U.S., Mexico formalize cross-border program
Mexican drivers must have EOBRs, be tested for drugs
U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and Mexican Secretary of Communications and Transportation Dionisio Arturo Pèrez-Jàcome Friscione on July 6 joined in Mexico City to sign agreements resolving the long-running dispute between the United States and Mexico over long-haul cross-border trucking services. Under the agreements, Mexican trucks will be allowed to engage in cross-border operations and will be required to have electronic onboard recorders to track hours-of-service compliance.
In addition, the U.S. Department of Transportation will review the complete driving record of each driver and require all drug testing samples to be analyzed in Department of Health and Human Services-certified laboratories located in the United States. DOT also will require Mexican drivers to undergo an assessment of their ability to understand the English language and U.S. traffic signs. The new agreement also ensures that Mexico will provide reciprocal authority for U.S. carriers to engage in cross-border long-haul operations into that country.
The new program paves the way for Mexico to lift tariffs it imposed more than two years ago.
The new program also paved the way for Mexico to lift tariffs it imposed more than two years ago. Pursuant to a separate trade agreement, Mexico was to lift retaliatory tariffs on more than $2 billion in U.S. manufactured goods and agricultural products, and was to suspend all of the tariffs within five days of the first Mexican trucking company receiving its U.S. operating authority.
“The agreements are a win for roadway safety, and they are a win for trade,” LaHood said. “By opening the door to long-haul trucking between the United States and Mexico, America’s third-largest trading partner, we will create jobs and opportunity for our people and support economic development in both nations.”
After the previous cross-border trucking program was terminated in March 2009, LaHood and other Obama administration officials met with lawmakers, safety advocates, industry representatives and others to address a broad range of concerns, which DOT took into account as it worked with Mexico to develop the new program. The final program published July 6 in the Federal Register addressed the recommendations of more than 2,000 commenters to the proposal issued by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration in April. To view the notice, go to www.fmcsa.dot.gov/rules-regulations/administration/rulemakings/notices/US-MX-agreement-FR-notice.pdf.
The American Trucking Associations welcomed DOT’s latest attempt to address the efficiency of trucking and trade with Mexico. “ATA is encouraged that Mexico will soon be dropping its incredibly damaging tariffs, which will also spur growth in trade between our two countries,” said Bill Graves, ATA president and chief executive officer. “We also note that Mexican fleets participating in the program will be bound by the same rules and regulations applicable to American carriers, and we are pleased that the agreement allows for U.S. carriers to compete in Mexico.”
Graves said ATA remained concerned with the expenditure of taxpayer dollars for EOBRs to monitor Mexican carriers. “However, we do appreciate the Department of Transportation’s position that this financial help will be limited to the term of the pilot program and allows the U.S. to more effectively audit participating Mexican carriers,” he said.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce also expressed its approval. “It’s well past time that we complied with the promise we made nearly two decades ago that allow carefully inspected trucks to move across the border,” said Thomas Donohue, U.S. Chamber of Commerce president and CEO. “This is a vital step toward a more efficient U.S.-Mexico border.”
But Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa argued that opening the border endangers America’s highway safety, border security and warehouse and trucking jobs. Hoffa said the program probably is illegal because it grants permanent operating authority to Mexican trucks after 18 months, while Congress has not granted DOT the legal authority to do so. He also questioned the legality of DOT’s use of Highway Trust Fund dollars to pay for EOBRs for Mexican trucks.
“Opening the border to dangerous trucks at a time of high unemployment and rampant drug violence is a shameful abandonment of the DOT’s duty to protect American citizens from harm and to spend American tax dollars responsibly,” said Hoffa. The Teamsters had urged the administration to bring a challenge against Mexico for imposing excessive tariffs on U.S. goods after the previous cross-border pilot program was shut down. “The Bush-era pilot program was a failure that shouldn’t be repeated,” he said.
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