By Jami Jones, senior editor
A California lawmaker who is “not convinced” that the country is ready for a cross-border trucking program with Mexico is calling for Congressional hearings before the border is opened.
U.S. Rep. Bob Filner, D-CA, is calling on the leadership of the House of Representatives’ Transportation and Infrastructure, Highways and Transit Subcommittee and the Committee on Homeland Security to hold hearings on the administration’s plans for a cross-border trucking program with Mexico.
The Jan. 28 letter was sent to T&I Committee Chairman John Mica, R-FL, and ranking member Rep. Nick Rahall, D-WV; Subcommittee on Highways and Transit Chairman John J. Duncan Jr., R-TN, and ranking member Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-OR; and Committee on Homeland Security Chairman Peter King, R-NY, and ranking member Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-MS.
“My Congressional district encompasses the entire California/Mexico border, and is home to some of our nation’s busiest border crossings,” Filner wrote. “I do not believe the administration has any real sense of the impact of their proposal on road safety, border wait times, jobs or national security.”
Filner outlined a number of concerns that he is “not convinced that appropriate checks are in place to ensure the safety of Mexican trucks that are coming across the border.”
In addition to the lack of personnel on the border to conduct comprehensive inspections, Filner points out that it is “far too easy to forge drivers’ certifications and logbooks.”
“Without appropriate checks, Mexican trucks will continue to pose a safety hazard to the traveling public and should not be allowed on our roads,” Filner wrote.
His criticisms of a cross-border program did not stop with concerns for safety on the roads in the U.S.
“The Mexican government has stated that it will allow reciprocal access for American trucks in Mexico, but this proposal is laughable! The horrifying drug violence in Mexico makes certain that American truckers are not safe crossing the border,” Filner wrote. “Even the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has warned trucking companies to stay out of Mexico due to the high number of hijackings.”
The letter also details potential negative impacts on the U.S. economy and efficient movement of goods.
“Allowing Mexican trucks into the United States would also harm American workers. Unemployment is still high across the United States,” he wrote. “We cannot allow low wage Mexican drivers to put our nation’s truck drivers out of work and our trucking companies out of business.”
Border congestion is a battle California border entries face already, and Filner cannot see how that situation will improve with an influx of additional trucks from Mexico.
Filner also sent a letter to OOIDA President and CEO Jim Johnston, which not only expressed his concern over opening the border, but asked for the Association’s assistance in educating the administration on the concerns with opening the border.
“I hope we can work together to educate members of Congress and the Obama administration on the dangers posed by the trucks,” Filner wrote to Johnston.
“He hit the target exactly in his letters,” Johnston said. “We are absolutely very supportive, and we will be participating fully.”
Filner hit the target “dead on” on the arguments against opening the border with Mexico, and Johnston was also very supportive of Filner’s assessment on the likelihood of reciprocity for U.S. truckers.
“Reciprocity is an issue that is mostly overlooked,” Johnston said. “We were supposed to be able to run down there, too. There is no way that can happen under current conditions or even in the foreseeable future,” Johnston said. “The provision in NAFTA says that each country shall allow similar treatment – national status – from those from the other country. It’s not possible. So it’s not just us violating NAFTA. It’s impractical for that to even go into effect.
“The best course of action is through the legislature, and it is absolutely important that members contact their representatives and urge them to call for these hearings as well,” Johnston said.
He said the concerns of truckers are well documented through the Association’s efforts in preventing a cross-border program, and Filner stated them eloquently as well.
“It’s critical to voice these concerns to your lawmaker,” Johnston said. LL