At the Border

| May 28, 2001

Many U.S. truckers say they wouldn’t cross the border if it was opened. One big concern they have is the quality of the roads.

How bad are Mexican roads? This is a trick question. The toll roads are fine, but no one uses them. That’s because it costs a trucker $170 in tolls to go from the Laredo, Texas, border to Mexico City.

The free road from Nuevo Laredo to Monterrey, at one point, crosses under the toll road. You see a couple trucks per minute on the toll road, and underneath it, there’s a caravan of trucks on the free road.

“If the customer requires a toll road, the customer pays a dollar a mile,” says Dave Shatto, Celadon’s vice president of operations. Valuable loads such as electronics go over toll roads, he says.

Mexican toll roads are much faster than free roads because there are fewer stops and they have two lanes in each direction instead of one.

The free roads pass through many small towns with lots of stops and speedbumps. Also, because the quality of trucks is so variable, the fast ones have to pass the slow ones if they want to deliver their freight on time. This leads to dangerous games of cat and mouse, at least during the day when truck traffic is thin enough to allow passing.

“The Mexican road system is not as extensive as the United States’, but by Latin American standards the road system is much more extensive and in better condition than other places,” says Fullerton.

Another strike against NAFTA for many truckers, is the bad taste it has left in the wake of plant closings, as corporations go south of the border for cheaper labor.
Michael Cole of Flint, Mich., says, “I’m from the Michigan area, and I’ve seen a lot of jobs go to Mexico.”
Rob Coleman of Valparaiso, Fla., adds, “They take parts down; they build our cars and send them back. And they still put American-made on them, and that’s wrong.”

Another concern on the U.S. side is immigration. If the border is open to trucks, how will the United States prevent Mexican truckers from smuggling Mexicans into the states?

In interviews with about 15 Mexican truckers, one said he would move to the United States temporarily if he could. Most others said they would never consider living in the United States. The lifestyle is too different, too fast-paced. And, besides, they don’t want to leave their families. “I’ve got nothing there,” says Garcia. “I have no desire to live there.”

Driver Yair Monroyi echoes those sentiments. Asked if he would want to live in the United States, he says, “No. Life here is calmer. I’d like to get to know the United States, but not live there.” He is on his way from Monterrey to Mexico City, a drive that takes him 20 to 22 hours. For his normal 10-hour run, he gets 100 pesos (about $10).

Some Mexican drivers point out that they will not be able to compete with U.S. companies. “There are three times more trucks in the United States,” says driver Martin Garcia. “How can I compete if I have one truck, and he has 500? It’s cheaper for the big companies to use companies with many trucks than one truck. We are very disadvantaged.”

At the Border

| May 28, 2001

Many U.S. truckers say they wouldn’t cross the border if it was opened. One big concern they have is the quality of the roads.

How bad are Mexican roads? This is a trick question. The toll roads are fine, but no one uses them. That’s because it costs a trucker $170 in tolls to go from the Laredo, Texas, border to Mexico City.

The free road from Nuevo Laredo to Monterrey, at one point, crosses under the toll road. You see a couple trucks per minute on the toll road, and underneath it, there’s a caravan of trucks on the free road.

“If the customer requires a toll road, the customer pays a dollar a mile,” says Dave Shatto, Celadon’s vice president of operations. Valuable loads such as electronics go over toll roads, he says.

Mexican toll roads are much faster than free roads because there are fewer stops and they have two lanes in each direction instead of one.

The free roads pass through many small towns with lots of stops and speedbumps. Also, because the quality of trucks is so variable, the fast ones have to pass the slow ones if they want to deliver their freight on time. This leads to dangerous games of cat and mouse, at least during the day when truck traffic is thin enough to allow passing.

“The Mexican road system is not as extensive as the United States’, but by Latin American standards the road system is much more extensive and in better condition than other places,” says Fullerton.

Another strike against NAFTA for many truckers, is the bad taste it has left in the wake of plant closings, as corporations go south of the border for cheaper labor.
Michael Cole of Flint, Mich., says, “I’m from the Michigan area, and I’ve seen a lot of jobs go to Mexico.”
Rob Coleman of Valparaiso, Fla., adds, “They take parts down; they build our cars and send them back. And they still put American-made on them, and that’s wrong.”

Another concern on the U.S. side is immigration. If the border is open to trucks, how will the United States prevent Mexican truckers from smuggling Mexicans into the states?

In interviews with about 15 Mexican truckers, one said he would move to the United States temporarily if he could. Most others said they would never consider living in the United States. The lifestyle is too different, too fast-paced. And, besides, they don’t want to leave their families. “I’ve got nothing there,” says Garcia. “I have no desire to live there.”

Driver Yair Monroyi echoes those sentiments. Asked if he would want to live in the United States, he says, “No. Life here is calmer. I’d like to get to know the United States, but not live there.” He is on his way from Monterrey to Mexico City, a drive that takes him 20 to 22 hours. For his normal 10-hour run, he gets 100 pesos (about $10).

Some Mexican drivers point out that they will not be able to compete with U.S. companies. “There are three times more trucks in the United States,” says driver Martin Garcia. “How can I compete if I have one truck, and he has 500? It’s cheaper for the big companies to use companies with many trucks than one truck. We are very disadvantaged.”

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