By Jami Jones
The cornerstone argument from backers of a long-haul, cross-border trucking program was dealt a huge blow in the days leading up to an expected announcement concerning yet another program.
Proponents of cross-border trucking have relied heavily on the notion that because the requirement is included in the North American Free Trade Agreement, the U.S. has no choice but to open the border to long-haul trucks from Mexico.
Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-OR, initiated a letter calling for the removal of the requirement from NAFTA. The letter gained significant bipartisan support with 77 lawmakers signing on.
The letter, delivered to U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood and U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk in April, laid out the challenges facing the administration in launching another program.
Among the concerns are the security of the U.S., retaliatory tariffs and, most importantly, highway safety.
“We caution the administration that we firmly believe it would be difficult, if not impossible, to receive Congressional support for a cross-border trucking program that allows tens of thousands of Mexican trucks traveling across the lower 48 states,” the letter states.
The letter offers a “solution that has a greater likelihood of success.” That is to renegotiate NAFTA and eliminate the trucking requirement.
“This would remedy all the truck safety, homeland security and unemployment issues associated with this long-standing trade dispute,” the letter states.
The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association applauded the efforts of DeFazio and the other lawmakers to put an end to the debate.
“Mexico’s regulatory standards and enforcement on trucks aren’t even remotely equivalent to what we have here. To open the border at this time is insanity from both an economic standpoint and safety,” said Todd Spencer, OOIDA executive vice president.
Spencer said DeFazio and the other lawmakers “should be applauded for this letter and their ongoing efforts to keep our highways safe and our nation secure.”
OOIDA Director of Government Affairs Rod Nofziger said the call to remove the NAFTA obligation remains a viable alternative for members of Congress to consider once the Obama administration makes its plans for a new program public. LL