Interest groups that want to halt the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s cross-border trucking pilot program are lobbying the U.S. Senate to cut off the project’s purse strings – mirroring efforts that had success in the House of Representatives over the last five months.

In May, the House of Representatives voted 411-3 to pass the Safe American Roads Act of 2007, which included restrictions on the cross-border pilot program. In July, the House also approved an amendment by Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR.) to prohibit the use of federal funds for the project.

The Senate has not taken any action yet on this matter, but Todd Spencer, executive vp of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA), expects that stance to quickly change.

“It may be called a pilot program, but anyone who understands the full scope knows it’s a pre-ordained plan to fully open our borders, all in the name of economics and cheap labor,” he said. “They are determined to open our highways to Mexico-domiciled trucking companies regardless of the public’s concerns and what’s in the law book.”

Jim Hoffa, president of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters union, is also urging the Senate to act swiftly and decisively to pull funding from what he terms the “illegal Mexican truck program.” He said the Senate is expected to vote on an amendment to the 2008 Transportation Appropriations bill offered by Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-ND) that mirrors language passed by the House.

Hoffa said the Dept. of Transportation’s Inspector General reported last week that five states say they aren’t ready to enforce safety rules for the pilot project – Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, Rhode Island and Utah – and that seven jurisdictions-- the District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, New Mexico, Utah and Washington State-- don’t have procedures in place for enforcing restrictions on point-to-point deliveries within the U.S., a practice known as cabotage.

According to news reports, the first Mexican truck allowed beyond the 25-mile commercial border zone crossed from Mexico into Laredo, TX, at 12:51 a.m. Saturday and traveled through Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and South Carolina to North Carolina, where it delivered a load of steel.