The Senate voted overwhelmingly yesterday in favor of a transportation-spending bill that would place strict safety standards on Mexican-owned trucks before they can gain wider access to U.S. roads as required by NAFTA conventions.

The 70-to-30 procedural vote ended attempts by the Republican minority to choke off the measure. If it becomes law, the bill will require Mexican truckers to submit to a barrage of safety inspections and insurance requirements before their trucks can travel beyond the 20-mile-wide commercial zone currently in place along the border.

President George Bush is committed to opening the border fully to Mexican carriers starting on January 1st to abide by the "open-border" obligations of NAFTA, which the U.S. agreed to eight years ago.

The House version of the bill, passed earlier this summer, included an outright ban on Mexican trucks beyond the commercial zone. However, the Senate measure will most likely wind up in the version of the appropriations bill that is ultimately approved by both chambers.