On NAFTA cross-border trucking: We don’t have to do this

By Rod Nofziger
OOIDA director of government affairs


On the Mexican cross-border trucking issue, proponents keep saying “we said in NAFTA we would do it, and now it’s time for us to do what we said we would do.” This line is getting really old, and it’s inaccurate as hell.

NAFTA gives each party to the agreement the right to “adopt, maintain or apply any standards-related measure, including any such measure relating to safety, the protection of human, animal or plant life or health, the environment or consumers, and any measure to ensure its enforcement or implementation.”

It does ask that these measures be non-discriminatory. For example, one country can’t treat “service providers” like truckers from another country any less favorably than it would “in like circumstances” treat its own or another country’s service providers.

Back in 2001, a NAFTA Arbitral Panel decided the U.S. was in violation of NAFTA for not processing the applications of motor carriers to run in the U.S. You hear that info cited a lot.

The part you don’t hear is that even so, the panel affirmed the right of the U.S. to “set the level of protection that they consider appropriate in pursuit of legitimate regulatory objectives,” including the “safety of trucking services.”

The panel did not require that the U.S. provide favorable considerations to all or to any specific number of applications from Mexican-owned trucking firms, when it is clear that a particular applicant may be unable to comply with the U.S. trucking regulations when running on U.S. highways.

What that means is that under NAFTA, the U.S. may establish safety standard-related measures and say no to U.S. operating authority on an individualized basis to Mexican carriers that are not able to meet those safety standards. Even if it goes so far as to determine that no Mexican carrier is currently able to meet those standards.

We can say stop the cross-border plan. We can say, “no can do.”

Signing NAFTA did not take away our nation’s privilege to call bull crap on a bad program.