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U.S.-Mexico cross-border trucking program concept document issued by LaHood

By Staff
January 07, 2011

Earlier this week, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration said that United States Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood shared “an initial concept document” with members of Congress for a long-haul cross-border Mexican trucking program.

As LM has previously reported, the U.S.-Mexico cross-border trucking program has seen more than a few bumps in the road in recent years. In 2009, the pilot program for cross-border trucking was eliminated as part of the White House’s $410 billion Omnibus Appropriations Act, H.R. 4105. Even through this program-killing measure was approved, that Obama administration said it would work to create a new cross-border, long distance trucking program between the U.S. and Mexico.

FMCSA officials said that this document prioritizes safety whole satisfying the United States’ international obligations. They added that when the pilot program was terminated in March 2009, LaHood and other Administration officials met with lawmakers, safety advocates, industry representatives and other stakeholders to address a broad range of concerns, with the concept document serving as a starting point in the renewed negotiations with Mexico, addresses concerns raised during that process.

The historic objections over this program from U.S. politicians have centered around how Mexican truckers face less regulation than American Carriers and would post a hazard on U.S. roads.

Under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) passed in 1993, the U.S. is required to open its border to Mexican and Canadian carriers who meet U.S. trucking standards. The Canadian border is open; the Mexican border is not.

Soon after the program was eliminated, the Mexican government said it would place tariffs on roughly 90 American agricultural and manufactured exports as payback for the U.S. decision to shutter the program.

These tariffs amount to $2.4 billion of American goods, ranging from fruit juices to pet food to deodorant, among others, ranging from 10 percent to 45 percent, with affected products coming from 40 states, stated a 2009 Los Angeles Times report, which added that these products represent less than two percent of U.S. exports to Mexico.

In June 2009, a group of roughly 4,500 Mexican truckers indicated they planned to sue the United States for $6 billion, due to the United States Congress’s decision to shut down the cross-border trucking pilot program between the U.S. and Mexico. The Mexican trucking companies are represented by Mexico’s National Cargo Transportation Association, also known as Canacar.

LaHood’s concept document received a less than favorable reaction from the Owner- Operators Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA).

“With so much focus in Washington on creating jobs, it’s a bit shocking that the administration would pursue a program that can only rob U.S. drivers of their jobs,” said Todd Spencer, Executive Vice President of the OOIDA in a statement. “While we appreciate that the administration is proposing to allow Congress and the public to weigh in on a future trucking program with Mexico, they seem to be missing the main issue at hand. The onus is upon Mexico to raise their regulatory standards, not on the U.S. to lower ours to accommodate their trucking industry.”

FMCSA officials said that the Obama Administration will continue to work with Congress and other stakeholders to put safety first, adding that as specifics of the program are developed, the Administration will continue to ensure that the program delivers job growth and economic opportunities here at home.  A formal proposal, which the public will have the opportunity to comment on, is expected to be announced in the coming months, they said.

For more FMCSA-related stories, click here.

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