Free-Trade Trucking

| May 28, 2001

The Bush administration decided to implement the trucking provisions of the North American Free Trade Agreement in February after a NAFTA arbitration panel ruled the United States must open its borders to Mexican trucks or face possible trade sanctions.

In 1993, the United States, Mexico and Canada signed the North American Free Trade Agreement. The United States and Canada had signed a trade pact in the 1980s, but NAFTA represented a “regional” agreement that would eliminate all tariffs and other trade barriers between the three countries. Some of these barriers were dropped immediately; other provisions have been phased in over time.

Cross-border trucking between the United States and Mexico was one of the provisions phased in. Beginning in 1995, each country’s trucks were allowed to travel only within limited trade zones along the border. NAFTA called for full access beginning in January 2000, but the Clinton administration, citing safety concerns, refused to allow Mexican trucks beyond the border trade zones.

Mexico filed a protest with a special NAFTA panel which issued a final ruling Feb. 6 saying that while the United States could require Mexican trucks to meet its safety standards, it had to allow Mexican truckers access to U.S. roadways. On Feb. 22, the Bush administration said it would begin work immediately to comply with the panel’s ruling. President Bush also promised additional safety inspectors to help ensure those trucks that cross the border meet U.S. safety standards.

Despite President Bush’s decision to move ahead on opening the country’s southern border, don’t expect to see a flood of Mexican trucks rolling over American highways anytime soon. The decision only means that the two governments will continue to work out the procedures for cross-border trucking. According to industry insiders, that means agreeing to the rules that Mexican carriers must follow when applying for authority to operate in the states.

The trucking industry believes Mexican carriers should comply with the same regulations and meet the same requirements as U.S. carriers to obtain U.S. operating authority – especially safety and insurance standards. But the rules and regulations are only a “part of the puzzle.” U.S. and Mexico trade negotiators will also need to address infrastructure and other issues.

“The issues are really in the details,” of the agreement says Martin Rojas, director of cross border operations for the American Trucking Associations. Whatever the final details, however, Rojas says he doesn’t expect to see a flood of Mexican truckers rolling across the nation’s highways.

“Perhaps this is going to be more of an evolutionary thing rather than a revolutionary change here,” Rojas says. “It is going to take a while to work out the whole way we operate under a more open border. You are not going to see a rush of Mexican trucks coming into the United States, and you are not going to see a rush of U.S. trucks going into Mexico.”

There are Mexican carriers waiting to apply for authority, but that number is fairly low, according the Department of Transportation’s surface, maritime and facilitation division. Division Chief David DeCarme told the Associated Press that 8,500 Mexican trucking companies now operate within the United States.

Those truckers operate only within special 20-mile border zones. DeCarme says that the DOT has applications from another 190 Mexican companies for U.S. operating authority.

“When you are looking at workload and you’re looking at inspection work force, this is not a case where we think that new Mexican carriers are going to be overwhelmingly at the border,” DeCarme says.
While the trucking industry and most U.S. businesses support the NAFTA agreement, some safety, environmental, labor and owner-operator groups oppose opening the border and decried the Bush administration’s actions.

“We’ve always been against opening the border,” says Todd Spencer, executive vice president of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association. “We don’t believe that U.S. interests are appropriately equipped to adequately monitor or enforce safety. The responsibility of enforcement will be largely on the United States, and the United States isn’t capable of monitoring the insurance of the trucks that come across the border, and it can’t monitor immigration laws either.”

Free-Trade Trucking

| May 28, 2001

The Bush administration decided to implement the trucking provisions of the North American Free Trade Agreement in February after a NAFTA arbitration panel ruled the United States must open its borders to Mexican trucks or face possible trade sanctions.

In 1993, the United States, Mexico and Canada signed the North American Free Trade Agreement. The United States and Canada had signed a trade pact in the 1980s, but NAFTA represented a “regional” agreement that would eliminate all tariffs and other trade barriers between the three countries. Some of these barriers were dropped immediately; other provisions have been phased in over time.

Cross-border trucking between the United States and Mexico was one of the provisions phased in. Beginning in 1995, each country’s trucks were allowed to travel only within limited trade zones along the border. NAFTA called for full access beginning in January 2000, but the Clinton administration, citing safety concerns, refused to allow Mexican trucks beyond the border trade zones.

Mexico filed a protest with a special NAFTA panel which issued a final ruling Feb. 6 saying that while the United States could require Mexican trucks to meet its safety standards, it had to allow Mexican truckers access to U.S. roadways. On Feb. 22, the Bush administration said it would begin work immediately to comply with the panel’s ruling. President Bush also promised additional safety inspectors to help ensure those trucks that cross the border meet U.S. safety standards.

Despite President Bush’s decision to move ahead on opening the country’s southern border, don’t expect to see a flood of Mexican trucks rolling over American highways anytime soon. The decision only means that the two governments will continue to work out the procedures for cross-border trucking. According to industry insiders, that means agreeing to the rules that Mexican carriers must follow when applying for authority to operate in the states.

The trucking industry believes Mexican carriers should comply with the same regulations and meet the same requirements as U.S. carriers to obtain U.S. operating authority – especially safety and insurance standards. But the rules and regulations are only a “part of the puzzle.” U.S. and Mexico trade negotiators will also need to address infrastructure and other issues.

“The issues are really in the details,” of the agreement says Martin Rojas, director of cross border operations for the American Trucking Associations. Whatever the final details, however, Rojas says he doesn’t expect to see a flood of Mexican truckers rolling across the nation’s highways.

“Perhaps this is going to be more of an evolutionary thing rather than a revolutionary change here,” Rojas says. “It is going to take a while to work out the whole way we operate under a more open border. You are not going to see a rush of Mexican trucks coming into the United States, and you are not going to see a rush of U.S. trucks going into Mexico.”

There are Mexican carriers waiting to apply for authority, but that number is fairly low, according the Department of Transportation’s surface, maritime and facilitation division. Division Chief David DeCarme told the Associated Press that 8,500 Mexican trucking companies now operate within the United States.

Those truckers operate only within special 20-mile border zones. DeCarme says that the DOT has applications from another 190 Mexican companies for U.S. operating authority.

“When you are looking at workload and you’re looking at inspection work force, this is not a case where we think that new Mexican carriers are going to be overwhelmingly at the border,” DeCarme says.
While the trucking industry and most U.S. businesses support the NAFTA agreement, some safety, environmental, labor and owner-operator groups oppose opening the border and decried the Bush administration’s actions.

“We’ve always been against opening the border,” says Todd Spencer, executive vice president of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association. “We don’t believe that U.S. interests are appropriately equipped to adequately monitor or enforce safety. The responsibility of enforcement will be largely on the United States, and the United States isn’t capable of monitoring the insurance of the trucks that come across the border, and it can’t monitor immigration laws either.”

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