Nafta Mexican demo project back on track

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) announced in the August 17 Federal Register that it plans to proceed with a project to demonstrate the ability of Mexican

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) announced in the August 17 Federal Register that it plans to proceed with a project to demonstrate the ability of Mexican motor carriers to operate safely in the U.S. beyond the 25-mile commercial zone along the U.S.-Mexico border.

“Once the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Inspector General completes his report to Congress … and [we] complete any follow-up actions needed to address any issues that may be raised in the report, FMCSA will proceed with the demonstration project,” the agency said in its filing.

FMCSA’s move engendered plenty of negative reaction from several groups opposed to its border-trucking plan.

“We are gravely concerned, but not surprised, by the Administration’s announcement,” said Todd Spencer, exec-vp fo the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Assn. (OOIDA). “They are determined to open our highways to Mexico-domiciled trucking companies and truck drivers regardless of the concerns that have been raised by Congress and the American people.”

“It’s outrageous, yet not surprising, that the Bush administration would announce on a Friday during Congress’ August recess that it plans to recklessly move forward with its hugely unpopular program to throw open our border to unsafe Mexican trucks,” said Jim Hoffa, president of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.

Hoffa said that the Teamsters oppose the pilot program for several reasons: There is no certified laboratory in Mexico that can test drug and alcohol samples; Mexico does not enforce hours-of-service regulations; the Mexican Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) has questionable medical standards and no real assurance that the license is authentic; and state databases in the U.S. do not adequately track Mexican drivers’ history.

“The Bush administration took the opportunity presented by the August recess to foist this foolhardy, dangerous plan onto the American people,” he added, noting that Teamsters are assessing possible legal action to prevent the initiation of the pilot program.

FMCSA counters that the number of Mexico-domiciled carriers and vehicles that will participate in the demonstration project is extremely small compared to the population of carriers and vehicles currently operating in the commercial zones – only 100 Mexican carriers are slated to be a part of the pilot program, the agency said.

On top of that, most of the motor carriers that would participate in the demonstration project already have authority to operate in the commercial zones, so their participation in the project would not result in a significant increase in the population of Mexico-domiciled carriers operating in the U.S.

Finally, there are the economic advantages. In support of FMCSA’s filing, the San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce said that in today’s global environment, the strategic advantage that both the U.S. and Mexico mutually share in competing with other counties is our proximity to each other.

According to data compiled by the Freight Transport Association (FTA), under the current system of moving freight from Mexico to the U.S., as many as three carriers might handle a single shipment. FTA believes the current system costs consumers an average of $400 million per year, which is why the cross-border demonstration project could lead to reduced shipping costs.

“We cannot afford to give away this strategic advantage, but unfortunately continue to do so,” the chamber said. “As a result of transferring trailers prior to crossing the border into our respective countries, we continuously are faced with unnecessary costs and time incurred at the border.”

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