(June 8) WASHINGTON, D.C. — In a unanimous ruling June 7, the Supreme Court ended a 10-year dispute by clearing the way for Mexican trucks on U.S. highways.

The court’s 9-0 vote struck down a ruling from a lower court that said an environmental analysis was needed before the roads could be opened under the North American Free Trade Agreement.

The borders were originally supposed to be opened in 1994 as part of NAFTA, but the Clinton administration blocked the move citing environmental concerns.

Upon taking office in 2001, the Bush administration repeatedly tried to open the borders but hit numerous roadblocks, including a laundry list of regulations for Mexican trucks that was passed by Congress in early 2002.

The most recent block came from a lawsuit filed in May 2002 by several groups, including consumer advocate group Public Citizen, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters and the California Trucking Association.

The lawsuit contended that the Bush administration ignored environmental laws when it decided to open the border. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco upheld the claims.

That was the ruling overturned by the Supreme Court.

While there was no word from the federal government on when the opening would take place, opinions were varied as to what it would mean for everyone involved.

For those in the produce industry, the ruling means that Mexican drivers could be employed to carry goods in to the U.S., thus eliminating the cost and time needed to transfer loads at the border. Experts predict it also will lower the cost of importing goods from Mexico in general.

However, some shippers claim that the ruling won’t affect their business at all, at least for this growing season.

Chris Ciruli, salesman for Ciruli Bros., Nogales, Ariz., said he hasn’t heard any of his Mexican haulers express interest in taking loads beyond the border areas.

“For us it’s business as normal down here,” he said. “Per mile, we pay more on Mexican freight than for U.S. freight right now. So they are making more money, and they aren’t looking to change right now. And we’ve only got about two months left of shipping (this year) so I don’t see that changing.”