Cheers and jeers for Mexico truck pact
The United States and Mexico have “found a clear path to resolving the dispute over trucking between our two countries,” President Obama said Thursday at a joint press conference with Mexican President Felipe Calderon.
“I look forward to consulting with Congress and moving forward in a way that strengthens the safety of cross-border trucking, lifts tariffs on billions of dollars of U.S. goods, expands our exports to Mexico, and creates job on both sides of the border,” Obama said.
In January, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration published a “concept document” outlining requirements that Mexican trucking companies and drivers would have to meet. (American Shipper reported on the document Jan. 7.)
Anne S. Ferro, FMCSA Administrator, told the California Trucking Association that a program for long-haul, cross-border Mexican trucking would “make safety a No. 1 priority,” and that a formal proposal would be put forward in the coming months.
Under the proposal announced Thursday, passenger and hazardous materials carriers would be excluded from the program, and, “subject to negotiation with Mexico, the number of carrier and truck participants in first phase of program will be managed to ensure adequate oversight,” DOT said.
Carriers and cross-border driver information would be vetted by the U.S. Homeland Security and Justice departments, and there would be carrier safety management programs covering areas such as vehicle maintenance, drug and alcohol testing programs, and driver qualification files, DOT said.
Drivers would have to pass an English language proficiency and U.S. traffic law test, and for an agreed upon period of time a carrier's long-haul operations, vehicles and drivers would be inspected by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration each time one of its vehicles crosses the northbound border.
DOT said it would use electronic systems for “redundant monitoring of program's trucks, drivers and carriers.” After passing two reviews, participating carrier would be eligible for full operating authority.
Business groups such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, National Foreign Trade Council, and American Trucking Associations applauded Obama’s announcement while the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) and Teamsters expressed outrage over the agreement.
“This is an important step to promote job growth on both sides of the border and shore up our bilateral relationship,” said Thomas Donohue, the chamber’s president and chief executive officer. “It is long past time for the United States to live up to its trade commitment and allow cross-border trucking services. This delay put more than 25,000 American jobs at risk, and retaliatory tariffs have been in place for two years on many U.S. products entering Mexico.”
ATA President and CEO Bill P. Graves said, “We hope this agreement will be a first step to increasing trade between our two countries, more than 70 percent of which crosses the border by truck.”
Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa said the deal “puts Americans at risk,' and “caves in to business interests at the expense of the traveling public and American workers.'
Hoffa questioned the rationale behind the decision at a time of persistent high U.S. unemployment, budget deficits and unrelenting drug violence in Mexico. He said the proposal would 'threaten the traveling public in the U.S. and open our southern border to increased drug trafficking.'
Todd Spencer, executive vice president of OOIDA, said the agreement was “simply unbelievable. For all the president's talk of helping small businesses survive, his administration is sure doing their best to destroy small trucking companies and the drivers they employ.
“Small business truckers are in the midst of dealing with an avalanche of regulatory rulemakings from the administration,” he said. “They are also struggling to survive in a very difficult economy. This announcement is tantamount to rubbing salt in wounds already inflicted.' ' Chris Dupin