Mexican USA Cross Border Trucking Program
When someone is trying to figure out how to be a truck driver, they might not realize all of the complicated issues that affect this industry. One issue that is currently being debated by almost everyone in the trucking industry is the cross-border trucking program between Mexico and the United States.
The cross-border program was initially in place from 2007 to 2009 under then President George Bush. During the Bush-era program, there were only twenty-nine carriers involved in the program and a total of one hundred trucks. However, the program was halted near the beginning of Barack Obamas presidency about two years and eight months ago. Presumably, the program was terminated due to pressures from trucking unions and organizations.
Currently, however, the program is scheduled to restart in just a few months. However, that start may be delayed due to lawsuits and safety concerns. Essentially, the cross-border program allows some Mexican truck drivers to drive into the United States in the same way that Canadian drivers are allowed to enter the country. It also allows American truck drivers to drive into Mexico.
When the program was not in place, American drivers were not allowed to cross the Mexican border, and Mexican drivers were not allowed to cross the American border. Their trucking companies were forced to rely upon drayage or short-haul trucks to carry cargo across the border to another trucking company. This system was imperfect because it forced trucks to sit and idle at the borders while they waited for the drayage trucks.
After the program was terminated, Mexico placed approximately 99 tariffs on a variety of American goods. The tariffs ranged from five to twenty five percent, and they had a drastic impact on the trade relationship between the United States and Mexico. The effects of these tariffs were widely felt by the U.S. economy. The effects of these tariffs were so extreme that most people speculate that the U.S. government decided to reinstate the program to mitigate the effects of the tariffs in spite of massive opposition to the program.
After the United States agreed to reinstate the cross-border program, Mexico got rid of half of the tariffs. The have also agreed to get rid of most of the rest of the tariffs after the program restarts. The organization Free Trade Alliance San Antonio which is a group of business owners and professionals in San Antonio was also instrumental in convincing the U.S. Department of Transportation to reinstate the cross-border program.
Opposition to The Cross-Border Program
The complaints about this program are mainly centered on two issues. Some people, the Teamsters in particular, are worried about the impact that this program will have on the jobs of United States truckers. Other people are worried about whether or not Mexican trucking companies know how to be a truck driver in the United States, and they are worried about the safety of the Mexican trucks themselves. The U.S. government has presented a number of compelling counterarguments to both of these complaints.
Safety of Mexican Trucks
Many people have complained about the safety of the Mexican trucks. However, these complaints are viewed to be unfounded by proponents of the program as there were no accidents during the test program that ran from 2007 to early 2009. The United States Secretary of Transportation Mary E. Peters has spoken enthusiastically about the inspection program that will examine all of the trucks involved in the cross-border program.
Working in conjunction with Mexicos Secretary of Communication and Transportation Luis Tellez, Peters has helped to implement a U.S.-based inspection program. American inspectors will perform safety inspections to ensure that the Mexican trucks meet American safety regulations. The inspectors will look at the trucks, and if the trucks do not pass the inspections, they will not be allowed to drive into the United States. In order to participate in the cross-border program, Mexican trucks must pass these tests.
However, even trucks that pass the inspections face some additional restrictions. They are only allowed to operate in the cross-border program. They are not allowed to drive goods from one U.S. destination to another one. Additionally, they are not allowed to transport hazardous materials or passengers. In addition to passing inspections and meeting safety standards, the trucks are required to meet other standards. For instance, they must carry insurance from an insurance provider that has been licensed in the U.S..
The cross-border inspection program is an extension of a program that was first implemented in 2001. It was comprised of twenty two safety rules that had to be followed. These same safety rules will be at the heart of the new inspection program. According to Secretary Peters, the current program has met all of the Congressional safety requirements. Since 1995, they have spent more than $500 million on this program. Most notably, they have invested the money into making the border facilities safer and more modern. This project has effectively created over 500 jobs for the federal and state workers who are charged with doing the inspections and maintaining the facilities.
Peters claims that the inspections will be successful. She refers to the inspection plan as rigorous and claims that they have the right staff members and facilities to carry out the inspections professionally and quickly. She also claims that the cross-border program will help the U.S. find new and innovative ways to do more business with Mexico which is one of its biggest trading partners. She further asserts that the program will benefit the U.S. economy, give U.S. drivers more jobs, and provide consumers with the chance to buy more products.
The drivers must also meet certain requirements. They must understand how to be a truck driver in the United States. To prove that they understand this, they must pass an English test that proves that they can answer certain questions in English and understand written directions in English. Of course, they must carry a valid drivers license to operate a commercial truck. In addition, they must pass a medical fitness exam that is similar to the one that American drivers must pass, and in most cases, they will also have to pass a drug test. They must follow U.S. regulations regarding how many hours a day they operate their truck too.
To ensure that drivers are following the guidelines about how many hours a day they are allowed to run their trucks, the U.S. DOT will be installing black boxes on each Mexican truck. These boxes will monitor the trucks which is advantageous for safety reasons. However, each black box cost $2,300, and this amount must be paid for by the U.S. tax payers. This figure is only a drop in the ocean as tax payers will actually be covering all of the costs of the program.
Effects of the Cross Border Program on Jobs
The Teamsters Union led by President Jim Hoffa is not as excited as Peters is about this program. In late August of this year, they actually filed a lawsuit against the DOT (Department of Transportation) and its Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to stop the program. When the Teamsters first publicly complained about the program, they voiced concerns about the safety of the Mexican trucks. Now, however, their focus has changed. They claim that the program will ultimately result in fewer jobs for American drivers. These concerns have been echoed by the OOIDA (Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association).
Todd Spencer, vice president of OOIDA claims that certain DOT regulations target U.S. truckers and make it harder for them to work. On the other hand, he is worried that the Mexican drivers will not be beholden to these same standards. He and his organization have expressed additional concerns that the American drivers who are already struggling to meet regulations will be further oppressed when Mexican drivers start to take American jobs.
He also worries about the safety of American drivers who do opt to participate in the program. He worries about the potential hijackings and violence that they may face as they cross the border into Mexico. He claims that his concerns have also been voiced by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security who has issued warnings that truckers should stay out of this area of Mexico.
However, there is not a consensus on this issue of job loss. The U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood claims the cross-border program will have the opposite effect on jobs. He claims that the program will create jobs in both countries.
Texas A&M University did a study on the potential effects of the cross-border program, and according to their study, 12,000 U.S. jobs would be created or restored due to the reimplementation of the cross-border program. Notably, 1,550 of those jobs would be in Texas. Many of those jobs will be created when Mexico finishes lifting their tariffs on U.S. products.
Surprisingly, not all of these jobs are for individuals who are interested in learning how to be a truck driver. In fact, many of these jobs are in agriculture. Some people feel the timely reinstatement of the cross-border program has also saved jobs. According to estimates by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, an additional 25,000 jobs would have been lost if the Mexican tariffs had stayed in place. The U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack claimed that the tariffs had already cost American companies more than $2 billion in lost revenues.
If you are interested in how to be a truck driver, you should know that you are entering a unique industry that has its own set of information, concerns, and regulations. The cross-border program is an interesting program, and only time will tell if it will be successful for American trucking companies and their drivers.
Mexican USA Cross Border Trucking Program