July 26, 2001
FACTS AND FICTION ABOUT CROSS-BORDER MEXICAN TRUCKING REQUIREMENTS
In the debate over the Murray/Shelby provisions to protect the safety of the U.S. people on their roads and streets contained in H.R. 2299, the Department of Transportation FY 2002 Appropriations bill, a number of issues have been raised causing confusion and misunderstanding of the factual bases for the Murray/Shelby safety requirements. Safety groups address these issues below and provide the real facts behind the confusion and mistaken claims about the Murray/Shelby provisions.
FICTION: The Murray/Shelby provisions violate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
THE FACTS: Not only does Murray/Shelby not violate NAFTA, it directly fulfills the guidance of the NAFTA Arbitral Panel ruling of February 6, 2001, in Paragraphs 300 and 301, which underscored the U.S. right to preserve the safety and welfare of the traveling public by means of safety requirements tailored specifically to enhance the safety of Mexican commercial motor vehicle operations in the U.S., including a case-by-case examination of Mexico-domiciled motor carrier safety performance.
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FICTION: The Murray/Shelby provisions are discriminatory toward Mexico.
THE FACTS: The tactic of raising an "anti-Hispanic" charge to undercut proper regulation of motor carriers crossing U.S. borders was rebuked at hearings on this issue last week and should be rejected today. Mexico is not being singled out. Look at the facts.
Twenty years ago the U.S. closed the border for commercial traffic with Canada (in 1982), and reopened it in 1984 once Canada agreed to reciprocal measures, including safety measures, to govern commercial traffic between the two nations. Today the U.S. and Canadian authorities conduct on-site inspections of commercial carriers in each other s country.
When a foreign air carrier seeks authority to serve the U.S., the FAA conducts an assessment of the country s regulatory authority and an on-site safety inspection of the country s airlines, including assessments of personnel licencing, aircraft operation, and airworthiness of aircraft. Currently, 13 countries do not have authority to serve the U.S.
Motor vehicle crashes do not discriminate between who will be killed and injured, so it is impossible to argue that there is discrimination against Mexican commercial vehicles to protect any particular population. The Murray/Shelby provisions protect everyone.
The real issue being debated is whether the border will open to all commercial traffic on January 1, 2002. Trading lives for an arbitrary date makes little sense, particulary since the Mexican authorities and companies and the U.S. government all have known for six years that commercial vehicles had to meet U.S. safety standards before they could operate in 6 U.S. The Murray/Shelby provisions do not set higher safety standards for Mexican trucks than U.S. trucks. They merely require that our inspection system is sufficient to assure the vehicles in fact do meet U.S. standards. The public should not suffer the consequences of dilatory government preparation.
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FICTION: Requiring on-site safety reviews of Mexican motor carriers in Mexico is unfair and discriminatory.
Conducting on-site safety compliance reviews in each other s nation has been a longstanding practice between Canada and the U.S. which have full reciprocity of safety inspection criteria and safety compliance reviews, as well as the recognition of the adequacy of each nation s safety oversight regime by the other country.
This same reciprocity can evolve between the U.S. and Mexico once Mexico implements a fully functioning safety oversight system with motor carrier safety standards, safety rating systems, and systems of penalties for safety violations. At present, however, Mexico has no functional safety oversight system.
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FICTION: The safety of Mexican commercial vehicles can be ensured just through paper applications and border inspections alone without on-site, preliminary safety reviews.
Without preliminary, on-site full safety reviews of Mexican truck and bus company safety management capabilities, a reliance on uncorroborated responses to paper applications will inevitably allow unsafe carriers to gain conditional operating authority an experiment with the safety of the American people.
The chronic inadequacy of border resources for inspecting trucks and buses attempting to enter the U.S. has been amply documented in multiple U.S. Department of Transportation Office of Inspector General reports and in back-to-back General Accounting Office studies.
U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta admitted in recent testimony that the border is understaffed and that inspection facilities are poor and inadequate.
Border inspections to date have resulted in a tiny percentage less than one percent of Mexican truck inspections and the U.S. DOT admits that it has virtually no safety information even on Mexican carriers which have operated in the U.S. for years.
Not only will border inspections not be able to detect which carriers have poor safety practices and which vehicles and drivers are at risk of crashes, but a reliance on border inspections alone will actually impede expeditious commercial traffic movement into the U.S.
Safety groups and enforcement authorities, including the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance, the AAA, the California Highway Patrol, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, the Transportation Lawyers Association, as well as trucking organizations such as the Owner Operator Independent Drivers Association, oppose reliance upon only border inspections. All of these and other groups support the need for initial, on-site safety reviews for determining whether to award conditional operating authority to Mexican motor carriers.
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FICTION: Weigh-In-Motion (WIM) scales are too expensive and unnecessary for confirming the weights of Mexican trucks and buses.
THE FACTS: Mexican commercial vehicles are allowed to carry cargo weights in Mexico far higher than those permitted in the U.S. on our Interstate highway system, for example, and Mexican overweight trucks entering the U.S. is a well-known, chronic problem which is basically unenforced.
Overweight trucks are more dangerous, as shown in recent research conducted by the Federal Highway Administration, and they destroy roads and bridges at dramatically increased rates.
WIM scales are used with great success in California at its two state-operated border inspection facilities to rapidly screen every commercial vehicle crossing into the state and to detect violators whose excessive weights are confirmed with fixed scales.
WIM scales allow fast transiting of the border by commercial vehicles and actually expedite the flow of commerce.
WIM scales pay for themselves in short order by deterring and detecting violators which, in turn, reduces the tremendous damage to our highway infrastructure. The cost of equipping all remaining 25 border crossings with WIM systems, estimated by DOT to cost $12.7 million, is equivalent to the one-time cost of the full reconstruction of 12 to 15 miles of multi-lane Interstate highway.
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FICTION: Requiring Mexican trucks to carry insurance from U.S. insurance companies violates NAFTA.
THE FACTS: The Mexican government requires U.S. vehicles traveling in Mexico (such as buses and package carriers) to be covered by policies written by Mexico-based insurance companies.
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FICTION: The costs of implementing the Murray/Shelby provisions are excessive.
THE FACTS: The costs for all of the Murray/Shelby safety protection requirements, including WIM scales, preliminary full, on-site safety reviews, inspector training and certification, and other provisions, is claimed by the Administration to cost an additional $83 million.
There is no benefit-cost analysis accompanying these cost figures, nor any cost accounting corroboration of their accuracy. The Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance testified that it could perform the initial safety reviews on-site for a fraction of the administration s estimated cost of $40 million.
Even if the costs approached the Administration s estimate, this amounts to an additional one percent funding in a $60 billion appropriations bill a tiny cost which will reap benefits quickly and many times over in avoided crashes, preservation of lives and property, reduced damage to U.S. roads and bridges, and expedited commercial traffic flow across our southern border.