Shortly after a coalition of more than 100 trade associations urged U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to keep trucking provisions allowing long-haul trucks from Mexico in a renegotiated North American Free Trade Agreement, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association sent a letter to Lighthizer with a counterargument: NAFTA’s Mexican long-haul truck program was a failure and needs to go.
The White House
U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer
In a letter to Lighthizer dated Nov. 17, OOIDA stated its case against the provision allowing long-haul trucks from Mexico after a coalition sent a letter to Lighthizer on Nov. 14 arguing to keep the provision. OOIDA argues that stakeholders who are in favor of keeping Mexican trucks in any updated version of NAFTA are making “false claims about the current state of cross-border Mexican trucking.”
“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 1.0,” OOIDA says in the letter. “This failed program 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 which has resulted in higher crash rates.”
According to OOIDA’s letter, Mexican carriers were involved in 149 crashes this past year which caused 76 injuries and four fatalities. Adjusted to vehicle miles traveled, that translates to 414.7 crashes per 100 million vehicle miles traveled. The national average for U.S. carriers is 148.5 crashes per 100 million vehicle miles traveled.
OOIDA also pointed out that Mexican trucks are not held to the same EPA standards as U.S. carriers. Mexican trucks and equipment only need to be compliant with EPA’s 2004 standards. U.S. carriers are subject to EPA regulation updates established in 2007 and 2010. OOIDA argues that this allows Mexican carriers to purchases trucks at a much lower cost.
The Office of the United States Trade Representative hosted a three-day public meeting in Washington, D.C., in late June on “matters relevant to the modernization” of the North American Free Trade Agreement in the ramp up to the ongoing negotiations.
Nearly 140 witnesses from the U.S., Canada, and Mexico offered suggestions. OOIDA Executive Vice President Todd Spencer delivered comments on behalf of the Association’s members.
Spencer made it clear that OOIDA is adamant that the cross-border trucking program with Mexico should be dropped from the program.
“The system we have that has been in place for years – trailers being swapped at the borders – and has been going on with Mexico for years works well,” he says. “For economic reasons, it doesn’t really work for Mexican trucks to cross the border and go too far beyond the commercial zones.”
The fifth round of NAFTA negotiations began Nov. 15 and is expected to conclude Nov. 21. Details regarding the specifics of the negotiations are mostly unknown since talks are taking place behind closed doors. The three NAFTA ministers agreed to step back this time around to provide negotiators with more time to analyze proposals and conduct internal consultations, according to a U.S. Trade Representative Office news release.
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