Senators Patty Murray (D-WA) and Richard Shelby (R-AL) offered a compromise on new rules governing the safety of Mexican trucks in the United States, hoping to avoid President George W. Bush's threatened veto of a $60 billion transportation bill, according to a report by theAssociated Press.

The Bush administration has proposed permitting Mexican companies that say they comply with U.S. safety standards to operate in the country for 18 months while their claims are verified. The compromise calls for vehicle and driver inspections for Mexican trucks every 90 days. Other provisions of the proposed compromise include:

  • Requiring special weigh-in-motion scales to determine whether moving trucks are overweight and consequently require further examination at the 10 busiest crossings. The original proposal would have mandated the scales at all commercial crossings.
  • Allowing the Transportation Department to create specific safety policies for the trucks without going through a more lengthy public regulatory process. The policies will deal with the number of inspectors on the border, a ban on foreign trucking companies found to be operating illegally and a prohibition on leasing vehicles to companies that are suspended or otherwise restricted in the United States.
  • Allowing vehicle insurance companies to be licensed in the United States, rather than based and licensed in the U.S. as previously proposed.

Among other provisions, NAFTA, which was established in 1993, gave trucking companies from the U.S., Canada and Mexico the right to operate freely within their neighbor’s borders. However, the U.S. has delayed full implementation of those rights for Mexican truckers, largely because of concerns over Mexican truck safety.

Currently, Mexican trucks can only operate within a 20-mile border area in four southwestern states. Mexico President Vincente Fox said September 6 he would close his country to U.S. trucks if the United States won’t fully open its border to Mexican trucks.

The Bush administration has proposed permitting Mexican companies that say they comply with U.S. safety standards to operate in the country for 18 months while their claims are verified.

Todd Webster, a spokesman for Murray, chair of the appropriations transportation spending panel, told APthe plan softens requirements for insurance and safety inspections.

The Senate approved in August the transportation appropriations bill, which includes 22 new safety provisions Mexican trucks will have to meet before being permitted to travel in the U.S. The provisions approved by the Senate are tougher than those approved by Congress in July and could stall President Bush’s plan to give Mexican trucks full access to U.S. highways by January 1.