Obama vows to permit Mexican trucks on US highways

by Jack Minor


President Obama has promised Mexican president, Felipe Calderon, he would find a way to permit Mexican trucks to travel on US freeways and roads despite widespread domestic disapproval of such an action.

 Under the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement signed by then President Bill Clinton, both countries were to open their borders to trucks. That portion of the agreement has never been implemented as it has faced opposition from labor organizations and conservative groups.

 President George W. Bush first allowed the trucks into the country as part of a pilot program. The program was effectively discontinued when Obama signed an omnibus $410 billion spending bill that eliminated funding for the program. Congress had expressed concerns that the safety requirements had not been met.

 Unlike America, Mexico does not have a reliable federal system of background checks prior to issuing a commercial driver’s license. Others have expressed concerns regarding Mexican drivers’ compliance with drug testing standards, physical requirements and safety inspection procedures required by their U.S. counterparts.

 In order to quell concerns over the hours of service by Mexican drivers, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Association announced it had paid for electronic onboard recorders which include global positioning systems to be installed on all Mexican trucks that previously participated in the pilot program established by Bush. The announcement came weeks after the FMCSA announced a proposed rule requiring U.S. carriers to meet the same requirements at their own expense.

 During the pilot program Secretary of Transportation, Mary Peters, and Calvin Scovel III, DOT Inspector General, told a Senate Commerce Committee oversight hearing that drivers were designated at the border as being proficient in English even if the driver only understood the sign in Spanish.

 Sen. Byron Dorgan D-N.D. asked, “Do you show a driver an octagonal ‘STOP’ sign at the border and qualify him if he explains the sign means ‘ALTO’?”

 Alto is the Spanish word for stop.

Scovel reluctantly replied, “Yes, if the stop sign is identified as ‘alto,’ the driver is considered English proficient.”

Labor organizations such as the Teamsters are opposed to opening the roads, citing safety concerns and fear of the loss of trucking jobs to workers who are paid significantly less than their American counterparts.

 Others have questioned the wisdom of allowing trucks from Mexico to enter the country unscreened when the country is engaged in a war with drug cartels.

 Former Congressman and candidate for governor, Tom Tancredo, said allowing entry to the trucks would be a national security concern.

 ”It is ludicrous that we are opening our borders to a country that is presently a narco-terrorist state. You really do not have a legitimate government operating the country of Mexico.” He went on to say he has contacts in the Department of Homeland Security who have told him about the cartels’ influence in Mexico. “When you are dealing with Mexico you are essentially dealing with a narco-terrorist state. The narco-terrorists we call the cartels have as much control in Mexico if not more than the government itself.”

 Following the discontinuation of the pilot program, Mexico retaliated by imposing $2.4 billion in tariffs on some 90 U.S. products. The Mexican government has demanded that Obama must agree to open U.S. roads to long-haul truckers with assurances the program cannot be stopped by Congress before they would agree to lift the tariffs.

 A DOT spokesman told WorldNetDaily the department is currently looking to see if it can find available dollars to fund the program without Congressional approval. Tancredo said he is not sure how Obama can do it without congressional action. “Unless you can do it without any funds whatsoever, there is already a bill by Congress defunding that effort.”

 Following a meeting with Felipe Calderon, president of Mexico, Obama announced at a White House press conference the end of the ban on Mexican trucks entering the U.S.

 The move has angered one of the President’s key constituencies; labor unions. Todd Spencer, executive vice-president of the Owner Operated Independent Trucker Association, said lifting the ban was “simply unbelievable.”

 Spencer went on to say, “For all the President’s talk of helping small businesses survive, his administration is sure doing their best to destroy small trucking companies and the drivers they employ.”

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  • Susan Fox Bailey says:

    Unlike America, mexican drivers don’t dope.

  • There is no need for President Obama to “find a way” to permit Mexican trucks into the United States, something that is not new, but has has occurred for more than 60 years. NAFTA gives him that “way”, by complying with the obligations we agreed to in 1994.

    The opposition to Mexican trucks citing safety is nothing but a smoke screen for protectionism. Teamsters claim it would cost them jobs, yet most Teamster jobs are with LTL (less than truckload) carriers while the few Mexican carriers that would take advantage of this are truckload.

    Warehouse along the border are in states that all have “right to work” laws and are not unionized, so there again, no job losses for the Teamsters.

    And with more than four million licensed CDL drivers in America compared to 250,000 in Mexico, are we to believe that we cannot compete?

    You make a baseless claim, and I don’t fault the writer of this article as he seems to be buying the propaganda sent out by OOIDA, that Mexico does not have a reliable federal system of background checks prior to issuing a commercial driver’s license.

    Unlike the United States, where CDL’s are issued at the State level, following FMCSA rules, the Licencia Federal de Conductor is issued at the Federal level in Mexico. The entire process, from application, testing, medical and drug testing and psychological testing, is done in government facilities by government workers.

    Contrast that to the US where many states allow third party testers, doctor shopping for the DOT medical exam and no background checks unless one is applying for a haz mat endorsement or TWIC card. And forget about a psychological screening,

    People don’t realize either, that unlike Canadians who have carte blanche access to the US, drivers from Mexico must have a valid Mexican passport, apply for and be approved for a border crossing visa and an I-94 entry/exit document. To obtain the visa, they must prove strong ties that would suggest they would return to Mexico.

    Allowing the trucks to enter the US unscreened is a similar untruth. All trucks entering this country are screened at the border through several steps and thanks to requirements from the previous attempt to comply with our obligations, are further screened at State weigh stations and inspection facilities adjacent to each commercial border crossing.

    Over the years, FMCSA studies, reports and statistics confirm that Mexican carriers, trucks and their drivers have a better compliance rate than US or Canadian carriers, a lower out of service rate for both trucks and drivers and a much lower accident rate than either the US or Canada.

    The argument against allowing the trucks continued access has nothing to do with safety or security and everything to do with politics with a little good ol’ fashioned racism thrown in to stir the pot.

    Take “Mexican” out of the title and there is no debate.

  • Joan says:

    OK but you fail to address the issue of wages.

    Who will hire an American firm to haul their freight when Mexican companies can do it cheaper by under cutting wages? That is the problem that the US currently faces – US workers require a living wage.

    Our cost of living is so high compared to Mexico that US compnies will once again sacrifice the American worker in favor of profits.

    In the long run the American trucking companies will go out of business or subcontract to the Mexican firms. Either way the American trucker driver loses.

  • Joan,

    How can they undercut wages? Many Mexican drivers are paid a salary, not a per mile basis.

    The cost of a class 8 tractor in Mexico is slightly more than in the US. Loan rates (interest) is higher, generally 15% or more and the term of the loan is shorter. In the US, 5 or 6 years, in Mexico, 3. Couple that with fuel that is equal in cost to ours. I know. I just fueled my Jeep Wrangler and Jetta Diesel up in Monterrey last week and busted a $100 bill all to hell. They have their own taxes to pay. They must pay into the drivers IMSS (social security account) which gives the driver a small pension at retirement and excellent free or reduced cost health care for life for him and his family. By law, they also must pay the employee a year end bonus equal to a month’s salary. They also provide their drivers a per diem of $200 pesos per day or more, depending on the company.

    Couple all of that with the additional cost of compliance with US laws and regs. US issued insurance or surety bond. IFTA, URP taxes etc and the disparity in wages counts for nothing. The cost per mile for operating a tractor trailer is basically the same in the US, Canada and Mexico. That is, the basic cost. Fuel, maintenance reserve etc.

    The argument of low wages is simply another smokescreen used by opponents since they have nothing else to justify their opposition.

  • Greg says:

    Will U.S. Drivers be allowed into Mexico to the same extent as Mexico’s drivers in the U.S.?
    I have very little faith in their Federal licensing system, as typically their systems run on bribery and nepotism.
    The wage issue is not a “smokescreen” Name me ONE area where workers in Mexico make more than U.S. counterparts (illegal drug trade doesn’t count).

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