At the Border

| May 28, 2001

Currently, Mexican drivers make 10 cents per mile. The rate is uniform, whether you’ve been driving for 50 days or 50 years. There are some who get a percentage of the load, around 13 percent. To make $400 a week is doing extremely well in Mexico. More common is $100 or $200 a week.

The standard of living is lower in Mexico, so people can live on less money. Still, Mexican truckers say they do not save anything, and that all their earnings go to their families.

“It’s not easy – we live day to day,” says Garcia of his family of a wife and three daughters. “I have to work four or five months to make what an American does in one month. With NAFTA, hopefully there will be more equilibrium.” Garcia drives 70 hours per week and makes about $400.

“They make four times what we make, so they want to keep the border closed,” Mexican driver Facundo Monje says of American drivers.

U.S. drivers say they don’t want inferior Mexican trucks crossing the border. “I’ve seen some of the stuff coming across the border, and I wouldn’t ride around the block in them,” Swindell says. “I saw one today that looked like it was homemade.”

How bad are Mexican trucks? They’re highly variable. For example, about half of the trucks in the fleet of TransMex – Swift’s Mexican subsidiary – are 2001 Freightliners. These trucks zip past old cabovers that chug up hills at about 20 mph.

Some Mexicans insist their trucks are no worse than U.S. trucks. Driver Facundo Monje points to a row of U.S.-made trucks and says, “These trucks are imported. Do they seem bad to you? The United States is the 100 percent beneficiary of all the cargo we transport. What is the problem with our trucks and drivers?” Monje has just driven 30 hours from Acapulco to the border empty, at a rate of 8 cents per mile.

But Fields captures the feeling of most American drivers: “We’ve got enough trouble up here with American trucks,” he says. “I’m for free trade, but I don’t approve at all of having their rickety, old trucks up here running over our people.”

Hard data is not available on comparative truck safety. “I’m not aware of any studies showing that Mexican trucks have a more hazardous safety record than their U.S. counterparts,” says Thomas Fullerton, a border scholar at the University of Texas at El Paso. “Most Mexican trucks have been purchased in the United States, once fleet operators have decided to replace them. So they typically require more maintenance. On average they probably are more dangerous.”

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Fullerton points out that Mexican trucks have been crossing the border since the mid-1980s to pick up U.S. exports to haul into Mexico. “Mexican trucks go as far north as Colorado, as far west as California,” he says. “Since they’re not bringing Mexican products into the United States, they don’t fall under U.S. regulations.” The shippers are Mexican companies hauling U.S. exports such as food into Mexico, he explains.

Fullerton, an economics professor, does not see older trucks as an insurmountable issue. “If the federal government does its job in terms of properly staffing the inspection points, that will preclude most trucks that are not up to U.S. standards from operating in the United States.”

At the Border

| May 28, 2001

Currently, Mexican drivers make 10 cents per mile. The rate is uniform, whether you’ve been driving for 50 days or 50 years. There are some who get a percentage of the load, around 13 percent. To make $400 a week is doing extremely well in Mexico. More common is $100 or $200 a week.

The standard of living is lower in Mexico, so people can live on less money. Still, Mexican truckers say they do not save anything, and that all their earnings go to their families.

“It’s not easy – we live day to day,” says Garcia of his family of a wife and three daughters. “I have to work four or five months to make what an American does in one month. With NAFTA, hopefully there will be more equilibrium.” Garcia drives 70 hours per week and makes about $400.

“They make four times what we make, so they want to keep the border closed,” Mexican driver Facundo Monje says of American drivers.

U.S. drivers say they don’t want inferior Mexican trucks crossing the border. “I’ve seen some of the stuff coming across the border, and I wouldn’t ride around the block in them,” Swindell says. “I saw one today that looked like it was homemade.”

How bad are Mexican trucks? They’re highly variable. For example, about half of the trucks in the fleet of TransMex – Swift’s Mexican subsidiary – are 2001 Freightliners. These trucks zip past old cabovers that chug up hills at about 20 mph.

Some Mexicans insist their trucks are no worse than U.S. trucks. Driver Facundo Monje points to a row of U.S.-made trucks and says, “These trucks are imported. Do they seem bad to you? The United States is the 100 percent beneficiary of all the cargo we transport. What is the problem with our trucks and drivers?” Monje has just driven 30 hours from Acapulco to the border empty, at a rate of 8 cents per mile.

But Fields captures the feeling of most American drivers: “We’ve got enough trouble up here with American trucks,” he says. “I’m for free trade, but I don’t approve at all of having their rickety, old trucks up here running over our people.”

Hard data is not available on comparative truck safety. “I’m not aware of any studies showing that Mexican trucks have a more hazardous safety record than their U.S. counterparts,” says Thomas Fullerton, a border scholar at the University of Texas at El Paso. “Most Mexican trucks have been purchased in the United States, once fleet operators have decided to replace them. So they typically require more maintenance. On average they probably are more dangerous.”

Do you think the U.S.-Mexico border should be opened to truck traffic?
See what other drivers think
More…

Fullerton points out that Mexican trucks have been crossing the border since the mid-1980s to pick up U.S. exports to haul into Mexico. “Mexican trucks go as far north as Colorado, as far west as California,” he says. “Since they’re not bringing Mexican products into the United States, they don’t fall under U.S. regulations.” The shippers are Mexican companies hauling U.S. exports such as food into Mexico, he explains.

Fullerton, an economics professor, does not see older trucks as an insurmountable issue. “If the federal government does its job in terms of properly staffing the inspection points, that will preclude most trucks that are not up to U.S. standards from operating in the United States.”

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