The U.S. trucking industry is spinning its wheels over President Bush’s push for a “test program” that would give Mexican trucking companies the freedom to operate anywhere in our country. Many politicians, US DOT workers, and citizens are revving their engines in response. U.S. truckers plan to conduct a “rolling blockade” around the country on April 23, 24, and 25 to protest.
Congress answered the President’s agenda with ideas of its own. Congressman Duncan Hunter (R-CA), introduced H.R.1756, which would keep Mexican companies from going beyond a designated area at the border until safety and security issues are fine-tuned. Several Senators have also submitted bills to keep the President’s idea from becoming a reality. The President, however, has threatened to veto any bill that would stifle the plan.
Safety and national security are not the only reasons for outrage. Ironically, Mexican officials are crying “unfair,” while they refuse to allow U.S. drivers to operate in their country under the same standards. Perhaps they object to the fact that most Canadian trucks are granted entry to the U.S. without much ado. Canadian truckers, however, read, write, and speak English, an important prerequisite to driving here. The other side of this is that Canadian truckers are permitted to deliver freight only to the destination on the bill of lading. They are not allowed to haul interstate freight, although they can reload and deliver back into Canada. U.S. drivers follow the same rules when traveling in and out of Canada.
Also of importance is how this action will affect the wage of the American trucker. In a time where deregulation, rising health and fuel costs, and road taxes have caused many companies to close, how will those remaining compete with the wages of a Mexican driver? Neither the President, nor any of the plan’s supporters, has addressed this issue.
Even though part of the protocol requires Mexican drivers to “study” English, many doubt that they will be proficient enough to navigate a U.S. highway or communicate with workers at their destinations. There are safety issues for the American driver as well. Has anyone considered the power of a loaded tractor-trailer against that of a Ford Focus? The potential for accidents, injuries, and deaths to increase when this program begins is real. What will the government do to ensure that these drivers carry out the Department of Transportation “Hours of Service” rules? We have no answers. No doubt, the U.S. taxpayer will be the one to foot the bill for this experiment.
You have to wonder why such access would be given to foreign drivers of big rigs without heavy regulations. After all, the American teenager has to endure a series of exams just to drive a car. Anyone wishing to obtain a commercial driver’s license here is subject to great scrutiny, including finger printing and background clearances. Why would U.S. citizens have to face more obstacles than foreign ones to drive within their own borders?
I asked a few trucker friends their thoughts. They voiced concerns over a variety of issues, the main one being safety. None could see how this would create better business in the U.S.A., and each is angry with the government for considering it. They are outraged that they must pass exams, pay extra for their licenses, and face daily checks by transportation officials when it would seem that the Mexican drivers would not have to do the same. They did admit that there seems to be a shortage of professional drivers in America, but did not feel this is a solution to the problem.
If any of you have access to the Open Road Channel on satellite radio, tune in to listen to the debate over this issue. Program hosts have made excellent points, which President Bush and his supporters continue to ignore. Let’s hope they pay attention to the “Truck Out.” Will you?
http://tinyurl.com/yvcdtu (Thomas Library of Congress H. R. 1756)
http://tinyurl.com/2dq3bt (www.thetrucker.com – FMCSA responds to criticism of NAFTA pilot program story)