Fed decision to allow trade long overdue

Freedom New Mexico

The federal government has prompted yet another delay in the implementation of a NAFTA provision that allows Mexican truckers to bring cargo from that country to U.S. markets.

Under the North American Free Trade Agreement, that provision should have gone into effect on Jan. 1, 1995 — more than 14 years ago.

The U.S. Transportation Department’s inspector general has issued a report stating the department still needs more information to determine if Mexican trucks are safe enough to enter this country. The report, prepared by department auditors, states that some states don’t adequately report the nationality of people convicted of traffic violations, and that some buses aren’t inspected sufficiently when they cross the border.

This despite a 2007 pilot program that allowed a limited number of Mexican trucks free access throughout the country. Most people didn’t even notice the program was in operation, suggesting there was no sudden rash of accidents due to their presence on U.S. roads.

After nearly a decade and a half, the department should have enough information. And we shouldn’t expect a major risk from Mexican trucks or drivers. One of the NAFTA provisions requires drivers be familiar with U.S. traffic laws to drive here, and traffic laws and signage in our two countries are similar.

Those facts, and the fact that trucks frequently enter this country and can be monitored easily, suggest the government is simply ignoring the wealth of available data. Mexican trucks are allowed to operate in the border area, and are common on Rio Grande Valley roadways making deliveries throughout the area.

There has never been any higher incidence of accidents or traffic violations among Mexican trucks than their American counterparts. And the benefits of the additional trade those trucks represent are obvious, especially along the borders.

Mexican trucks bringing cargo destined for areas deeper into the United States must transfer their loads to U.S. trucks, usually operated by union drivers. That’s the clear motivation behind the ongoing delay, and Teamsters and other unions have made no bones about their opposition to their competition from foreign, non-union truckers.

But the Transportation Department has now stated what it wants. Those interested in this issue should give it to them.

If, after nearly 15 years, it still needs information on the safety of Mexican trucks, and can’t seem to do the work itself, then there should be no shortage of people and organizations that should be able to compile it.

This administration and Congress, obviously beholden to the union groups that support the Democratic majority, has an interest in keeping foreign truckers out, even if it means continuing to violate the treaty and international law. We can’t expect it to gather the information that would prove its reasons for keeping foreign truckers out. Thus, interested parties should employ someone to prepare open, unimpeachably objective data that will once and for all determine if Mexican trucks would be a hazard to U.S. drivers, or if there is no reason to continue keeping them off our roadways.

It’s time to force the government’s hand on this issue, once and for all.