Teamsters focus on “unsafe” trucks crossing borders in NAFTA renegotiations

A truck drive down the interurban road in Quintana Roo, Mexico, earlier this year. (Photo: Shutterstock)

A truck drive down the interurban road in Quintana Roo, Mexico, earlier this year. (Photo: Shutterstock)

Fewer road hazards and improved logistics operations took center stage in recent North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) renegotiation discussions between the U.S., Canada and Mexico. James Hoffa, Teamsters’ president, doesn’t want anyone to forget the safety of trucks operating on American and Canadian roads. In an op-ed piece for The Detroit News, Hoffa noted that Teamsters chapters in the United States and Canada have joined forces to push an initiative for policy changes that will be beneficial for safety.

The Teamsters have sent authorities in Canada and the United States focused on 3 goals: improving working conditions, boosting truck safety and creating “a level playing field” since it involves Mexican drivers.

Hoffa emphasized, “Not only do truckers stand to benefit, but American lives are at stake. Old and unsafe trucks put our highways at risk and pollute our air, putting the public’s health in jeopardy.”

Hoffa claims that Mexican trucks lack some of the safety technologies American models have, and that is “not a price people should pay for bad policy.”

Chief Economist and Senior Vice President of the American Trucking Associations (ATA) Robert Costello, told Trucking Info the lack of provisions in the current NAFTA deal results in a one-way business transaction, citing “Congestion increases without NAFTA’s trucking provisions because trailers often return empty after delivering freight across the border.”

The exit of trucks without trailers called “bobtails” end up adding to the load of trailers that need to be “inspected at the port of entry just like loaded trailers.”

“The additional unnecessary equipment increases congestion, delays, ‘overhandling’ of shipments, costs and the potential for lost and damaged freight,” he said.

Overall, bad for the logistics industry.

It doesn’t help that Mexican trucks are getting a bad rep due to the aforementioned safety concerns. It was a sentiment that Costello is aware of, particularly the aspect of “fearmongering about Mexican trucks driving beyond the commercial border zone.” He also found it unfair to judge trucking companies that employ Mexican drivers since “the largest Mexican-domiciled carrier in the [the U.S.-Mexico Cross-Border Trucking Pilot Program], representing over half of all Mexican drivers permitted to drive beyond the commercial trade zone,” is American-owned.

While the Teamsters focus is on keeping workers adequately provided for and the American public safe from trucks it claims are not, the ATA wants to ensure productivity of Mexican-domiciled trucks are maximized.