SPECIAL REPORT: Mexican carriers want out of pilot program

| 3/28/2007

Wednesday, March 28, 2007 - A trade association representing Mexican motor carriers has asked the Mexican Senate to cancel the cross-border pilot program with the United States.

"CANACAR has formally requested not to open the borders for trans-border services and to have the pilot program suspended until conditions for a fair competitive environment are existing and that the Mexican trucking industry has the guarantee of not being subject to unfair inequitable and discretional treatment by U.S. authorities," CANACAR National President Tirso Martinez Angheben wrote in a press release.

Angheben appeared before the Communication and Transportation Committee of the Mexican Senate this past week to explain why the transportation industry opposes the opening of trans-border services and the pilot program between the U.S. and Mexico, according to a press release issued by CANACAR.

CANACAR is an organization which represents the general interests of the Mexican Trucking industry.

The group claims the U.S. government has not complied with agreements established in the 1995 North American Free Trade Agreement. Mexican trucking companies were not allowed to invest in U.S.-based trucking businesses or allowed to provide services within the U.S.

However, according to the Angheben, U.S.-based trucking companies have invested in infrastructure within Mexico and already have a "commercial presence in our country . which represents a commercial disadvantage of a great importance."

In the released message, Angheben said he also told the Mexican Senate committee that the regulations facing Mexican trucking companies coming into the U.S. "include uneven regulation for Mexican carriers that will not guarantee a fair competitive market in U.S. territory."

Angheben said the pilot program moved forward without Mexican Senate approval and without input from the Mexican motor carrier industry.

The CANACAR president told the committee that opening the border will not have any benefits to Mexico because:

  • Transportation prices in Mexico are lower than in the USA;
  • It will cause transportation prices in Mexico to increase;
  • It will not accelerate the border crossing process;
  • It will generate strong pressure on salaries paid to Mexican drivers, which in turn will increase the cost of domestic freight in Mexico; and
  • The Mexican government lacks the capacity and infrastructure to supervise U.S. carriers entering Mexico and to prevent foreign companies from providing domestic transportation only reserved for Mexican nationals.

This isn't the first time CANACAR has tried to shut down a NAFTA provision.

In 2001, the group petitioned the Mexican Senate to cancel the trucking section of NAFTA.

"The majority of people in the United States don't want Mexican trucks to go there, and we told our president that we don't want to go, either," said CANACAR president Manuel Gomez in 2001. "Nor are we interested in having U.S. trucks come to Mexico."

Meanwhile, back in the states
Movement to delay the pilot program continues in the U.S. Senate with the debate of the supplemental appropriations bill. The bill includes an amendment that would restrict spending any money on allowing Mexican motor carriers to operate beyond the border zone until three conditions are met. Those conditions are:

  • Granting such authority must first be tested as part of a pilot program;
  • The pilot program must comply with the requirements of Section 350 of the 2002 appropriations legislation and the requirements of Section 31315(c) of Title 49, United States Code, related to the pilot programs; and
  • Simultaneous and comparable authority to operate within Mexico is made available to motor carriers domiciled in the United States.

Murray submitted the amendment to the Senate Committee on Appropriations and it was accepted on a voice vote - with no opposition.

The only discussion related to the amendment was brought up by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-CA, one of the co-sponsors of the amendment. The amendment was also co-sponsored by Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-ND.

Feinstein discussed the fairness - or lack thereof - of allowing Mexico-domiciled motor carriers to operate within the U.S., while the Mexican government isn't ready to allow U.S. motor carriers access to Mexico.

The amendment was introduced because of concerns raised during a Senate subcommittee hearing on March 8.

Thursday things will also heat up on the House side of Congress, when Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-CA, will introduce a bill titled the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) Trucking Safety Act.

The NAFTA Trucking Safety Act looks to clarify and strengthen current regulations imposed on Mexican motor carriers entering the United States beyond commercial zones along the international border.

- By Jami Jones, senior editor

Staff writer Clarissa Kell-Holland contributed to this report.