Congress members urge repeal of Mexican truck program
In April, 78 members of Congress sent a bipartisan letter to Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood and U.S. Trade Representative Ronald Kirk asking that they renegotiate the section of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) that opens U.S. roadways to unsafe Mexican trucks.
“Mexico has no meaningful system for commercial driver’s licenses, drug testing or hours of service. This is a trade agreement that threatens the safety of the American public. Mexico has no right to use tariffs to force unsafe trucks with exhausted over-worked, under-paid drivers into the United States,” said Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Oregon), who led the effort.
A news release from DeFazio’s office noted that objection to the Bush Administration’s cross-border trucking program was predominantly due to Mexico’s less stringent regulations on hours-of-service, vehicle safety, and driver training and licensing. “This poses a threat to the traveling American public. Congress has repeatedly and overwhelmingly rejected the cross-border program because it failed to adequately protect Americans from unsafe Mexican trucking standards. In a Congress that rarely agrees on anything, this issue has unified Democrats and Republicans on both sides of the Hill,” the release said.
“The Obama Administration proposal has not been made public, and I have not seen it, but I am skeptical that Congress will approve any program of this kind,” DeFazio continued. “The safety concerns are just too big an obstacle to overcome.”
According to DeFazio’s office, NAFTA does not bind the U.S. to accept subpar safety standards; however, the Mexican government is insisting the U.S. move forward with cross-border trucking and has instituted retaliatory, politically aimed tariffs until the program is in place. The letter offers the “only workable solution to the current gridlock” on the issue: renegotiate the section of NAFTA that requires a commitment to liberalize cross-border trucking. This would remedy all the truck safety, homeland security and unemployment issues associated with this long-standing trade dispute. A successful renegotiation would also eliminate the tariffs, which are negatively impacting the export markets in the United States.
The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) applauded DeFazio’s letter calling for the administration to start the process of removing cross-border trucking provisions with Mexico from NAFTA. “Every year, U.S. truckers are burdened with new safety, security and environmental regulations. Those regulations come with considerable compliance costs,” said Todd Spencer, executive vice president of OOIDA. “To open the border at this time is insanity from both an economic standpoint and safety.”
DeFazio’s letter and the OOIDA both noted that there has been no comprehensive independent review to assess whether Mexico’s trucking standards and driver licensing and safety rules are equivalent to the requirements of the United States.