(Dec. 3) WASHINGTON, D.C. —After years of politically charged debate, President Bush finally lifted the ban on Mexican trucks entering U.S. highways.

After the change in the moratorium, which was made on Nov. 27, Department of Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta ordered the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to get to work on processing the 130 applications already received from Mexican trucking companies wishing to enter the U.S.

While the administration did not have a breakdown of what those companies will be hauling, spokesman Dave Longo said it will likely be a mixture of produce and industrial goods.

There is no word yet on how long it will take to process those applications, but there could be some changes in store for the produce industry once things start rolling.

Lee Frankel, president of the Fresh Produce Association of the Americas, Nogales, Ariz., said U.S. companies that have partnerships with Mexican companies could be among the first to feel those changes.

“It means that a Mexican company can now register its own trucks in the U.S.,” he said. “Whereas before they had to find a U.S. company to sort of cross-lease their trucks. Now they can consolidate their operations to just one office in Mexico.”

Frankel said that Nogales could see some changes as well. The city has earned a reputation as a consolidating area for produce crossing over from Mexico. Now that registered Mexican trucks are allowed to go beyond the city limits that could change.

“It’s been a little difficult for people to load directly from the field to the final destination,” Frankel said. “The issue will be (a question of) does this make (the routes) a bit more streamlined and open things up a bit more to get more people interested in those routes in both directions?”

Frankel said if more companies start shipping direct from the fields of Mexico, Nogales will have to work hard to remain a competitive option.

“The main value that’s added is (a company’s) ability to take advantage of the fact that Nogales is essentially a huge consolidation point and a terminal market for North America,” Frankel said. “We’ll have to work hard to make sure we continue to add value to the supply chain.”