Trucks at Work

Mexican moratorium

"Personal feelings don't make for good politics, legal decisions, or business deals." --Roger Zelazny

There's a crescendo of emotion swirling around the issue of Mexican trucks operating on U.S. highways, bordering in many cases on hysteria. That's why it's high time to table it -- stuff cross-border trucking into a freezer and let it sit for another decade while we sort this complex issue out.

There's a lot of good and bad associated with opening the U.S.-Mexican border to two-way truck traffic. There are rightly concerns about the safety compliance of Mexico's truckers with U.S. regulations -- hours of service, equipment safety, and pollution control -- and these must be dealt with. Another issue is the territory U.S. truckers would have to navigate were they to drive south of the border -- widespread banditry, roads in disrepair. When many cross-border trucking shipments must be escorted by armed guards, you know there's a serious problem.

Yet we can't dismiss Mexico like this -- saying, in effect, you're third world, second-class, not worthy of our trouble. Far from it -- Mexican drivers I've met at trucking shows are as hard working and honest as any U.S. trucker. And they must contend with a lot rougher conditions than any driver up here -- we may complain about the lawlessness in their territories and the bad equipment they drive, but they must live with it every day.

So what we need to do is put the cross-border question on ice and stop carping about the border, so we can instead roll up our sleeves and get to work solving these problems. We need to help restore law and order to Mexico's roadways before our trucks and drivers go down there -- that needs to happen first and that requires more work on forming joint law enforcement efforts.

Next, we need to do a serious vetting of those Mexican carriers seeking to operate up north -- not just a quickie review of a few months, but a good couple of years of monitoring. We need to let our emotions cool while we examine everyone's credentials -- and we need to beef up the ranks of federal inspectors to do a good job of it. That takes years to accomplish, by the way, which is what another moratorium would give us.

We need to stop the shouting and screaming so we can get down in the trenches and start solving the issues everyone is getting so upset over -- so when we talk about opening the border again, we'll know for certain that we're all on the same page.