I appreciate the gentleman yielding time.
Mr. Speaker, I rise in very strong support of H.R. 1773, the Safe American Roads Act. This legislation sets out very, very stringent, quantifiable safety standards which the Department of Transportation must meet before permitting Mexican-based trucks to operate through the United States.
Before coming to Congress, I had the pleasure of serving for 8 years as the Michigan Secretary of State with a principal responsibility of being that State's chief motor vehicle administrator. I was also the chairman of the Traffic Safety Commission of my State, and so I had the responsibility for all licensing, commercial drivers licenses as well as hazardous material endorsements. So I had immediate concerns about how the DOT pilot program might compromise the safety of our roads. Here in the United States, we have reciprocity amongst the States so we can share driving records across State lines.
In Mexico, licensing requirements are very poor, and it's well-known that fraud in their system runs rampant. In fact, the Transportation Committee heard in testimony from the DOT's Inspector General that one in five Mexican driving records contained an error of some type. Mr. Speaker, if we had a 20 percent error rate in the United States we would consider it a crisis, and I actually believe that was a very low estimate.
There are also concerns about the insurance provisions of this program. American truckers must carry very expensive insurance policies in the event that they are in an accident. What if it happens that a Mexican truck has an accident somewhere in the United States? Good luck to the victims of that accident who will try to collect on damages from a Mexican company.
I believe that if we let these Mexican truckers into our country with questionable identification and insurance, it exposes American drivers to more dangerous conditions on our roadways.
First of all, because the Mexican drivers are allowed to work far longer hours than our truckers; and secondly, it is well-known that there's widespread drug use in this profession, as the chairman of our subcommittee has already articulated. Presently, there is no system under which secure testing could take place. In fact, it's been said that there is a not a single testing lab in Mexico to ensure that the drivers coming into our country are drug free.
The numbers I think are the easiest way to tell whether or not this proposal is a fair deal for the United States. As soon as this pilot program was announced, 800 Mexican trucking companies lined up to come into the United States. By contrast, only two American companies desired to deliver into Mexico. I think those numbers are very indicative of whether or not this is a fair agreement for the United States.
Because of all of these problems, groups like the Teamsters, as well as the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, also the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety have all come out in opposition to this proposal.
Mr. Speaker, we need to ensure the program can only take place once these trucks and drivers from Mexico can meet the same standards that American trucks and drivers do. Trucks participating in the pilot program will be subject to rigorous safety inspections limited to a total of 1,000. Their drivers must also demonstrate clean driving records and have a proficiency in English.
This legislation as well would require extensive oversight and review of the pilot program from an independent review panel.
I urge my colleagues to support this important legislation.