Under the rules, Mexican trucking companies will be required to provide detailed information about their safety practices and show they are in compliance with U.S. trucking regulations, says Dave Longo, spokesman for the Federal Motor Safety Carrier Administration, which devised the plan. Then, within 18 months, U.S. officials will check the paperwork for accuracy.
The Mexican trucks will also be subject to inspections by U.S. authorities at the border and by the roadside.
Bret Caldwell, spokesman for the Teamsters union, which represents some U.S. truckers, says the plan doesn’t safeguard motorists. “What they are saying is a Mexican carrier fills out paperwork, and the United States grants a permit based on paperwork,” he says.
The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association also criticizes the plan, charging that it doesn’t compare to the inspection system with which U.S. carriers must comply.
Such fears are premature, said Dave Osiecki, vice president safety and operations for the American Trucking Associations, during a panel discussion at the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance meeting last month in New Orleans. “You will not see U.S. carriers venturing deep into Mexico initially or vice versa because the rules are not yet in place,” Osiecki said.
Standards of Mexico’s trucking industry “are equally as strong” as those in the United States, maintains James Giermanski, a border trade expert at Belmont Abbey College in North Carolina. Many safety statistics of Mexican trucks at the border focus on older trucks used only for shuttling cargo within the commercial zones, he says, while long-haul trucks are much safer. Mexico has made great strides toward meeting U.S. standards, insists Enrique Alejandro Gerner, director of Mexico’s trucking regulatory agency. “Mexico’s work with the United States and Canada has allowed Mexico to develop important aspects such as a safety culture,” he said during the CVSA panel.
The North American Free Trade Agreement called for Mexican trucks to have full access to all U.S. highways by January 2000. President Bush pledged to comply, but much hinges on Congressional approval of Bush’s 2002 budget, which calls for $88 million to build inspection facilities and to hire safety inspectors.
That funding falls short, said Texas Major Coy Clanton, when building one facility in Texas can cost upwards of $100 million. “We will do the best we can with the funding provided,” he said at the CVSA meeting.