(WASHINGTON) – Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa today castigated the U.S. Department of Transportation for agreeing to open the border to long-haul Mexican trucks. Opening the border endangers America’s highway safety, border security and warehouse and trucking jobs.
Hoffa said the program is probably illegal because it grants permanent operating authority to Mexican trucks after 18 months in the so-called “pilot program” outlined in the proposed rule published in the Federal Register. Congress has not granted DOT the legal authority to do so, Hoffa said. Further, DOT would use money from the Highway Trust Fund to pay for electronic on-board recorders for Mexican trucks. Hoffa questioned whether DOT can do that legally.
“Opening the border to dangerous trucks at a time of high unemployment and rampant drug violence is a shameful abandonment of the DOT’s duty to protect American citizens from harm and to spend American tax dollars responsibly,” Hoffa said.
“This so-called pilot program is a concession to multinational corporations that send jobs to Mexico. It erodes our national security. It endangers motorists. It ignores the rampant corruption among Mexican law enforcement. It lowers wages and robs jobs from hard-working American truck drivers and warehouse workers.
“It adds insult to injury to force U.S. taxpayers to pay for monitoring equipment on Mexican trucks so Mexican carriers can take away their jobs,” Hoffa said. “The DOT shows more loyalty to the Mexican people than it does to Americans.”
The Obama administration closed the border to unsafe Mexican trucks in February 2009 after Congress shut off funds for the cross-border pilot program. Mexico retaliated with excessive tariffs. The Teamsters for two years have urged the administration to bring a challenge against Mexico for imposing excessive tariffs on U.S. goods.
“This pilot program doesn’t even meet NAFTA’s requirement that the Mexican government grant comparable authority to U.S. trucks. No trucking company or driver in their right mind would travel in Mexico under the State Department’s current travel warning,” Hoffa said.
The U.S. State Department on April 22 told U.S. citizens to defer non-essential travel to Nogales and Northern Sonora; Ciudad Juarez and Chihuahua; Durango, Coahuila and Zacatecas; Tamaulipas; Sinaloa and Southern Sonora; San Luis Potosi; Nayarit and Jalisco; and Michoacan.
Since 2007, violence has worsened as drug cartels compete for trade routes to the U.S. More than 40,000 people have been killed, and kidnapping and torture are rampant.
Further, a Homeland Security incident report from Oct. 15, 2010 indicates that drug traffickers have hijacked and cloned legitimate trucks to transport illicit cargo across the border. According to the document, criminals hijacked over 10,000 commercial trucks in 2010 in Mexico.
Hoffa said DOT cannot guarantee the safety of Mexican trucks.
“Mexican trucks simply don’t meet the same standards as U.S. trucks,” he said. “Medical and physical standards for Mexican trucking firms are lower than for U.S. companies. And how can Mexico enforce highway safety laws when it can’t even control drug cartels?
“The Bush-era pilot program was a failure that shouldn’t be repeated,” Hoffa said.
The U.S. government spent $500 million on the pilot program, which began in September 2007. Only about three Mexican trucks per day traveled beyond the border zone until the program was shut down, according to the Transportation Department’s office of inspector general. The inspector general also reported that “FMCSA does not have assurance that it has checked every Mexican truck and driver … when they cross into the border in the United States.”
Founded in 1903, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters represents more than 1.4 million hard-working men and women in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico. Go to www.teamster.org for more information.