On July 7, 2011, a North American Free Trade Agreement was signed, with little public notice, to allow Mexican trucking companies to haul products on U.S. soil. This agreement is for a period of three years and is related to a proposal presented in 2009. When President Obama signed this agreement, it was on the basis that there were not enough American truckers available for the jobs and that it would reduce the cost of goods, such as produce, received from that country.
Before this trade agreement, Mexican goods and produce would be hauled to the U.S. borders where they would be transferred to U.S. trucks and hauled to their destination. This provided many jobs for U.S. truckers. Under the new agreement, approved Mexican companies are allowed to haul these items from origin to delivery. They are also allowed to haul American goods back to Mexico. The first Mexican trucking company to cross the border, in October 2011, was hauling construction equipment. There have been 30 loads hauled across the border since that time.
One strong objection to the agreement came from Oregon Congressman Peter DeFazio, chairperson of the Highway and Transit subcommittee in a letter to the U.S. Department of Transportation. He wrote, “…it is my understanding the DOT will grant Mexican carriers the same provisional operating authority it grants any new U.S. motor carrier seeking interstate authority. After 18 months, this authority becomes permanent indefinitely…the permanent authority will not be revoked – even if Congress or DOT terminates the pilot program…this means that some carriers will receive permanent authority almost immediately.” He further states, “…, please provide me with the specific legal authority the Department relies on to expend Highway Trust Fund dollars to implement the pilot program and purchase equipment to be used and retained by Mexican carriers…As we debate deep and harsh cuts to programs that help middle class families, it is outrageous that taxpayers are being told to foot the bill for the Mexican trucking industry to comply with American safety standards.”
A great deal of concern has been raised over the safety of these trucks on American highways. In 2011, Mexico registered 30,000 truck accidents on Mexico’s federal highways, 900 with double trailers. One accident collided with a bus and killed several people. OOIDA and Teamsters have long claimed that that country’s trucks are “dangerous and unsafe”.
The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association also objected and filed a petition with the U.S. Court of Appeals requesting a review of its legality. They pointed out that it would not only undermine the standard of living for the driver community but also jeopardize the livelihood of U.S. truckers.
James Hoffa, president of the Teamsters union, has stated that this puts thousands of trained U.S. drivers out of work. In addition, he points out that the drivers have no driving qualifications record, are not in a database, and do not keep logbooks.
On March 8, 2012, The Teamsters Union filed counter arguments in a lawsuit against the DOT (U.S. Department of Transportation)’s pilot program allowing Mexican trucks. This case joins that of the original suit filed by the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association against FMCSA (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration).
Issues addressed were:
- U.S. truckers were harmed by a program that opens the border to dangerous, dirty trucks and low paid drivers.
- Mexican carriers are not required to follow U.S. safety regulations.
- Program administrators are not including all Mexican trucks and drivers in their statistical numbers, only ones with safety records.
- U.S. truckers do not have a similar access to Mexican markets.
- Waives the law for trucks to display they meet federal safety standards.
- Does not meet the National Environmental Policy Act.
- And other issues.
The outcome of this lawsuit will affect all American truck drivers. All should maintain attention as it goes through the courts.