on Monday.
Ultimately, we believe if there is parity in wages and benefits between U.S. and Mexican workers, as there is between U.S. and Canadian drivers, then there will be no incentive for employers to violate our labor laws. Returning to the safety question, there is real evidence that trucks from Mexico cannot meet all U.S. safety standards. Let us just look at the facts. The Inspector General's latest report indicates that still only 1 percent of Mexican trucks crossing into the commercial zones are inspected. Of those inspected, more than one in three is placed out of service for serious safety violations. In Texas and Arizona, where more than 75 percent of the Mexican trucks cross, the out-of-service rate is 40 percent. For those that argue that the drayage trucks are not representative of the fleet of long-haul trucks that will be utilized once the border is open, listen to what the United States said in its submission to the NAFTA panel. And I will quote. In terms of safety, the service provided by drayage trucks is no different from that provided by long-haul trucks. Furthermore, the government of Mexico has presented no evidence that Mexican long-haul carriers are safer than Mexican drayage carriers. Indeed, many of the Mexican trucks have travelled considerable distances from the interior of Mexico to the border and thus are, in fact, long-haul trucks.
Page 84 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Plus, there is no guarantee that drayage truck operators would not seek to operate their trucks beyond the commercial zone once the moratorium is lifted. End quote. That is what the DOT and U.S. Trade Representative said.
So what has changed, and why is the administration in such a rush? Frankly, the United States is under no legal obligation to implement the findings of the NAFTA panel. Under the terms of NAFTA, the U.S. is entitled to disregard the panel's recommendation and simply allow Mexico to take equivalent and reciprocal measures, or it could negotiate compensation or a new grant of some trade benefits to Mexico.
Now let us dispel another myth, that under NAFTA, the U.S. can't initiate safeguards to protect its own highways. If you have not already done so, I encourage each member of the committee to read the NAFTA dispute panel's report.
It made a point of stating that the parties to NAFTA may set the level of protection that they consider appropriate in pursuit of legitimate regulatory objectives. In fact, one of the recommendations of the NAFTA panel states that given the different enforcement mechanisms currently in place in Mexico and the United States, and I quote again, ''it may not be unreasonable for DOT to address legitimate safety concerns by declining to rely largely on self certification by Mexican carriers seeking authority to operate in the United States.'' .
This leads to one of the final points I would like to discuss, the proper action for Congress to take to address the safety concerns of Mexican carriers. It is clear from the NAFTA panel report that the U.S. is within its rights to not rely on a stack of paperwork to determine the safety of a carrier. Unfortunately, Representatives Sabo's common sense amendment to require safety reviews before the Department of Transportation would grant conditional operating authority was not given a chance to be voted on by the House, but the vote on his more restrictive amendment barring funds for even the review and processing of any Mexican carrier application was passed by an overwhelming margin of 285 to 143.
Page 85 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I think that vote was indicative of the frustration that many Members of Congress feel about the administration's failure to recognize the serious safety concerns of unsafe trucks on our highways. The votes should be a wakeup call to everyone who is ignoring the potential danger of this wrong-headed policy. DOT needs to put a process in place that ensures the safety of our highways. This should include, at the very least, the Murray-Shelby provisions that are contained in the Senate transportation bill, and we have outlined those in our written testimony.
These provisions are also included in House Resolution 152, which we support. The Teamsters Union strongly supports these legislative measures that ensure the safety of our highways. That is what the 285 members of Congress wanted when they voted for the Sabo amendment. That is what the American public wants and that is what Teamsters and their families want and they deserve no less.
Mr. Chairman, thank you for the opportunity to speak for President Hoffa here, and I am happy to take any questions.
Mr. PETRI. Thank you and we will begin questioning with Mr. Oberstar.
Mr. OBERSTAR. Mr. Chairman, if I may, I would like to yield my position in questioning to the gentleman from California.
Mr. PETRI. You are not yielding your time but your position?
Mr. OBERSTAR. My position.
Mr. PETRI. All right. Mr. Filner is recognized for 5 minutes.
Mr. FILNER. Thank you for your courtesy, Mr. Oberstar, and Mr. Chairman, and thank you. It is obviously an important issue. We have stayed all day, and we have a large audience. We are all very concerned. As I have said earlier today, I have represented the border area on the San Diego City Council and in the Congress for close to 2 decades. In my district, about 50 million crossings a year go through the San Ysidro border crossing.
Page 86 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Approximately 3,000 trucks a day cross the Otay Mesa border crossing through my district. So I had been aware of this issue for a long time. I fought very hard as a city councilman to get that Otay Mesa border crossing. I fought very hard to get the California highway patrol inspection station as a city councilman and as a Congressman. So we have been watching those operations for a long, long time, and it took, I think, almost a decade to get the CHP facility in there, which everybody is regarding as state-of-the-art, and it is a very nice facility, although it has some limitations.
The Secretary of Transportation earlier todayI wish we could have had him for another round of questioninghe kept saying, where does this 1 percent come from of inspections? He said we inspect 27,000 trucks out of 63,000 or something. All the figures that we have we have, and we have got to use the common language, I think. But in your report that I read, there was 46,000 inspections of 4.6 million crossings. Now, each one of those has duplicate trucks, but that is 1 percent of the crossings.
Captain, I read your testimony. You had 9,000 inspections, roughly, and there is almost 1 million crossings there a year, so that is 1 percent. And since Texas asked for $11 billion and the administration wants to give them about $100 million, so that is 1 percent. So this figure is pretty well established about how much we are talking about here.
And again I am, on a day-to-day basis, very familiar with Otay Mesa, I know the people who work there, I know the people who cross there. I think I live in the real world, and I heard some stuff in the testimony which did not indicate reality. If there is a 1 percent inspection, by the way, that means that a lot of trucks are not inspected, and that figure can be altered by the number of trucks and the number of crossings, but it is a pretty low percentage however you want to judge it. Mr. Borski stated earlier that at the Otay Mesa inspection station, they try to inspect all trucks at least once every 3 months. They don't get to that level, but even if they did, nobody is looking at the driver and nobody is looking at the insurance. You are looking at the tractor but not the trailer. There is a big percentage of the situation that you are not even looking at, even if you stopped every truck.
Page 87 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC But I was going to ask Mr. Mineta earlier, there are three bays in the state-of-the-art facility, three bays there. For a level 1 inspection, it takes three-quarters of an hour to an hour to do that. If you inspect for 10 hours a dayand inspectors are on duty a little bit more than that, but they are not on full duty and there are absences and there are sicknesses and they move to other areasthat is 10 trucks a bay per day. Three bays, that is 30 trucks. I don't know where anybody thinks they are going to deal with this problem inspecting 30 trucks a day, and they wave through the ones that have decals. Although, again, you don't know who the driver is, you don't know what the tractor is, you don't know what the insurance is.
And Mr. Acklie, I respect your testimony. The California Trucking Association has a different opinion and certainly our local trucking association has a different opinion. They know the trucks. I have stood with them at the border with members of your Association, members of the Teamsters. They could point out which trucks are not safe, and it is an incredibly high percentage of them. And we did a spot check with GSA and with the Highway Patrol, and this is before the state-of-the-art thing, but there were 80 or 90 percent basically unsafe trucks, 100 percent insufficient insurance.
So I mean this is a real problem. It is a real problem that nobody can deny as the Secretary did earlier. Mr. Inspector General, you have a very different perspective than the Secretary, and I think you agree that none of these things are unmanageable but we have certainly not the resources yet or the ability to handle them at this moment.
And Mr. Acklie, you talked about the ability to get to Mexican databases and drivers' records. I mean this is a different world, I am sorry. Mr. Otter I think earlier said we have different views of Mexico and Canada. That may be true but I don't think it is racism. It is a fact of life. We are dealing with a country that has not yet developed its industrial position to a high degree yet.
I will tell you there is no way of knowing what the truck driver's record is. There is not any way of knowing what the driver's license is. I mean I could get you a driver's license within 90 minutes maybe, 2 hours at the most. I will get you a driver's license. I will get you an insurance card. I will get you anything you want me to get you. I haven't tried, Captain, your sticker. I am going to try that when I get home.
Page 88 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. VAUGHN. Please let me know the results.
Mr. FILNER. I will get you any other document that you want. This is a question of practicality and safety, Mr. Chairman.
I thank you for allowing me time. Thank you, Mr. Oberstar. We want to be in a position to allow this trade to go on, but the numbers speak for themselves. I mean we have such a limited capacity to deal with the issue at this moment that we really threaten the safety of my constituents and those all through America, and I thank the Chair.
Mr. PETRI. Anyone care to respond? Mr. Oberstar or Mr. Borski.
Mr. BORSKI. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Mr. Mead, I want to quote again Major Clanton who is here, I think, as an escort perhaps; quoted us when we were visited that ''a truck that is not inspected will be neglected.'' you pretty much say the same thing; that there is a direct correlation between trucks that are inspected or areas where the trucks are inspected and the safety results. Can you tell me how many inspectors you believe are needed now for the border?
Mr. MEAD. I think minimally 140, keeping in mind that in 1997 we only had 13. Today, it is about 58 or 60, and the administration is proposing to go to 140. I think you will need 140 inspectors at the border during operating hours, and I will come back a year from now and tell you whether that is adequate or not. I know our time is short here. I think we also have to consider how much work they are going to be able to do if they don't have a place to put these out-of-service trucks. Also, you have heard everybody at the table in one fashion or another mentioned safety reviews or safety audits of the carrier. The required resources would be in addition to the 140 inspectors. The same person that is inspecting trucks at the border can't be out there doing the compliance reviews on the firm.
Mr. BORSKI. When you say 140 minimum, and you say they can't be doing these other things or expect that they will be doing, we have to wait a year for a better guessis 140 a bare minimum? Should we really have a lot more than that?
Page 89 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. MEAD. I recognize it is very ambitious. The Department seems committed to bringing these inspectors in and training them. They also, because of last year's budget, got a plus-up in the number of investigators. So these people presumably could be deployed to do safety reviews of these firms. But I think you are going to find that the one wild card here is the number of carriers that will actually want to traverse beyond the commercial zones. It is really a matter of speculation right now.
Mr. BORSKI. All right. What about the permanent inspection stations, then. How are these 140 inspectors going to do a job if there is no permanent inspection facility; how can they possibly do the job you think they can do?
Mr. MEAD. They won't be able to unless we get them some facilities, at least portable facilities. It is going to take some time to build these permanent facilities. As Representative Filner pointed out, it took about 10 years for Otay Mesa. I didn't know it took that long. They do take some time, at least 2 or 3 years, so we have to do something in the interim.
There is such a thing as portable buildings. I outlined in my oral statement the land situation. And this business of auditing and making recommendations to the Secretary and the Congress, we made these recommendations in 1998.
Mr. BORSKI. Well let me ask you what I considered a key question here and which I tried to get Secretary Mineta, and he very definitely did not answer. Should we allow the Mexican trucks in the United States before there are permanent inspection facilities built? In your view, is it safe for the American traveling public?
Mr. MEAD. I don't think there is a necessary linkage between an absolute must for permanent facilities and the decision to let them in. I do think there is an absolute linkage between providing at least the temporary facilities and the land and making sure you have these preadmittance requirements in place such as the physical inspections of the truck, the driver and the firm.
Page 90 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. BORSKI. Mr. Cuellar, let me ask you, why hasn't Texas built any permanent inspection stations?
Mr. CUELLAR. First of all, if you are assuming that you need permanent inspection stations to do the inspections, you would have to be very careful with that particular assumption because, again, there are different ways that you can address inspections. The way we have been doing it, if you look at it, you have inspectors. If you are talking about the inspectors the gentleman is speaking about, you are talking about inspectors right at the crossing. City of Laredo, for example, has about seven or eight municipal officers who are trained to inspect those commercial vehicles. Then you have another line of inspector from DPS that will cover them. So there are different lines of inspections.
The physical location is important, I agree with you, but that is not the only way that you can inspect.
Now the other thing is you have got to look at the picture. If you look at the U.S. Bureau of Census, I believe there were about, let's say, 733 class 7, class 8 motor carriers. That is the heavy over-the-road. If you looked at the number of Mexican border carriers as of a couple of years ago that had asked to be given the operating authority, it was only 184 applications. That means that really if you look at the Mexicans, how much they account of the trucking industry, not talking about grades, but talking about long haul, that is .0002 percent.
There is a difference between grades and there is a difference between long haul. There is a big difference in Laredo and, just like Mr. Filner, I have lived on the border. I have seen the trucks. I have been in that type of industry. I am a customs broker also. I have seen that type of industry. So I know the trucking industry and I certainly know that when you look at addressing an issue, you can't just say here is the only way to address this issue. Physical locations are important, but you have got to look at training.
Page 91 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC What we are doing in Texas, we are going across the river and training Mexican officials to do that. I am a big believer in decals, those 90-day decals the gentleman is talking about. There are different solutions: the databases, the computers, the technologies, the X-rays.
Mr. BORSKI. My time is running. Let me ask it this way. When do you expect any permanent stations to be built in Texas?
Mr. CUELLAR. We are hoping if we get our partners to cooperate with us, the Federal Government, we are estimating $100 million. The young lady at the end of the table was talking about $11 billion. The resolution that was sent over, that covered IH 35, transportation. It was not only border inspections, if you read the resolution correctly, that the legislature sent out. We are estimating that for our eight border stations, we need a about $100 million. Texas has been trying to do everything possible to set that up. At the same time we gotyou know, we looked at different ways. We put in a rider to get civilian inspectors instead of having just commissioned officers. So we have been looking at different alternatives to address this particular issue.
Mr. BORSKI. Any idea when we could expect to have one?
Mr. CUELLAR. Well, once you help us with the funding, because again trafficthis particular traffic is not only a State issue, it is a Federal issueaffects the whole United States. And we need our partners. We need the Federal partners, we need the State partners, and we certainly need our local partners to address this issue. You know the data. We estimate from the day we get this started, about 18 months. But, again I emphasize, the way this is supposed to operate, it is supposed to be on a case-by-case basis. Anybody that feels at 12 midnightand I actually, back a couple of years ago when the border was supposed to open up, I had a press camera down there from another part of the country, and they expected that at 12 midnight, or whatever time, that all the Mexican truck drivers were going to be there with their engines roaring, ready to cross the river. It is not going to happen that way. It is going to be a gradual basis.
Page 92 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. BORSKI. Let me try it this way. We understand it takes at least 18 months. We have heard even more, 2, 3, up to 10 years. Are there any plans for permanent inspection stations in Texas at this point in time?
Mr. CUELLAR. Yes, sir. Like I said, we passed a particular bill a couple of years ago where we wanted to have a one-stop center, have the Federal officials, the State officials. The Feds told us, sorry, we are not interested. This is the type of partnership that is very important. If there is anything, with all due respect, if the committee could do something, I would ask the committee to look at the coordination of all the people involved in the inspection process.
Mr. BORSKI. I do want to ask one other question on this, if I can. When we were in Texas we met with the mayor of Laredo who was a very vociferous defender of the status quo and suggested strongly that trucks ought not to be inspected at the border, they ought to be inspected out of Laredo somewhere. It seems to me that you can't have a viable system unless you inspect at the border. I also understand the legislature has pretty much said that it is kind of up to the mayor to put it wherever she wants. How can we have any faith in a viable inspection if it is not done at the border?
Mr. CUELLAR. Well, what she was talking about is the exact location of the physical plant, the facility itself. Like I said in my testimony, we expect to have input from the local folks, but again the closer you can get to the border crossing, in my opinion, is where you can address that issue, if you are looking at the physical location. But at the same time there are other ways that you can inspect. The city has municipal officers inspecting. DPS has the same thing. So there are different ways of addressing that particular issue.
I know, Mr. Borski, that you know the ideal thing is to inspect every truck, but, you know, that that is going to be very, very difficult. But I think the attempt that is to goU.S. Customs when they inspect a vehicle, they don't inspect every single truck. That is impossible to do that.
Page 93 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. BORSKI. I want to get back to that later, Mr. Chairman, if I can.
Mr. PETRI. Well I don't know when we are going to be having more votes on the floor. I was hoping to restrict this to just one round of questioning. If you want to ask another question, probably now is the time to do it.
Mr. BORSKI. Sure. I would like to get into a little bit, if I can, as to what does happen in Otay Mesa. And there seems to be some confusion and perhaps, Captain, you can respond. My understanding is that every truck is inspected every 90 days and given a certificate, a good housekeeping seal of approval from your organization; is that accurate?
Mr. VAUGHN. That is correct. I can't say that every truck is inspected every 90 days. What I can say is as a vehicle comes through an inspection facility, if it does not have a current CVSA sticker, we pull that into the facility, we do an inspection of the vehicle. As Mr. Filner indicated, at that time we also evaluate the driver and a sticker is applied to that vehicle for another 90 days if it meets the criteria.
Mr. BORSKI. Well, Mr. Filner has an interesting point. How does all this get done? It just doesn't seem there is enough time. You work 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, issuing these inspection stickers.
Mr. VAUGHN. In California we have nearly 1,000 people dedicated to commercial vehicle enforcement. We are very well supported by the administration as well, financially, so we can afford to do that. It is very difficult for other States across this Nation to accomplish this.
One of the areas of concerns I have here is we are talking about 140 people at the border and we are talking about inspection facilities. If the inspection facilities are going to be built for the States, they will be staffed by State personnel. And I may be getting confused here, but I believe the 140 bodies they are talking about are Federal personnel. So we are looking at a need for the States to be able to provide staffing at those facilities. We have talked about Otay Mesa and Calexico. We have 23 people assigned to Otay Mesa and 16 people assigned to Calexico. You are probablyif you are going to mirror the hours of Customs at these facilities, you are probably going to need similar numbers for those ports.
Page 94 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. MEAD. You know, with the exception of the State of California, the fact is that there has been an ongoing dispute or uncertainty about who was responsible for years, and the Feds were saying, oh, the States have to do it; and the States were saying, no, wait a minute, this is a Federal border opening, the Feds should do it. And the State of California--maybe the word ''stood up'' is too strong, but they decided to take it on. We still have this issue between the Feds and the State to some extent, except now a difference is the Feds in 1997 decided 13 inspectors was insufficient. Then Congress increased the MSCAP program substantially. The MCSAP program provides grants to the States which funds their reviews, their inspections, and is also highway money that goes towards these inspection facilities. So there has been some changes but still there has not been a full sorting through of the roles.
Mr. BORSKI. One last question if I can, Mr. Chairman. Mr. Cuellar, again, California did this on their own. Why should Texas be waiting for Federal dollars?
Mr. CUELLAR. Like I said in my testimony, different States are very different. Eighty percent of the traffic that trades between the U.S. And Mexico is by truck. Seventy percent of that goes by Texas. Texas has a 1,254-mile border. We handle more than half, 50 percent of the trade that we have. So each State is different. Again, I would like to emphasize to the committee there are a couple of things.
One, and I think the gentleman mentioned this, is that the issue has been out there. The States have been saying well, that is really more of a Federal issue. The Federal has been saying it is more of a State issue. The time has come for us to recognize that this issue is a Federal issue. And where we can work with the State partners and our local partners, because everybody has been waiting, the Feds have been taking certain actions, we have been taking certain actions, but again everybody has been waiting as to how we address this issue. The time has come for us to realize this is a Federal issue that affects the border States we have.
Page 95 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. BORSKI. Mr. Chairman, just in closing I would say that 285 Members of the House voted to stop this process until we can get this situation under control. This is a serious question. I think even more Members than that are concerned about this, but the Members votedeven if we were to be fined by NAFTAto stop this process, and I am not sure we have come up with the answers here today, quite frankly, but thank you.
Mr. PETRI. Mr. Oberstar.
Mr. OBERSTAR. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I concur fully in the remarks of the gentleman from Pennsylvania whose credentials are second to none on truck safety. He was the author in 1991 of a provision in ISTEA to stop the triples, and it will always stand as his testimonial.
I feel a little like cleanup batter here, I have got so many issues that have gone before that need to be addressed now, and given the time I left home this morning for the Hill, if I were keep ing a log I would be out of order. But we don't apply that to legislation. That is why bills turn out the way they do sometimes.
First of all, the issue was raised earlier today by the Department about the point of order on the House floor striking the funding. Chairman Young raised the point because it was legislation in an appropriations bill; and, secondly, because the committee position for the last administration, the last Chairman and current Chairman, that the administration was proposing to take revenue-adjusted budget authority funds out of the guaranteed account paid for a subject not covered by a guaranteed account. This is an international trade matter it ought to come out of the general revenue funds.
California certainly makes the caseit is a poster child for inspectionput the inspection station up and the inspection program inspires compliance.
The gentleman from Idaho raised so many extraneous issues as to boggle the mind, from the Pan-American highway to the number of accidents. The 26,000-mile Pan-American highway has been underway since I was staff director on this bloody committee, and it has nothing to do with this Mexican truck issue. You knowwell, I am not going to go on if the gentleman isn't here, but I justthe fact is that there are more than 100 accidents in that zone and at least one to two fatalities a year, on average, mostly in Texas.
Page 96 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC And I am still just very distressed with the Secretary's position, as I raised with him directly that some seem to argue that a Mexican carrier, precisely because it is from Mexico, cannot or will not comply with our laws. That makes about as much sense as saying that the petition filed by U.S. lumber mills, softwood lumber mills, against Canadian exports of softwood lumber have been made precisely because they are coming from Canada. Baloney. The petition filed under the NAFTA agreement against an Indian softwood lumber was because U.S. petitioners feel and had made the case that Canada is unfairly subsidizing its exports of softwood lumber exports to the United States. We are making this case precisely because we feel there is not a safety inspection system in place that can guarantee the safety of trucks coming across from Mexico into the U.S. And we do have a memorandum of understanding with Canada under which for 20 years Canadian trucks have operated in compliance with U.S. law and arebecause there are fewer of them than there are of our trucks, for one, and for another, because they really made sure that they want to be able to operate in United Statesthey have maintained their trucks at a higher level of safety than in fact U.S. trucks do.
Now, I have advocated not just an inspection regime but something broader. And, Mr. Mead, you and I havewe go back many years. I chaired the Investigation and Oversight Subcommittee and the Aviation Subcommittee on safety issues, and one of the things that I insisted on and which the FAA insisted on is a structure, a framework within which safety, not airplane by airplane, but regime, safety regime by safety regime. We do that in aviation security. Countries that do not have an adequate aviation security regime are not allowed to have their airplanes, their airlines, operate in the United States. Countries that do not have an adequate safety inspection regime for their air carriers are not allowed to have their air carriers operate in United States' air space. We are not going to endanger our citizens, our airports, and our air carriers.
Now, I realize that the aviation regime could not exactly apply because there isn't a trucking equivalent of ICAO standards; but for trucks, the equivalent of the ICAO process is for DOT to insist that there is a regime within which we can measure the effectiveness of the Mexican Government's ability to begin the inspection process; and then, secondly, to enforce it with onsite inspection. Would you agree with that, Mr. Mead?
Page 97 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. MEAD. Yes. I would add, and it is not just aviation. I think that point has been made in many other areas, too, like rail and pipelines.
Mr. OBERSTAR. Pipeline safety; again, another example of a regime.
In enacting the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, the very secondafter the title of the actsecond provision: In carrying out its duty, the Administration shall consider the assignment and maintenance of safety as the highest priority, recognizing the clear intent, encouragement, and dedication of Congress to the furtherance of the highest degree of safety in motor carrier transportation.
Is that principle reflected in any of the preliminary rulemaking that is underway within the Department of Transportation on this issue?
Mr. MEAD. In the preliminary rulemaking, not as much as it should have been. I think if you read Secretary Mineta's testimony from today, there is clearly more robustness in what they are now proposing, which differs from the rulemakings that they have talked about and that are out there for comment right now, sir.
Mr. OBERSTAR. So the testimony is moving beyond the rulemaking.
Mr. MEAD. Undoubtedly.
Mr. OBERSTAR. Is it unfair for us to ask that the rulemaking reflect the intent?
Mr. MEAD. No. In fact, we have had discussions inside the Department on this, and that is what we have recommended and they have acknowledged that that needs to be done.
Mr. OBERSTAR. Mr. Mathis, drivers in the U.S. are required to meet the following regulations: commercial driver's license, hours of service standards, environmental regulation, vehicle inspections, driver training, drug and alcohol testingby the way, which is also required for foreign repair stations for aviation maintenanceand insurance. Are there any provisions in Mexican law that require those standards; and, secondly, is there a means by which we can evaluate and verify compliance with any such regime?
Page 98 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. MATHIS. My understanding is that they do not meet those standards at that point, and although I understand they are taking some steps such as, I guess, carrying logbooks at this point, they still don't fall under hours of service that the U.S. drivers do, and my understanding is there are still no labs qualified to do drug and alcohol testing.
Mr. OBERSTAR. Well, from our previous experience in this arena of truck safety and other hearings, witnesses have from time to time said logbooksthis is when we were doing the Motor Carrier Safety Administration Actlogbooks are a joke. They are a joke in the U.S.; what might they be, comedy, in Mexico.
Mr. MATHIS. We don't have a lot of faith in the logbook system, I think it is safe to say.
Mr. OBERSTAR. You could have a driver having put in 1 hour somewhere in Mexico to get a truck to the border and then, having crossed the border, be eligible to continue driving another 10 hours, unless we can verify that logbook and that time spent in the truck.
Is it true that Mexican law allows drivers under age of 21?
Mr. MATHIS. I believe their age limit is 18 as opposed to 21 in the U.S.
Mr. OBERSTAR. Now, there are some appeals for an experiment in the U.S. to allow under 21 age drivers, which I am highly skeptical and have opposed it to this point, and it would take an awful lot of powerful persuasion to get me to change my mind.
Let me further ask, if we establish these standards for Mexico to meet, compliance review of Mexican carriers for compliance with the provisions of our Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration Act before granting operating authority, is that too much to ask?
Mr. MEAD. No. I would use a term like ''safety review,'' and say what the elements of it are. Say, safety review shall have elements A, B, C, D, E, rather than have a generic term like that. Compliance review has certain technical meanings in the lore of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration that are not applicable here.
Page 99 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. OBERSTAR. That is very good. Secretary Cuellar, do you have a reaction to do that?
Mr. CUELLAR. I sure do; yes, sir. First of all, the example about the airline industry and the other examples.
Mr. OBERSTAR. I am talking about this point I just raised with Inspector General Mead.
Mr. CUELLAR. It is to address that particular question. It is related. The examples you gave are good examples, but the difference between the truck, the Mexican trucking industry, is they have not been given the opportunity to try to meet the U.S. State standards.
Mr. OBERSTAR. That worries me.
Mr. CUELLAR. Well, there is a big difference, because there is already a judgment before you giving somebody the opportunity to try to meet those State and Federal standards.
Mr. OBERSTAR. So I am saying let's start, and I am beginning to list some standards that we can expect them to meet. Is it unfair to ask them to comply with the safety review in the way that Mr. Mead revised my statement?
Mr. CUELLAR. Without getting into those specific standards, what I would say is that on a case-by-case basis, that is the prerogative of the United States Government, whether it is the State.
Mr. OBERSTAR. Captain Vaughn do you have a similar reaction?
Mr. VAUGHN. Sir, what I would suggest, as we did in our case studies and goes just along with this, there are certain areas, compliance reviews are much more detailed. It would require the Mexican carriers to comply to laws that currently do not exist. That, in my estimation of CVSA, would be unreasonable. What we have outlined in some of the case studies are some elements, I believe you are referring to as subsets of a compliance review. The Feds used to have a program where they did a safety review. They no longer do that. Those include many of the same elements we have suggested, and I believe it is the direction you are heading and is that reasonable. Yes, it is.
Page 100 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. OBERSTAR. Mr. Acklie.
Mr. ACKLIE. Yes, sir.
Mr. OBERSTAR. Thank you.
Ms. GILLAN. Mr. Oberstar, I would like to add that the reason Advocates support this is because under the administration's proposal we are really looking at using the American public as sort of a testing ground for whether these carriers are able to comply with U.S. safety standards. And we think that doing these on-site safety reviews would really go a long way towards ensuring the safety of the American public, because as witnesses have testified at your hearing and this morning, the data in Mexico on carriers and drivers is totally unreliable or not existent at all.
Mr. OBERSTAR. A means of verifying driver'scommercial driver's license, Captain Vaughn.
Mr. VAUGHN. Currently the Mexican Government does have a system in place; however, it is not heavily populated with driver information. One of the areas, and we can through N.L.E.T.S. connect through that, there is a system in place that will allow our system to match up and receive information back and forth. What we as CVSA would recommend is that if provisional authority is provided to a carrier, any driver that they are going to have driving one of their vehicles across a border must, as a condition of that authority, be entered into that system so that we could address some of the issues Mr. Filner is concerned with and the other members of this committee.
Mr. OBERSTAR. Mr. Mead.
Mr. MEAD. If I can use an aviation analogy, you remember the service difficulty reporting system at the FAA.
Mr. OBERSTAR. Yes.
Mr. MEAD. If you finally get the system straightened out and you have a system in place, then it becomes important to populate it with data that has some integrity. Mexico has in fact made some progress on the driver's license issue and having a system. Now what is important is to populate it with the right data. And you will recall the system I am referring to.
Page 101 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. OBERSTAR. Oh, yes very much. I would just list all the other factors I think are necessary. Proof of insurance.
Mr. MEAD. Yes.
Mr. OBERSTAR. Border snapping standards; regulations toand process within which to penalize illegal operations; new inspectors in place and trained and on duty when the border is open; and adequate capacity at the facility to conduct inspections. Capacity, meaning beyond land. You do have, as Mr. Filner pointed out, Mr. Borski has pointed out, you have to have the land to store the trucks, but you also have to have the facilities to do the inspections.
And we do not have a U.S. Federal Government state-of-the-art such facility. We put all that together in a structure and, as Secretary Cuellar has said, give Mexico standards to meet, what we expect of them and time to do it, maybe even some financial help to do it, then are we on track. Mr. Mathis.
Mr. MATHIS. Well, I believe under NAFTA there was a 3-year period where they wouldI mean our standards are set; and Mexico, basically their standards were not existent. We were supposed to harmonize those standards within that 3-year period, and here we are, almost 8 years later, and it hasn't happened. We don't have a lot of faith that by merely listing these objectives that it is going to force Mexico to do this.
Mr. OBERSTAR. What I'm saying is if we do all these things, we put together a construct and tell Mexico this is what we expect you to do, we will help you to do this, that we are moving in the direction of leveling the playing field and creating a construct within which there can be a safe exchange of trucking.
Mr. MATHIS. But I think you still have the problem of enforcement.
Mr. OBERSTAR. Oh, yes. Enforcement is part of it is.
Page 102 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. MATHIS. I think it is still going to be the big issue.
Mr. OBERSTAR. We have a big job ahead of us, Mr. Chairman. I appreciate you holding this hearing. I think it is important. We had 29 members at this hearing today. That is more members at a subcommittee hearing than any of the subcommittees. I have attended virtually every subcommittee hearing since the beginning of the year. Tells you how significant this issue is. And I appreciate you relocating the hearing up here to this room.
Mr. PETRI. I want to express my gratitude to all of the members of the subcommittee for participating so fully, and we are hopefully not setting a precedent on the 5-minute rule in giving extra time to each of the members. There are only a few here now, and I think it makes more sense to kind of wrap it up this way. I did myself have justI promise not to exceed any other member's time. I will be very brief, but I did.
Mr. OBERSTAR. Mr. Chairman, when I chaired subcommittees, I had members talking about as much as 15, 20 minutes when they were pursu ing a line of inquiry. I think it was healthy.
Mr. PETRI. I do, too, and we are still following that practice. At least we did tonight. But I am trying to get a better handle very briefly, Mr. Cuellar, about this real state of play between the Federal Government and the State of Texas. We are focusing on that. I don't know about the further borders, except the situation in California is pretty clear. The State government stepped up to the bat, with Mr. Filner and others pressing, set up their own inspection facility at the border. And now the Mexican trucks that come back are even though basically substantially great as there in Texas, at least as best we have been able to determineMr. Mead can contradict mesubstantially in compliance as the American trucks at the border. The compliance rate is about the same.
A similar inspection does not exist along the Texas border. The State of Texas has not taken the initiative. So now we have to figure out if we are going to suddenly start getting into the business, as a Federal Government, of not just doing inspection for Customs and other international, traditionally international issues, but start getting into domestic safety inspections that have always been done by the States under a Federal coordination and Federal standards at the border; because it is a border, which will create problems going further inland, because you will have your regular Texas stations where people come by and you are going to have different ones at the border, conceivably operated more by Federal personnel or by grants and this kind of thing.
Page 103 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Have you sorted all of that out? And the fees are an issue. I mentioned earlier, if we are paying for it, should there be Federal fees at that border? Or is Texas expecting, have they sorted all that out? Or should we really be trying to push things more in the direction of what has happened at the California border, which seems to be working very well; help Texas get to that state maybe with some loans or some bridge arrangements? We have an issue of fairness between the States as well, because California has spent millions of dollars setting all this facility up, and then they will say well, okay, we did it; and now you are doing it for Texas when they didn't do it, and that is really not fair and equitable. So they would be right on that. Do you have any comments on that?
Mr. CUELLAR. Yes, I do, Mr. Chairman. First of all, each State is different. If you look atif you had only one port, you could certainly spend $23 million, whatever the amount might be, because you have got one particular port to deal with. In Texas you have got many ports that handleand we have talked about the volume of traffic.
The issue, a very local issueas you know, politics usually comes down to a local basisthe issue was if you have eight ports for the State of Texasbecause we did pass legislation to try to work with the Federal Government, but we were rebuffed in that particular aspect, but nevertheless we were looking at setting up some port inspections. The issue is if you don't have sufficient money to build them all at the same time, then you have different ports saying, well, why are you going to put ours first, or why are you going to put it this, so it becomes local in nature.
The State of Texas has taken those steps. We did pass the legislation in 1999. We tried to work the Federal Government, but the simple fact is it is just the magnitude of the issue that we have there. We estimate that it will cost us $100 million, and we know that the Federal Government won't give us $100 million, but if they could help us and become partners in some sort of process, that would help us. We want to do it, but we also understand that the solution is multifaceted. The physical location is an important part, but we still want to look at technology, the X-ray machines.
Page 104 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I know there were issues about drugs brought up. In Laredo, the one bridge that you all visited, we got the X-ray machines to check for things that might be in there that are not supposed to be in there. So we are looking at technology; but it has to be personnel, infrastructure, and technology at the same time.
Mr. PETRI. Yes, sir.
Mr. ACKLIE. Mr. Chairman, if I could make a statement relative to logs. I only want, I can't sit here and hear that logs are a joke. I will tell you that there are some companies that may not be in compliance with logs but I think if you take the majority of the U.S. companies, they are in full compliance with the logs.
Congressman Oberstar, most of the people now have on their truck what we call Qualcomm. They also have a computer system that checks that log with where they said they were, and, as a result of that, today there is close to full compliance with logs. And I can't say that on every carrier, but I can say that most of the members of the American Trucking Association carefully check those logs.
There is no way that a responsible carrier is going to take a chance of going out there and have a punitive damage suit brought against them because of the fact that they haven't checked the logs, they aren't watching their drivers.
Our own small company last year, after we went through a system of where we gave them certain points for log violations, discharged 64 drivers on log violations. I think you find that most of the carriers today are very, very serious on it. I just couldn't be here and not say that. Thank you, Mr. Chairman and members.
Mr. OBERSTAR. Would the Chairman yield?
Mr. PETRI. Yes.
Mr. OBERSTAR. You recall I said that those allegations were raised in the course of our hearings leading up to enactment of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and one of the concerns raised by truckers and advocacy groups and trucking companies to close that down. And that was one of the reasons that we enacted that legislation. I appreciate your statement and I think it does reflect progress in the state of the art within the industry.
Page 105 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. ACKLIE. Thank you, sir.
Mr. MEAD. In our workI think it is important to note for the record here the context in which that question was asked, and what our work shows about these logbooks. That question occurred, I think it was Mr. Oberstar who said, is a logbook any good if it is falsified? Or one of the members on the panel did.
The point is, and the inquiry was, do you want to get behind that to find out what is really going on, that the authorities need some capability? What we have found is that there are occasions where you will have two sets of books, and the authorities need to be able on appropriate occasions to get onsite and see your the firms files, not just the log; because the firm that is paying the bills knows how much the drivers work.
Mr. PETRI. Very good. I think, if nothing else, what has come out of this hearing, and a similar one in the Senate, today is that we are very serious about inspection and safety of our truck fleets. And if the people who are operating on the border don't know it, they are going to find out about it one way or another. The best thing would be for them to come into compliance as quickly as possible, and that will minimize the disruption as we move to American standards for operating on American highways, regardless of the origin of the shipment.
With that, I thank you all very much for participating, and this hearing is concluded.
[Whereupon, at 6:50 p.m., the subcommittee was adjourned.]