The U.S. and Mexico formalized a cross-border trucking program that will end more than $2 billion of tariffs on exported U.S. goods and open up U.S. roadways to approved Mexican trucks.

According to the Dept. of Transportation, the agreement calls for Mexican trucks to comply with all Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards and they must utilize electronic monitoring systems to track hours-of-service compliance. DOT will also review driving records and require drug testing of all drivers, to be analyzed by the Dept. of Health and Human Services at approved U.S. labs.

Mexican drivers will also have to prove “their ability to understand the English language and U.S. traffic signs.”

U.S. carriers will receive reciprocal authority to operate in Mexico.

Mexico will lift 50% of tariffs within 10 days on products are varied as apples, pork, and personal care products under terms of the agreement. The remainder of the tariffs will be removed with five days of the first Mexican trucking company to receive U.S. operating authority.

“The agreements signed today are a win for roadway safety and they are a win for trade,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in a press statement. “By opening the door to long-haul trucking between the United States and Mexico, America’s third largest trading partner, we will create jobs and opportunity for our people and support economic development in both nations. I thank President (Calderon and Secretary Perez-Jacome for their leadership and for their partnership as we build a safer, more prosperous future for North America and the world.”

The agreement, officially signed this morning by LaHood and Mexican transportation secretary Arturo Pèrez-Jàcome Friscione in Mexico City, was immediately met with criticism from the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Assn. (OOIDA).

“If the agreement is good for the U.S. why the hell is he (LaHood) sneaking down there to sign it?” said Jim Johnston, president of OOIDA. “So much for their supposed transparency. Why not let the public see the details before signing the agreement? Seems like the administration is dead set on caving to Mexico’s shakedown regardless of the costs to the American public and our tax coffers.”

“If we’re going to boost U.S. exports and create jobs here at home, we must hold on to our major export markets, such as Mexico, where American companies are already doing well. Today’s news will help American businesses to do just that,” said Thomas J. Donohue, U.S. Chamber of Commerce president & CEO. “We commend the administration for reaching an agreement that paves the way for an immediate 50% reduction in Mexico’s retaliatory tariffs on $2.4 billion worth of U.S. exports. We hope to see the remaining tariffs eliminated soon.”

According to DOT, the final agreement takes into consideration more than 2,000 comments received to the proposal that was published in April by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

Click here to view documents detailing the agreement.