OOIDA optimistic NAFTA redo can fix Mexican cross-border trucking

By Sandi Soendker, Land Line editor-in-chief | 10/20/2017

OOIDA Executive Vice President Todd Spencer skips the small talk when talking about Mexican long-haul trucking and the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement.

“It would be nuts to leave this in the agreement, giving Mexico something to use as a hammer to collect tariffs on American goods,” he said Friday. “There is no reason to leave it in the agreement. It doesn’t make economic sense.”

Spencer is seldom without harsh words for the Mexican cross-border trucking, its challenges and its history. “The safety regime in Mexico is in no way compatible with trucking regs here and won’t be for a long time,” he says. “The FMCSA pilot program? What a sham.”

For years, OOIDA and the Teamsters have said that Mexico’s long-haul fleets trucking in the U.S. was a pie-in-the-sky provision in the NAFTA that was so poorly thought out that there’s no way the U.S. should be held to it.

Mexico has disagreed, protesting through the years with retaliatory tariffs.

For more than two decades, the U.S. Department of Transportation has been tasked with finding a way to comply with the trade agreement’s half-baked trucking plan and thereby avoid punishing tariffs.

During the 2017 negotiations to modernize NAFTA, OOIDA has pressed for long-haul trucking to be addressed in Annex II, a part of the agreement “reserved for future measures.”

In a recent letter to U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, Spencer wrote “We hope that NAFTA 2.0 will keep our highways safe from trucks and drivers that do not meet our regulatory standards.”

In the letter, Spencer stated OOIDA, in conjunction with the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, requests that the Office of the United States Trade Representative include long-haul trucking as an exempted service in Annex II of the NAFTA renegotiations. This fix would restrict access to Mexican trucks beyond the Border Commercial Zones and end the unsafe, nonreciprocal trucking program currently in place.

Below is an excerpt from Spencer’s letter on behalf of OOIDA.

“The original NAFTA agreement provided that the U.S. and Mexico would allow each other’s trucks to carry goods across the border to make deliveries anywhere inside their respective nations. However, the United States Department of Transportation continues to make unacceptable special accommodations to Mexico-domiciled motor carriers that the U.S. did not promise or agree to under NAFTA.

“This failed provision has allowed Mexican trucking companies and drivers that are not held to the same, rigorous U.S. safety, security or environmental regulations to operate on American roadways. Following the completion of a dubious Obama administration pilot program, Mexican trucking companies are currently taking away jobs and profits from American drivers and motor carriers. At the same time, Mexican trucks are endangering the motoring public. In fact, the 2016 annual DOT safety statistics showed that the crash rate for Mexican-domiciled carriers was 2.8 times higher than U.S. carriers.

“Mexico’s promise of an equally open border and nationwide access to U.S. motor carriers and drivers is, for all practical purposes, illusory. Since the original agreement, the Mexican border territory has become more dangerous because of drug smuggling and gang violence, providing little incentive for U.S. carriers to engage in business there. The state of Mexico’s infrastructure and the absence of police security in Mexican states far outweigh any economic incentive there might otherwise be to move freight south of the border. Additionally, Mexican trucks have been a conveyance for contraband and undocumented immigrants.”

Land Line Now Reporter Mary McKenna contributed to this article.

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