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...more than 1,000 south-of-the-border companies are already allowed to drive cargo beyond the border zone under a long-standing exemption to the U.S. moratorium on Mexican long-haul trucking.
Opening the highways has long been a goal of both the United States and Mexico. Promoters say it will create new business opportunities on both sides of the border and make international trade more efficient. Trucks were supposed to begin rolling both ways in 2000 under the North American Free Trade Agreement, but interest groups in the U.S. blocked it.
Since the moratorium was imposed in 1982, all nonexempt Mexican truckers have had to transfer their loads within 25 miles of the border. In Arizona, the limit is 75 miles. U.S. trucks then drive the goods to their final destination.
U.S. companies have invested millions of dollars in the business of transferring these goods, and U.S. haulers fear companies will replace them with less-expensive Mexican carriers.
But the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has gone ahead with a yearlong pilot program that will allow up to 100 U.S. and Mexican companies to deliver goods directly to points deep inside the neighboring country.
Every Mexican truck entered in the pilot program must be reviewed by U.S. inspectors to make sure it complies with U.S. driving rules and safety standards. Those that pass get a safety decal. "U.S. trucks can operate for many many years without having a safety decal and never be inspected," FMCSA administrator John Hill told The Associated Press in a telephone interview.