James Calloway understands that truckers are required by the
federal government to submit to and pass background checks before being issued
hazmat endorsements for their commercial driver's licenses.
But Calloway was stunned when the U.S. Department of
Transportation announced last week that a pilot program would allow 100 Mexican
motor carriers to bring Mexican truckers into the U.S. without a U.S.-issued
"They're not going to have to have a CDL license but we have
to?" Calloway said. "That's not fair."
Until September 2006, the 71-year-old Calloway had hauled
chemical loads across Houston for years while working for USF Bestway, which is
based in Portland, OR.
Knowing that his CDL was scheduled to expire in September,
Calloway tried to renew the license in July 2006, but was surprised to learn he
needed to show a copy of the birth certificate issued by the state of Louisiana
to his parents in 1935.
"I've had a (CDL) for over 40 years," Calloway said, adding
that he's never had an accident.
Because Calloway has no copy of his birth certificate, he
parked his truck in September when he started trying to obtain a copy of his
birth certificate - he's been out of work ever since.
Louisiana's Department of Health
and Hospitals Office of Public Health in New Orleans hasn't been able to
come up with the birth certificate in nearly five months and officials blamed
Hurricane Katrina for a logjam of personal record requests, Calloway said.
Though the layoff has hurt his bottom line, Calloway said he
has been able to spend more time with his family.
"They call me 'honeydo' now," Calloway said, with a laugh.
Still, Calloway said he'd rather be on the road, afforded
the same rights in his country as drivers from neighboring countries.
"I know the government knows who I am," he said. "I've been
on the books too long."
- By Charlie Morasch,