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Decatur steel making rare trip to Mexico
Truck approved to access U.S. roads through pilot program stops here; Congress may halt future trips

By Holly Hollman 340-2445

The lone truck from Mexico that received Department of Transportation approval to access U.S. roadways as part of a pilot program picked up steel in Decatur, but the exact location is unclear.

Steel from Nucor?

The truck may have gotten the steel at Nucor Steel.

Nucor General Manager Rex Query said the company has not scheduled any deliveries to Mexico but did have a customer pick up a load of steel to take to Laredo, Texas. Query said he did not have any further details.

"I don't know what was to happen with the steel once it got to Laredo," he said.

Under the pilot program allowing this truck to reach Decatur, up to 100 Mexican carriers were to send trucks on U.S. roadways for delivery and pickup of non-hazardous cargo. The program is part of the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Checks were so tight that only one truck, from Mexico's northern city of Monterrey, made it deep into the U.S. in the five days the project lasted, Reuters reported. The truck, a carrier for Transportes Olympic, delivered cargo to North Carolina on Monday and picked up steel in Decatur sometime this week. It was to cross back into Mexico through Laredo at the end of this week, according to Jose Gil, the truck company's traffic manager.

Gil told the Associated Press the steel was to be resold in Mexico.

Until the Mexican carrier's venture to North Carolina and Decatur this week, Mexican carriers were restricted to a commercial border zone. That zone stretched 20 miles inside the United States, except in Arizona, where it was 75 miles.

The Transportes Olympic carrier may be the last truck to travel beyond those zones. The issue of giving Mexican carriers more access to U.S. roads has been a decade-long dispute.

American unions have protested the pilot program, and some lawmakers have said they are concerned about safety.

Senate votes to stop funding

On Tuesday, the U.S. Senate voted to stop the program's funding.

The U.S. House of Representatives approved a similar provision in July.

That makes the rare occurrence of a Mexican carrier in Decatur even more notable, and whether it made that rare appearance at Nucor is speculation.

Query said typically Nucor enters into agreements with Mexican companies to deliver 2,000 tons of steel or more per month for three to six months.

"We usually ship by rail and in large volume," Query said. "A truck would only hold one coil, about 22 tons."

The company does let customers pick up steel, like the truck that picked up a load for Laredo, but whether that truck was Mexico bound is not known. Query said it's just as likely that the lone Mexican carrier made its pickup elsewhere.

Decatur has several smaller companies that process steel, and the Mexican carrier could have picked up steel at any of them.

- The associated press and reuters contributed to this story.

Copyright 2005 THE DECATUR DAILY. All rights reserved.
AP contributed to this report.

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