Tax dollars wasted on Mexican truck EOBRs

Part of the deal that President Barack Obama struck with Mexican President Calderon last week to allow Mexican trucks to cross the border and operate inside the U.S. was the requirement that those trucks install electronic onboard recorders (EOBRs).

cross-border-trucking-lg.jpgWhat we now know about that deal is that FMCSA will pay for the installation of the EOBRs. Talk about a political football. Given how many feel about Mexican truck drivers on U.S. roads, I wonder if this provision was put in by the Administration to show Mexico that we were doing everything we could to comply with the requirements of NAFTA, while at the same time creating an out for the public and Congress.

For the record, I am in favor of opening the border and allowing Mexican trucks to haul into the U.S., just as American trucks should be allowed to haul into Mexico. As I’ve written before, though, those Mexican trucks should meet all U.S. rules and regulations, from safety to emissions to highway laws. There are many people, though, who disagree with this premise.

(Trucking leader says Mexican trucks can not meet EPA standards)

While I believe the specifics of the border trucking program should be debated. This revelation seems a lot like a poison pill designed to torpedo the program before it can be resurrected. According to reports, the reason the U.S. wants to pay for the EOBRs is so that the government “owns” the data the devices collect. Until someone can provide a valid reason as to why the government needs to own this data, I question why this is important.

mexico.jpgAnd if the government feels this data is that vital, might it then want to “own” the data recorded by these devices once they are installed on all U.S.-based trucks? Maybe we’ll be told it’s a national security issue - it will prevent drug trafficking, human smuggling, illegals from entering the country. Doubtful. The proposed trucking program would require EOBRs for Mexican trucks inside the U.S. The government owning the data is not going to prevent any of these things from taking place. Maybe the government just wants to know where these trucks are at all times. Talk about trust issues.

A spokesperson for the Texas Dept. of Public Safety told the Texas Tribune in January that the resumption of the program would not increase drug trafficking or any other illegal activity coming across the border.

“The Texas DPS has significantly enhanced commercial vehicle enforcement activity along the U.S.-Mexico border since 2003-2004 through border staffing grants from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration in anticipation of the full implementation of NAFTA at some future date,” said Tela Mange, told the paper. “All commercial vehicles, including commercial vehicles operated by Mexican-based carriers, entering the U.S. through commercial border crossings from Mexico are already subject to various types of inspections by the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol, as well as the Texas DPS.”

Without knowing the real logic behind this move, it looks on the surface as though the Administration could have inserted this provision knowing that it would create controversy here in the U.S. What American is going to want their tax dollars to go towards buying a piece of electronic equipment for a Mexican truck just so they can operate in the U.S.? Not many. And what Congressman is going to vote to provide the funding for this? Not many.

With the anger that this is sure to cause, it could jeopardize the cross-border trucking program. Is that the real goal here?

While we all have issues with our elected representatives, I don’t think many people believe they are stupid people. I don’t think Obama or his advisors are stupid either. So I find it hard to believe that they will be surprised by the reaction that this proposal will generate, and in fact, I wonder if it’s included to generate just this reaction.

Someone needs to either explain what the national security interest is in spending U.S. tax dollars to purchase EOBRs for Mexican trucks, or drop the proposal and require the Mexican companies to buy their own EOBRs if they wish to operate here.

In America, we call that the cost of doing business.

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