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Aug. 1, 2001

Separating Fact From Fiction Red Herrings in Debate Over Opening the Border to Mexican Trucks

FICTION: Placing restrictions as proposed by Murray and Shelby would violate NAFTA.

FACT: NAFTA s arbitration panel in February 2001 ruled that while the border must be open, the United States has the right to enforce its safety regulations. The United States also may require thorough inspections of Mexican carriers even if they are not the same as inspections of U.S. and Canadian carriers as long as the carriers are evaluated on a case-by-case basis. The Bush administration has failed to explain why the Murray/Shelby bill is not within the letter and spirit of the ruling.

FICTION: The Murray/Shelby provisions discriminate against Mexico.

FACT: The Murray/Shelby bill does not set higher safety standards for Mexican trucks than U.S. trucks. The measure merely requires a strong and effective inspection system, one that will ensure that Mexican rigs meet U.S. standards when they cross the border. This is not discriminatory because U.S. trucks must meet the same standards. We need to conduct on-site reviews of Mexican carriers in Mexico because it would be a logistical nightmare as well as impossible to conduct thorough safety reviews at the border. On-site inspectors can check logbooks, examine safety records and review a carrier s entire operation. That would enable border inspectors to focus on the weight of the truck and to ensure the driver has a valid license and proof of insurance. On-site safety evaluations of Mexico-domiciled carriers are particularly justified in light of the fact that the Mexican government does not regularly evaluate the safety of its motor carriers, while the U.S. and Canadian governments do.

Further, the United States has developed a reciprocal relationship with Canada. In 1982, the United States closed the Canadian border to commercial traffic for two years until Canada agreed to certain reciprocal measures to govern commercial traffic between the two nations. Conducting on-site safety compliance reviews in each other s nation has been a longstanding practice between Canada and the United States, as well as with many other nations under FAA and FDA requirements. (For example, before a foreign air carrier is allowed to operate in the United States, the FAA must conduct an evaluation of the airline s fitness at its place of business in its home country.) Finally, motor vehicle crashes do not discriminate between who will be killed and injured. The Murray/Shelby provisions protect everyone.

FICTION: On-site safety reviews of Mexican carriers are unnecessary; paper applications and border inspections will suffice.

FACT: Allowing a Mexican carrier to operate in the United States based solely on a review of a paper application will allow unsafe carriers to gain access to our roads. As DOT Secretary Norman Mineta admitted recently when testifying before congressional lawmakers, the border is understaffed and inspection facilities are poor and inadequate. Further, a paper application doesn t give reviewers as much information about a carrier s operations and allows companies to claim they comply with U.S. standards when an on-site visit would show they do not. With little or no experience in meeting U.S. rules, Mexico-domiciled carriers often do not have a paper record that would produce a useful evaluation of the company s performance.

FICTION: The cost of enacting Shelby/Murray would be prohibitive.

FACT: The cost is tiny compared to the benefits reaped in crashes that would be avoided, lives and property that would be preserved, and roads and bridges that would be undamaged. The DOT has estimated the provisions would cost $83 million less than the cost of reconstructing 100 miles of highway and just a slight portion of the $60 billion DOT appropriations bill. Further, overweight trucks severely damage roads and bridges. It is far more costly to repair this damage than to install weigh-in-motion scales.

FICTION: The provisions would slow trade between Mexico and the United States.

FACT: The provisions would expedite cross-border traffic because safety reviews of Mexican carriers would occur on-site in Mexico, not at the border. Technological improvements included in Murray/Shelby, such as weigh-in-motion scales, and additional border inspectors, would help make border crossings faster and more efficient. Also, delays at the border generally occur because of traffic volume and inspections by other U.S. agencies, such as the Customs agency and Drug Enforcement Agency.

NOTE: Go to Public Citizen's Mexican Trucks page to view a comprehensive fact sheet about the Murray/Shelby provision, a comparison of the Gramm/McCain substitute for the Murray/Shelby provision, Public Citizen s February analysis of Mexico s truck inspection system and more.

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