Your Influence Counts ... Use It! The SPOTLIGHT by Liberty Lobby

Reprinted from, home of The SPOTLIGHT archive

Unsafe Mexican trucks pose lethal threat

  • Dangerous Mexican drivers of unsafe trucks and buses are turning travel on American highways into a Third World nightmare as they are given the free access demanded by an obscure NAFTA panel.
By Christopher Bollyn

Ten Democratic senators sent a letter to President bush on June 11 asking him to reconsider his plan to grant Mexican trucks and buses full access to U.S. roads. Granting Mexican truckers access "could seriously jeopardize highway safety, road conditions and environmental quality," the letter said.

Bush has said he intends to comply with the ruling of an arbitration panel created by the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) that ruled on Feb. 6 that the United states must allow Mexican trucks and buses to operate throughout the country.

"President Bush has made a firm commitment to implement the NAFTA trucking provisions, and his administration has begun doing that," U.S. Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta said.

According to a timetable outlined with the Mexican government on March 22, the United states will permit Mexican carriers to operate throughout the country before the end of the year.

Although the 10 senators support NAFTA, which says theat trucks and their cargoes should flow freely between the two nations, they have serious concerns about allowing overworked and unregulated Mexican truckers driving unsafe rigs on American highways.

Rep. Jim Oberstar (D-Minn.) Introduced a resolution (H.R. 152) urging the president to delay allowing Mexican trucks and buses to travel throughout the United States until these vehicles are able to comply with all U.S. health and safety regulations and until the United States is able to adequately enforce these rules at the border.

Citing the lethal danger posed by unsafe Mexican trucks, the president of the Transportation Trades Department of the AFL-CIO, Sonny Hall, endorsed the resolution saying, "Mexico lacks a credible drug and alcohol testing program, put no limits on the length of a driver's day, and does a poor job of policing its unsafe operators -- these are not trucks and buses we want on our roads."

Mexican truckers are overworked, underpaid, unregulated and have no union. Many work seven days a week for $150-$200 and are lucky to get four hours of sleep a day, according to investigative reporter Charles Bowden, who rode with Mexican truckers while researching an article published in Teamster.

"They do runs of up to 72 hours without rest. This calls for planning. One driver rattles off the kilometer numbers for places he gets cocaine between Juarez and Mexico city," Bowden wrote.

Nearly every driver that Bowden met had been in a fatal accident -- and fled. One was carrying a 36-ton load when he fled a bus collision that killed 12. Leaving the scene of an accident is common in Mexico because everyone dreads the arrival of the police, Bowden said.

The international Brotherhood of Teamsters, which represents more than 300,000 American truckers, opposed NAFTA and has spearheaded the campaign to stop unsafe Mexican trucks at the border.

"If even one unsafe truck comes across the border, it's one too many," Teamsters spokesman, Don Owens, told The SPOTLIGHT, "International trade agreements should never subvert American law."

Currently, some 14,000 Mexican trucks cross the border every day and are supposedly limited to a 20-mile wide commercial zone within the U.S. border. However, in the Inspector General's 1999 report 254 Mexican carriers were already operating illegally in the United States.

The proposed changes will allow Mexican carriers to operate their fleets in the U.S. legally, taking work from more highly-paid American truckers and increasing the risk for everyone on the road.

Although less than one percent of the 4.5 million Mexican trucks that entered the country last year were inspected, nearly 50 percent of those were turned around because they failed to meet American safety standards.

Because most U.S. crossing points are understaffed and only have daytime inspectors, a Mexican trucker who has been turned around need only wait until the inspectors leave for the day to enter the U.S. Furthermore, there are numerous crossing points there are no inspectors at all.

Mexican trucks have a 99 percent chance of not being inspected at all while crossing the border. Mexican drug dealers bought border factories in anticipation of NAFTA and unregulated cross-border trucking.

The public has until July 2 to comment on the proposed changes that would allow Mexican trucks and buses unlimited access to American roads. Concerned citizens should call or write the White House and their senators and congressmen.