(May 13) SAN FRANCISCO — In spite of a last-minute lawsuit, regulations posted in March by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration went into effect on May 3, clearing the way for Mexican trucks to enter the U.S. as part of the North American Free Trade Agreement.

The lawsuit was filed May 1 by a group that included the California Trucking Association, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters and the California Federation of Labor. The group alleged that the Bush administration had not properly assessed the environmental health dangers of Mexican trucks.

Though the California Trucking Association is a member of the American Trucking Associations, Alexandria, Va., ATA president William Canary issued a statement denouncing the lawsuit and supporting the opening of U.S. borders.

“I want the record straight that (the California association) does not speak for ATA on these issues,” he said.

However, the lawsuit was struck down two days later by the 9th U.S. Court of Appeals in San Francisco, clearing the way for the regulations to go into effect.

The rules state that Mexican carriers can operate within the U.S. once they have filed an application detailing their preparations to meet U.S. safety standards and once they pass a preliminary audit.

Under the new regulations, Mexican carriers applying to operate anywhere in the U.S. will be required to have their own U.S. Department of Transportation number, pass a safety inspection and undergo intense safety monitoring during an 18-month provisional period. In addition, Mexican carriers must provide supplemental safety certifications as part of the application process.

Mexican commercial trucks will be allowed to cross the border only at commercial crossings and only at times when a certified motor carrier safety inspector is on duty.

Furthermore, Mexican carriers wishing to operate within the U.S. must have a drug and alcohol testing program, comply with the U.S. federal hours of service regulations and have adequate data and safety management systems and valid insurance coverage with a company registered in the U.S.