ATA drafts wish list for North American cooperation

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American Trucking Associations says it is ready to help fulfill the goals of the North American Security and Prosperity Partnership announced March 23 by the leaders of the United States, Canada and Mexico.

In comments filed recently with the U.S. departments of Homeland Security, Commerce and Transportation, the ATA listed seven issues that it said should be addressed by the three nations in order to create “a level playing field for transporting international cargo throughout North America”:

  • Full compliance with the trucking provisions of the North American Free Trade Agreement.
  • A comprehensive customs clearance system for commercial drivers.
  • Speedier processing of fleets in the Free and Secure Trade (FAST) program.
  • Coordinated security programs, including background screening.
  • Compatible hours-of-service rules that set minimum rest periods and maximum work periods.
  • Compatible emission standards and widespread availability of ultra-low-sulfur diesel.
  • A common set of equipment, technology and maintenance standards.
  • All ATA’s comments address “How can we work toward improving harmonization?” said Martine Rojas, ATA executive director of safety and security operations.

    “Mexico and Canada are our largest trading partners, and the same is true vice versa,” Rojas said. “We are joined at the hip geographically and economically.”

    The first issue is NAFTA, Rojas said.

    “NAFTA has two sections. One is access and one is investment,” Rojas said. “Access allows trucks from one of the countries to deliver or pick up cargo and then take that cargo outside the country.”

    As currently implemented, truckers can haul international cargo, but once they are in the foreign country, they cannot haul domestically, Rojas said. For example, a Mexican trucker can run a load from Mexico City to Dallas but then cannot haul from Dallas to Phoenix legally. Instead he can pull a load either back to Mexico or to Canada.

    The ATA wants drivers of any origin to be able to haul anywhere, Rojas said. “That is a major piece. Right now it takes three tractors to move a single trailer across the border.”

    The ATA wants U.S., Mexican and Canadian fleets to be able to establish carriers in another country for the purpose of hauling in that country.

    The ATA wants a single customs transaction to suffice among the three countries. The United States and Canada already are working on separate automated systems, Rojas said.

    The ATA wants to speed up FAST lane processing so that more drivers take advantage of it. Developed by the United States and Canada, the FAST program offers speedy custom clearance at a reduced cost to pre-approved importers, carriers and drivers.

    The ATA wants a single background check process for the three nations.

    “We want all three countries working together so that if we have another attack, then borders don’t completely shut down” as they almost did after Sept. 11, 2001, Rojas said. Known carriers and drivers should be able to “go ahead and ship their stuff,” Rojas said.

    The ATA wants compatible hours rules, but nothing that would drop U.S. hours below the ones now in place, Rojas said. “With HOS, we want a harmonization, and that is difficult because there are different types of operations, both geographic and financial,” Rojas said.

    The North American Security and Prosperity Partnership, announced by U.S. President George W. Bush, Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin and Mexican President Vicente Fox, seeks to make North American industries more competitive globally.