Plans to open the U.S. border to some Mexican trucks on Sept. 1 have been postponed until at least this Thursday, Sept. 6, as the federal government and groups opposed to Mexican truck access continue to wrangle in the courts and in the court of public opinion.

James Hoffa, general president for the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, said the negative publicity generated by the union’s request for an emergency injunction forced the Bush administration to delay its proposed pilot program. The Teamsters, along with other groups, filed an emergency stay petition with U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit on August 31 in an attempt to stop the border opening. However, the Court did not grant the stay.

“Dangerous trucks should not be driving all the way from Mexico to Maine and Minnesota,” Hoffa said. “The American people understand that, Congress understands that and the Teamsters understand that. What is it about safety and national security that George Bush doesn’t understand?”

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) stated that each year trucks from Mexico make 4.5-million trips across the border into U.S. cities like San Diego, CA, and El Paso, TX while demonstrating a safety performance that meets and, in some cases, exceeds that of U.S.-based trucks.

FMCSA added that its cross-border truck demonstration program will have no impact on safety, given the thorough pre-screening and safety inspections that the 44 trucks expected to participate in the program during its first 30 days will have to pass before being allowed to travel into the U.S. beyond the existing commercial border zones. The year-long pilot program also restricts the number of participating Mexican carriers to no more than 100.

FMCSA also noted the Department of Transportation (DOT) must respond to any concerns raised by Congressionally mandated assessment of the pilot program conducted by its Inspector General – a report that has not been submitted yet – and make sure U.S. carriers receive clearance to operate in Mexico before the pilot program can get underway. Those reasons, said FMCSA, are why the border opening won’t occur until at least September 6.

“The last-minute attempts to block the program are just the desperate efforts of a few people who want to protect their own turf,” said Brigham McCown, an attorney with Winstead PC in Dallas, TX, and FMCSA’s former general counsel, who helped negotiate and design the Mexican truck pilot program.

“We’ve been over this for two decades, [but] what they fail to tell you is that trucks from Mexico that were grandfathered before a moratorium in the 1980s travel down our roads now – without incident – every day, and have done so for years,” McCown said. “What these people are saying is that 10-million professional drivers and a half million U.S. companies will be overwhelmed by a few hundred trucks from Mexico. More important is the fact that, for the first time ever, Mexico must open its markets to U.S. trucks. My money is on the American truckers.”

The Teamsters’ Hoffa, however, said the union remains vehemently opposed to Mexican truckers operating on U.S. roads and will continue fighting to keep the border closed to them.

“I will continue to fight like hell to prevent Mexican trucks from endangering lives throughout the U.S.,” Hoffa said. “I’m confident the court will side with the Teamsters and with the American people by blocking this program before it starts next week. The Teamsters will also ask Congress to block the program as soon as it returns from vacation.”