From the October 2007 Idaho Observer:

Whatever happened to the Mexican truckers?

By The Idaho Observer

On August 30, 2007 the Teamsters Union, the Sierra Club and non-profit Public Citizen asked a federal appeals court to put the brakes on a pilot program that would allow Mexican trucks to travel deep into the U.S., arguing that there won’t be enough oversight of the drivers and that public safety would be endangered in this hasty attempt by the government to comply with parts of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

NAFTA requires that all roads in the United States, Mexico and Canada to be opened to carriers from all three countries. Canadian trucking companies have full access to U.S. roads and vice versa, but Mexican trucks can travel only about 20 miles inside the country at certain border crossings; U.S. trucks are not allowed into Mexico without inspection.

On Sept 1, 2007 the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals denied the request, ruling that the groups had not satisfied the legal requirements to immediately stop what the government is calling a "demonstration project," but could continue to argue their case, whatever that means.

U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) Secretary Mary Peters stated that the "time has come" to implement NAFTA’s trucking provision.

President Bush, in seeking court overruling of the Teamsters, contended that further delays in the project would "strain the relationship between the U.S. and Mexico." Government lawyers said that Mexican trucking companies in the program would have to meet the same regulations governing U.S. trucking companies, including rigorous safety, including drug and alcohol testing for drivers done by U.S. companies. In addition, law enforcement officials have stepped up nationwide enforcement of a law that’s been on the books since the 1970s requiring interstate truck and bus drivers to have a basic understanding of written and spoken English.

However, the agency said it must still wait the final report by the inspector general and for Mexico to begin giving U.S. trucking companies reciprocal access before the program could begin.

On Sept 21, 2007, Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho) stated that the safety of American motorists and pedestrians should not be compromised by having vehicles from foreign countries that do not meet DOT safety standards on our roads and that, currently, Mexican trucks are only allowed to make deliveries within the 20-25 mile commercial zone along our SW border. In addition, Senator Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) reported that, on September 6, 2007, the DOT Inspector General issued a report on "Issues Pertaining to the Proposed NAFTA Cross-Border Trucking Demonstration Project" which highlighted safety concerns with the trucking program, especially regarding thorough inspections of Mexican trucks and their operators and implementation of safety protocols. He went on to say that on September 12, 2007 the Senate overwhelmingly passed an amendment that would prohibit any funding of the program.

National media reported that the Teamsters staged a protest at the border on Thursday, September 6, when the trucking program was scheduled to begin. Has there since been a media blackout on this subject? The most recent entry on this subject on the Teamsters website is dated August 30, 2007. As of Oct. 15, 2007, the National Transportation Library at replied with the electronically-generated comment, "Your search—Mexican truck pilot program—did not match any documents."

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