American Automobile Assn. (AAA) of Texas said it is urging Congress to significantly increase the safety inspections of Mexican trucks before allowing them unrestricted access to roads in the U.S. as provided under NAFTA.

Currently, trucks based in Mexico are allowed to travel up to 20 miles inside the U.S. border. Under the Bush administration's proposal, Mexican trucks would be allowed unrestricted access for up to 18 months before audits and safety inspections of the owner's facilities, drivers and their practices would be conducted.

"Texas motorists are concerned about the safety of these trucks and their drivers," said AAA Texas public and government affairs manager Anne O'Ryan. "Until recently, Mexico had few safety or enforcement standards for the vehicles or the drivers."

Texas state safety officials estimate that half of the short-haul trucks from Mexico don't meet U.S. safety standards. The U.S. DOT says that more than 35% of trucks from Mexico were taken out of service for safety violations in 2000, compared to 24% for U.S. trucks and 17% for trucks from Canada.

AAA Texas wants to see on-site safety audits done before letting the trucks cross the border; improvements in safety inspections at the border including enforcement of U.S. weight limits; adequate resources for enforcement throughout the U.S.; adequate and verifiable insurance on each vehicle; shared tracking of the company's truck and driver safety records between U.S. and Mexican authorities; and enforcement of safety laws, including limiting the number of continuous hours spent driving.