A group of 44 lawmakers delivered a signed letter to U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood yesterday demanding that the Obama Administration abandon plans to restart a controversial cross-border trucking program for Mexican motor carriers.
“The cross-border trucking program clearly puts foreign interests above our own,” said U.S. Rep. Hunter (R-CA), in a press release. “It’s bad for the American economy. It’s bad for American truckers and the entire commercial trucking industry. And it’s bad for border security. Simply put, the cross-border trucking program is a straight handout to Mexico at the expense of American jobs, taxpayer dollars and security.”
Hunter and Daniel Lipinski (D-IL) were joined by 42 other lawmakers, both Republicans and Democrats, in signing the letter. The politicians cited a number of concerns, including safety, enforcement issues, and the possibility of increased drug smuggling.
“The earlier demonstration project showed serious gaps in the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) ability to properly manage the program when they failed to assure that every Mexican truck was properly inspected at the border,” the letter states. “This is critical from a safety perspective to ensure that the vehicle is being operated by a licensed driver and has completed a safety inspection. With the limited number of Mexican trucks that participated in this demonstration there is concern with the FMCSA’s ability to properly monitor a future demonstration project.”
The letter questions the use of Highway Trust Funds to pay for electronic onboard recorders (EOBRs) for Mexican trucks.
“This requirement comes at the same time FMCSA is working on a rulemaking to require EOBRs for all U.S. carriers. An appalling difference, however, is that funds from the Highway Trust Fund will be used to pay for these devices for Mexican truckers while U.S. drivers will be required to pay for their EOBRs themselves. We feel this is an inappropriate use of the highway funds and an unreasonable expenditure for taxpayers,” the letter said.
The lawmakers wrote that they want to see the “unfair tariffs that Mexico has imposed on U.S. agriculture products” lifted, but “doing so should not come at the expense of the safety of our highways.”
The letter also notes that the El Paso Intelligence Center believes commercial vehicles are “widely used by Mexican drug trafficking organizations” to move drugs over the border. “Setting up a program that allows Mexican long-haul trucks to cross the border and move freely throughout the U.S. could increase this method of smuggling by the drug cartels and serve as a resource for their criminal activity,” it said.
Under terms of the border trucking proposal, Mexico would lift $2.4 billion in tariffs placed on U.S. goods, mostly agricultural, once the trucks are allowed to operate inside the U.S. The tariffs were placed after Congress eliminated funding for the previous cross-border demonstration project that was killed in March 2009.
“Mexican motor carriers are the big winners,” said Hunter in a statement. “They will soon have unrestricted access to U.S. roadways, leaving their American counterparts at a serious disadvantage. Adding insult to injury, American taxpayers will be expected to buy the required electronic onboard recorders for Mexican trucks, while American truckers will need to purchase the same equipment themselves. There is nothing good about this agreement for the U.S., which is why it needs to be terminated immediately.”
Any Mexican carrier participating in the program would have to meet a number of criteria, including its vehicles meeting all U.S. safety and emissions standards, and drivers passing an English proficiency exam.