Life On The Road
Pilot program opens door
Thirteen years after the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was signed, a limited number of Mexican trucks and drivers will be allowed to enter the United States be-ginning in July. Under the same program, U.S. trucks will for the first time be allowed to make deliveries in Mexico. Up until now, trucks from both countries have been restricted for the most part to a zone along the border for loading and unloading cross-border freight.
The introduction of Mexican trucks and drivers to the United States will begin with a yearlong pilot program including as many as 100 Mexican trucking companies that have been screened and approved by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). The FMCSA has reportedly rejected about 800 other Mexican carriers that applied for the pilot program.
The pilot program has created considerable controversy. Proponents say the program will reduce delivery costs by eliminating the inefficient transfer of freight at the border. Opponents, including several truck driver organizations, maintain that the pilot program jeopardizes national security and makes the nation’s highways less safe by allowing trucks (and drivers) into the country which do not meet the same safety standards that U.S. trucks are held to.
When asked what his thoughts were regarding the program to allow Mexican trucks and drivers to travel throughout the United States, Marvin Stewart of Vinegrove, KY, a 25-year over-the-road veteran, said: “I don’t think that’s right. They come in here, they don’t speak English, they don’t know how to drive, they have bad equipment, and the DOT won’t do anything about it. It’s a big issue.”
In May, Congress addressed the safety issue by requiring that Mexico-domiciled trucking companies and trucks participating in the pilot program comply with all applicable U.S. laws. The bill also requires the DOT to coordinate with the Department of Homeland Security before it permits Mexico-domiciled trucks to haul hazardous materials into the country.
The pilot program represents the latest attempt to comply with a NAFTA provision to open the U.S. border fully to Mexico-domiciled motor carriers, a provision that ran afoul of several U.S. laws and congressional mandates governing hours of service, driver training and vehicle safety.
Rodney Spath of Findlay, OH, a professional trucker for 36 years, isn’t convinced that the program is in the U.S. truckers’ best interests. “I think they’re too free with letting just anyone run in and out with their trucks,” he says. “It’s not just the Mexican trucks and drivers. I see more Canadian trucks on the highway in Ohio than I do American trucks, and you know they’re not just hauling in, unloading, reloading and going straight back to their country. They’re out in the middle of nowhere, taking freight from us. Then there are safety issues. Where do you think all of our old, worn-out trucks end up? In Mexico.” to cross-border trucking