Mexican trucks are rolling over the U.S. border, freely bound for anywhere in America, and it seems that nothing -- not furious Teamsters nor angry environmentalists, not even Congress -- can stop them.
Are the drivers properly licensed and sober or well-rested with the legal amount of down time? Do they speak English or understand U.S. road signs? Will the trucks be carrying illegal immigrants, drugs, terrorists, nuclear or biological weapons or other contraband? Will they belch tons of banned pollutants into America’s air? Will lower-paid Mexican drivers put American truckers out of work? Will the trucks gut the tax base which supports the U.S. highway infrastructure?
Frankly, no one knows. But, like it or not, the trucks are rolling. It’s a done deal.
When the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco denied an appeal from the Teamsters, the Sierra Club and other groups on Aug. 31, it opened the way for a “test program” pushed by the Bush administration to begin.
Initially, the Department of Transportation plans to allow 44 Mexican long-haul semis to participate in the first 30 days, but the program quickly will expand, to allow 100 Mexican trucking companies to send 1,000 trucks streaming across the border.
“This is a reprehensible proposal,” Todd Spencer, executive vice president of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA), told NewsMax.
“President Bush is following through on a promise he made to large economic interests that he would open up the border. I am astonished by the administration’s contempt toward the American public, Congress and the rule of law. They want to kick that border open and let the chips fall where they may.
“The Bush administration is determined to push these Mexican trucks down the throats of the American people and Congress.”
Teamsters President James Hoffa said, “This is a wrong decision for American working men and women. We will now proceed to litigate this case on the merits. We believe this program clearly breaks the law.”
Truckers already have begun to protest the project at the California border and a massive trucker’s protest drive on Washington has been rumored.
Opening the Mexican, Canadian and U.S. borders to free trucking was part of the North American Free Trade Agreement signed in 1994. Canadian trucks have free passage throughout the U.S. but the DOT has never certified Mexican trucks, until now, in response to a 2000 demand from a NAFTA tribunal which upheld Mexican complaints.
Mexican trucks, which make 4.5 million such trips over the border each year, have been limited to about a 20-mile zone where loads must be transferred to U.S. trucks for delivery. American-based trucks also are limited to a commercial zone. Under the pilot project, U.S. and Mexican trucks are limited to carrying cargo to and from the US and not between cities of the host countries.
On May 15, Congress passed the Safe American Roads Act of 2007 by a 411-3 margin, prohibiting the DOT from putting the “pilot program” into effect until a list of requirements were met, such as insuring full inspection of the Mexican trucks and allowing U.S. trucks to operate in Mexico beyond commercial zones.
Dr. Jerome Corsi, author of “The Late Great USA: The Coming Merger With Mexico And Canada,” told NewsMax, “The White House lobbied the Senate Transportation Committee to not hold hearings on the Senate version of the bill.
“It is clear that the Bush administration and the Department of Transportation are proceeding in complete defiance of the will of Congress and the American people.
“U.S. trucking regulations have no chance of being enforced in Mexico. For example, they say Mexican drivers have to be drug-tested, but there are no certified alcohol/drug testing facilities in the entire country of Mexico! There is no national criminal database in Mexico, to allow checking on the criminal histories of these drivers.
“The DOT is doing a poor job of inspecting American trucks, with only 40 percent inspected. How are they going to inspect trucks in Mexico? The DEA constantly finds Mexican trucks smuggling drugs, human beings and who knows what kind of contraband. There is massive organized criminal smuggling activity going on at the border. If al-Qaida gets into this mix, we will have a nightmare. You could have nuclear weapons, dirty bombs or terrorists in those trucks, and no one would ever know.
“Now it has started, it will never stop. The whole thing is a sham.”
The Bush administration argued “the critical bilateral relationship between the U.S. and Mexico would be placed under considerable strain by further delay in the demonstration project.”
However, Joan Claybrook, president of Public Citizen, termed the program, “a calculated, cynical move intended to ensure that the border is open to all commercial traffic, regardless of the implications for highway safety.”
She termed opening the border, “a perfect storm. It is a predictable disaster.”
Claybrook noted that in 2005, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) stated that 17.5 percent of inspected Mexican trucks had bad brakes! One in four border-crossing drivers did not have a Mexican commercial license and 15 per cent had no logbooks.
The numbers involved are staggering. Seventy per cent of the $300 billion in trade between the US and Mexico in 2006 was carried by truck, according to Mexican Transportation Ministry figures.
Josh Dorner, spokesman for the Sierra Club, told NewsMax, “If you have a lot of new traffic in older, dirtier rigs coming into border areas, that will hinder our ability to meet clean air standards.”
The California Air Resources Board (CARB) has said that allowing Mexican trucks into the U.S. would bring an additional 50 tons per day of polluting nitrogen oxide and 2.5 tons of other particulate matter into California. Mexican trucks are older, with 66 percent built before 1993, when cleaner electronic fuel injection began. In addition, Mexico doesn’t require use of low-sulphur diesel fuel.
Spencer told NewsMax Mexican drivers can be expected to fill up in Mexico, where diesel is not only dirtier, but cheaper. “Our average member pays $16,000 per year in state and federal highway user fees. How much will Mexico pay? They won’t be paying taxes on diesel fuel they buy across the border, and that may add up to 400 gallons per truck.
“There are no hours of service regulations in Mexico. You wouldn’t know when a driver got to the border whether he had been driving seven hours or seven days!
“There is no reliable way to do a meaningful background check on a driver from Mexico, because there is no reliable way to get data. Police are not going to be able to verify driver or vehicle licenses. When the DOT tried to check Mexican drivers’ licenses, they found that on 16 percent of them, there was no information available at all.
“The U.S. will pay a terrible cost in terms of safety and security.”
Spencer said that OOIDA intends to pursue legal action in appellate courts and to lobby members of the Senate to cut off funding for the DOT program.
“This is all being done to fulfill a promise President Bush made to (former Mexican president) Vicente Fox, that he would open the border with Mexico,” Dr. Corsi told NewsMax.
“Soon, there will be a thousand Mexican trucks on the road. There will be accidents. There will be pressure on U.S. truck drivers to lower wages. Hundreds, if not thousands, of American jobs may be lost.
“It is an assault on U.S. sovereignty and it needs to be stopped.”
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