Mexican truckers protest on Laredo bridge

| Monday, June 16, 2003

Several Mexican truckdrivers temporarily held up traffic near the Colombia Solidarity International Bridge June 12 in an attempt to send a message to U.S. inspectors, the Laredo Morning Times reported.

Mexican and U.S. officials stood ready to respond when they learned of flyers announcing a demonstration that would be held at the Colombia and World Trade International Bridges against the Texas departments of Public Safety and Transportation.

The flyers appeared to be printed by an alliance of Mexican tractor-trailer owner-operators who were urging other Mexican drivers to put a stop to alleged harassment they receive during bridge safety inspections.

An official of the Policia Federal Preventiva said that the demonstration proved to be small, but resulted in 17 tractor-trailers holding up traffic in Nuevo Laredo near the Colombia International Bridge.

The Mexican officer reported the tractor-trailer drivers formed a line honking their horns and came to a halt about 45 minutes around noon, but were eventually forced to move on by law-enforcement officials.

Capt. Mario Salinas of the Department of Public Safety said the demonstration never reached the U.S. side of the border. Salinas said after DPS inspectors interviewed numerous drivers crossing the bridge, they concluded several small drayage companies initiated the protest after they were put out of service for equipment violations.

"This problem goes back a long way," he pointed out.

Salinas explained that at the initiation of NAFTA in 1995, safety inspections for tractor-trailers were implemented at the International Bridges.

In efforts to assist the transit companies, DPS began to meet with Mexican officials to offer classes that would provide information as to their new equipment regulations on tractor-trailers, Salinas said.

"But back then, we had less manpower at the bridges, and the small companies would see us there for only a couple of hours and would ignore the mandates," he said. But manpower has significantly increased, inspections have become more intense and transportation companies are now feeling the consequences, Salinas said.

Salinas said he did not know what kind of statement the drivers would be making by trying to park on the bridges.

"Holding up the bridges would only hurt their own commerce," he said.

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