(Aug. 6, 2:12 p.m.) The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has extended the cross-border trucking pilot program for two years.

The Aug. 4 announcement in the Federal Register coincided with Congress beginning a month-long recess. The controversial program has faced opposition from both the House and the Senate.

“The administration has shown time and again that when it comes to this program they are willing to run roughshod over Congress and the American public,” Todd Spencer, executive vice president of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, said in a news release. “Announcing this on the first day of the recess is unfortunately par for the course with them.”

The International Brotherhood of Teamsters also has opposed the program, claiming Mexican trucks are unsafe.

The North American Free Trade Agreement called for the U.S. to open its highways to Mexican trucks by 2000, but the U.S. didn’t start a pilot program until last year.

Transportation Secretary Mary Peters announced in February 2007 that a yearlong pilot program would allow Mexican truck drivers to transport goods into the U.S. beyond the 25-mile commercial zone previously imposed at the border. The program was scheduled to begin in September 2007, but Congress passed an amendment to remove funding for the project from the 2008 appropriations bill. Peters started the test anyway, disputing the language of the law.

The program’s uncertain future has limited the number of trucking companies willing to make the required investment to participate, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administrator John Hill said in the Federal Register.

The agency reported that 27 Mexican trucking companies are operating 107 trucks in the U.S. Those carriers have crossed the border 9,983 times since the program started last fall, but only 1,272 of those were long-haul trips that left the commercial zones.

Meanwhile, only 10 U.S. companies with 55 trucks are participating in Mexico. Those carriers have made 2,245 trips across the border.

Hill said he hopes the extension will encourage more companies to participate.