The Teamsters are fighting hard against the U.S. Department of Transportation’s decision to open the border to Mexican trucks. It’s a continuation of the long fight to prevent Mexico’s notoriously dangerous trucks from driving anywhere on U.S. highways.
Teamster opposition kept the border closed to Mexican trucks even after NAFTA took effect on Jan. 1, 1994. In February 2001, a NAFTA tribunal ruled the U.S. had to open the border to Mexican trucks, but could take steps to ensure highway safety.
The Bush administration in September 2007 launched a “demonstration program” to allow Mexican trucks to travel throughout the United States. The program lasted for a year and a half while the Teamsters lobbied Congress to end it. The Bush administration in September 2007 launched a “demonstration program” to allow Mexican trucks to travel throughout the United States. The program lasted for a year and a half while the Teamsters lobbied Congress to end it. In March 2008, Congress passed a bill cutting off funding for the program, but President Bush ignored Congress and kept the program going. Soon after President Obama took office in 2009, he followed Congress’s instructions and ended the Bush demonstration program.
Mexico then retaliated by imposing $2.4 billion in tariffs on 80 products it imports from the United States.
With prodding from the Teamsters, Congress ordered the Transportation Department to let some Mexican trucks use U.S. highways only as part of a rigorously supervised pilot program. The pilot program, which started in 2011, couldn’t just pick a handful of the safest carriers in Mexico to participate.
Congress passed a law requiring a representative sample of Mexican carriers to take part in the pilot program before the border could be opened.
As another precaution, Congress ordered the Transportation Department’s watchdog, the inspector general, to report regularly on the pilot program.
In December 2014, the inspector general reported the pilot program failed under the law. Only 15 carriers participated in it, and it is therefore impossible to know if Mexican trucks are safe enough to drive on U.S. highways.
The inspector general also reported the Transportation Department couldn’t inspect enough carriers in Mexico because of the danger to transportation inspectors. The Teamsters have long argued that letting Mexican trucks travel in the United States was unfair because American truckers don’t want to travel in Mexico because of the ongoing drug war.
Shocking news was announced in January. First, the Transportation Department decided to open the border to Mexican trucks even after the pilot program failed under the law.
Second, the Transportation Department had already secretly allowed 351 Mexican trucking carriers to drive wherever they wanted to in the United States. Transportation officials claimed NAFTA allowed them to do it under “direct foreign investment” provisions of the treaty.
“This policy change by the DOT flies in the face of common sense and ignores the statutory and regulatory requirements of a pilot program,” Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa said in a statement. “Allowing untested Mexican trucks to travel our highways is a mistake of the highest order and it’s the driving public that will be put at risk by the DOT’s rash decision.”
The Teamsters are gearing up for more battles to prevent dangerous Mexican trucks from jeopardizing the traveling public. All options are being explored. Hoffa fired off a letter to Transportation Department Secretary Anthony Foxx to say opening the border to Mexican trucks jeopardized U.S. highway safety.