Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) recently told Congress
that truck safety is not the only concern that should worry officials
when the U.S. border opens to Mexican trucks.
remain involving immigration, customs, reduced tax revenue for
roads, national security implications, and lack of clear enforcement.
To be specific,
due to fuzzy enforcement responsibilities, some states even now
simply "waive foreign trucks through the weigh station while
U.S. trucks are stopped and put through the normal inspections.
is an outrageous state of affairs that we did not bargain for
in the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)," said
OOIDA Executive Vice President Todd Spencer.
To make the
point, Spencer told Congress of an e-mail he received from a frustrated
Vermont state trooper. In March this year, the trooper identified
and turned over to the Border Patrol a Mexican National who was
deported in 1997.
But no one
seemed interested in enforcement, either because local officials
were unfamiliar with federal regulations, or because the officials
were unsure of their jurisdiction.
the truck in question had 1,046,000 miles on it and was "in
terrible shape," the trooper reported.
an inspection completed in May 2001 listed numerous defects. But
four other inspections dated after May 2001 showed no defects.
However, the trooper found that three of the original listed defects
still existed. Even the driver said they had never been fixed.
are too many of these gypsy truckers who don't pay their fuel
taxes or registration fees, operate unsafe trucks, are not paying
income tax, social security and probably are not insured,"
the trooper said, adding that "perhaps you could point me
in the direction of some legislators who actually care about this
situation, since the one's in Vermont don't."
"State officials do not have the training to recognize whether
a truck is in compliance with customs rules, whether a driver
is in compliance with immigrations rules, or whether a load is
being hauled legally under NAFTA rules," Spencer said. Even
if they have the training, they lack the authority to take enforcement
Even if the border opens to Mexican trucks, American truckers
won't be allowed to enter Mexico. That's because Mexican labor
groups and the Mexican federal transportation agency have pressured
President Vincente Fox to bar American trucks.
But the most
serious concern should be the relative ease of getting a Commercial
Driver's License (CDL) in Mexico.
is less than confident in the security of the Mexican system to
issue CDLs," Spencer said. "Beyond whether or not a
Mexican CDL indicates whether a driver is qualified to drive a
truck, we understand that it is relatively easy to purchase a
Mexican CDL if you know the right people or have enough money."
What happens if a Mexican driver travels to San Francisco to deliver
goods and picks up a load that requires him to drive to another
state? "If foreign drivers come into the country legally,
and then begin transporting shipments from point-to-point within
our domestic marketplace, they are performing work not permitted
by NAFTA," Spencer said.
foreign trucks don't face the same environmental requirements
as U.S. trucks; Mexican trucks avoid federal fuel taxes when they
fuel up in Mexico and burn that fuel on American roads; and competition
from lower-paid Mexican drivers will lower the income of already
poorly paid American truck drivers.
testimony was submitted June 27 to a joint hearing between the
U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce Science and Transportation,
Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine Subcommittee; and the
Senate Committee on Appropriations, Transportation Subcommittee.
Spencer said: "We encourage these committees to continue
close scrutiny of the FMCSA's safety enforcement effort. The standard
you set should be whether the United States is adequately prepared
to ensure that Mexican trucks and drivers comply with our laws
and are safe; not whether the department is doing the best it
can with its limited resources and staff. But we also encourage
the committee to adopt as broad a view of NAFTA compliance as
our trade negotiators took when they drafted the agreement. There
are more requirements in NAFTA than safety, and if we ignore them,
the negative effects of non-compliance will greatly compromise
whatever benefits we may see through freer trade."