Border issues, north and south
When he signed the 2009 appropriations bill into law, President Obama ended the controversial pilot program that allowed a limited number of Mexican trucks to drive into the United States. The cross-border program, which went into effect in September 2007, permitted up to 100 Mexican carriers to operate beyond the U.S. border commercial zone and up to 100 U.S. carriers to operate throughout Mexico. However, only 27 Mexican carriers and 10 U.S. carriers were participating in the program.
Sources: Roemer Report (used with permission), OOIDA, Dept. of State Homeland Security.
Now that the United States has halted the program, Mexico’s ambassador to the United States noted that his country could retaliate by placing tariffs on U.S. goods.
The cross-border program has been controversial since its inception. A number of agricultural and business organizations, including the American Trucking Associations, have supported the program and voiced concerns about Mexican retaliation. However, other groups, including certain unions and truck driver associations, have fiercely opposed the program, citing safety concerns and arguing that lower-paid Mexican drivers would take jobs away from American truckers.
The Washington Post recently noted that the program cost U.S. taxpayers $500 million. As one union pointed out, with Mexican trucks averaging three cross-border trips per day, each trip cost more than $300,000.
Shortly after Obama signed the bill ending the pilot program, a group representing owner-operator truck drivers wrote the president to ask that he suspend any immediate plans to re-establish the U.S.-Mexico cross-border trucking program.
The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, which says it represents 160,000 small business truckers, sent a letter contending that the Mexican government should raise its regulatory standards to equal that of the United States and Canada before its motor carriers are allowed full access to U.S. highways.
OOIDA President Jim Johnston referred to the North American Free Trade Agreement to point out that it does not require the United States to make exemptions for safety and security.
The program was required under the NAFTA – signed by the U.S., Canada and Mexico in 1993 – but was implemented as a test program by the Bush administration as a pilot project after the Clinton administration scuttled it early in its administration.
“Mexico-domiciled trucking companies and drivers simply do not contend with a similar regulatory regime in their home country nor must they contend with the corresponding regulatory compliance costs that encumber their U.S. counterparts,” Johnston wrote.
Meanwhile, if you’re planning on driving across the northern border any time soon and returning to the United States, you better have a passport. As of June 1, you’ll need a passport (or a FAST/Express card) to enter Canada and a passport to re-enter the United States.