Let's take advantage of cross-border truck agreement

mexico.jpgSo the U.S. and Mexico have officially signed off on a cross-border trucking deal and the fun begins again. The long-awaited program – promised by the Obama Administration since the cancellation of the previous pilot program in 2009 – is officially a government program. We know this because of the criticism it is receiving, including a court challenge the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Assn. (OOIDA) has filed.

Without getting into too many details (you can read all the coverage at www.fleetowner.com), the one disturbing trend that continues to appear regarding the program is the claim that Mexican trucks are not up to the standards of U.S. vehicles. While that may be true in Mexico, it definitely will not be true here. Yet, opponents of the program continue to pound us over the heads with this.

Under the agreement, Mexican trucks must meet all U.S. federal, state, and local safety standards, including emissions standards as of 1998. While those are not as strict as 2010 emissions standards, of course, there are plenty of trucks on U.S. roads already that don’t meet 2010 – or even 2007 and earlier standards.

If you listen closely to what these opponents are saying, you’re left with the impression that parts will just be flying off these Mexican trucks, littering U.S. roadways. That simply will not be true. The Mexican carriers that operate these types of trucks are just not going to go through the effort required to cross the border. More likely, only carriers that are high-quality entities and those that can afford the investment necessary are going to cross.

One aspect of the program that many have a problem with, including me, is the use of U.S. funds to pay for electronic onboard recorders (EOBRs) for the Mexican trucks to track hours-of-service. However, and I’m not a lawyer, there is probably a legal reason for this, possibly including that fact the practice of requiring Mexican trucks to pay for and use these devices while American-based vehicles are not could possibly be deemed discriminatory.

Whether you’re in favor of the program or not, use logical arguments to make your case. Saying that Mexican trucks are unsafe when they will be required to meet the same highway standards as U.S. carriers must just proves the old adage that we’re “just stupid Americans.”

We’re not stupid and we should be smarter than that. The reality is that people are just afraid that Mexican truck drivers are going to take jobs away from Americans. It’s OK to say that. Plenty of people have. But unless someone has a better plan for the U.S. to meet the obligations of free trade set forth by NAFTA – which is what this trucking program is really about – this is what we have.

Now let’s use our smarts to take advantage of the situation and create jobs and business opportunities for American workers and companies to efficiently and effectively export our goods south of the border. That is the real opportunity that lies before us.

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