United States opens border to Mexican long-haul truckers


Jan. 9, 2014 marked a monumental decision made by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) that has been debated for over 20 years. According to a report in San Diego Union-Tribune, the U.S. border is preparing to open to Mexican long-haul truckers as long as they have a permit.

The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) between the U.S. and Mexico in 1994 originally stipulated that this kind of economic integration was its goal, so this move is receiving much praise from supporters in both commercial industries and in the DOT.

This decision means an end result of removing more than $2 billion in annual retaliatory tariffs on U.S. products. The permanent program that is being established by the DOT has been in the works for three years.
A pilot program was tested by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and provided data from 15 Mexican companies that made over 28,000 crossings according to San Diego Union-Tribune. The trucks went through over 5,500 safety inspections and traveled more than 1.5 million miles.

Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx submitted a statement to congress saying that the safety level is more than satisfactory.

“Data from the three year pilot program…proved that Mexican carriers demonstrate a level of safety at least as high as their American and Canadian counterparts,” Foxx said.

However, a report released from the U.S. DOT’s Inspector General said the pilot program lacked samples that would accurately represent the amount of Mexico-domiciled carriers likely to participate in border operations.

Non-supporters argue that the new position not only threatens jobs but also safety in the U.S. A junior at the University of San Diego, Eric Krauss, doesn’t like where this deal is headed.

“I’m actually against this decision,” Krauss said. “I feel like this will help the cartels more and make it easier for them to enter into the U.S.”

Other students at USD hold a different position on this controversial issue. Chula Vista native and sophomore Regina Gutierrez, believes this decision is the right move to improving relations between the U.S. and Mexico.

“I think this is the right step because there is a lot of mistrust between the two countries,” Guiterrez said. “I’m from Chula Vista and can identify with both cultures and understand where both countries are coming from. I do think there are further steps that can be taken to improve border relations, however, we have to start small by building trust between them in allowing small changes like this one.”

According to the vice president of security and operations at the American Trucking Association, the border traffic has been extremely congested in the past.

There is a long wait to cross, and, because of this, long-haul trucking companies are reluctant to send products in late-model trucks just to have them wait in border control lines for hours.

Mexico had placed more than $2 billion in retaliatory tariffs in 2009 when U.S. Congress halted a demonstration project using its powers of appropriation. An article in Transport Topics by Michele Fuetsch states that the conflicting reports and arguments over the validity of these reports is likely to again attract the attention of Congress.

With a precedent set of not allowing Mexican trucks to run beyond designated commercial zones at the border, it seems again unlikely that it will budge this time around based on the data from the pilot program safety checks.

Although many are concerned with safety because of the violent and crime-ridden past of the Mexican border, students like freshman Jordan Rodriguez argue the key is increasing business, efficiency and education.

“I believe that increased business between the two countries could help strengthen the relations,” Rodriguez said. “If quickening this process will allow for made trades and transactions then yes, I believe this is a step in the right direction. A better way to make checkpoints and border relations more efficient is less racial profiling on the American side of the border. We can strive to educate our youth more on the socioeconomic problems occurring in Mexico in order to diminish ignorance on the issue.”