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NAFTA Trucks Ruling Out Soon

Get Your Important News Safety Device Here: Administration Spin Deflector

1. When the Administration gets the NAFTA Trucks decision, most likely the public and press will only get spin on it - with the release of an Administration "summary," not the actual panel text. NAFTA requires a ruling to be made public 15 days after release to the countries, but there is no reason that the entire text can't be released earlier!

2. Expect more of the same spin that greeted the late 2000 release of the preliminary ruling. The claim will be that the NAFTA tribunal ruling against the U.S. is "a victory for the U.S. and our highway safety concerns."

3. But ask the REAL QUESTION: Didn't the NAFTA panel order the U.S. to open its border to Mexican trucks and how can this be squared with real safety concerns? The U.S. Department of Transportation's (DOT) Inspector General found that 35% of the Mexican trucks it inspects now crossing the border have such dangerous defects that they are put out of service. Currently, the deadly 35% of the 99% of Mexican trucks that pass by uninspected only are permitted to drive in a 20 mile border zone. Ask: does this ruling order the U.S. to allow Mexican trucks access beyond the border zone - and thus expose more people to danger?

4. The NAFTA panel ruling may allow the U.S. to keep its domestic truck safety standards on the books, but does the ruling allow the U.S. to continue ENFORCING its standards in a way that protects public safety? Mexico pledged to establish a truck safety system at the time NAFTA passed. Also, the NAFTA chapter that requires border opening also requires the nations' truck safety rules to be standardized. But, there has been no upwards harmonization of standards AND Mexico still does not have basic truck safety rules:

  • No domestic truck inspection system
  • No limits on the number of hours a driver may drive without a rest stop
  • No right for the government to order dangerous trucks to be taken out of service

5. USTR may argue that the U.S. can ensure safety by inspecting each Mexican truck. But, USTR and the trucking industry (which seeks to hire cheap Mexican drivers) know this is impossible. Currently 2 million trucks are inspected in the U.S. yearly. This includes the 35,000 of 4 million Mexican trucks now crossing that are checked. DOT estimates that an additional 3 million Mexican trucks would cross yearly if the border were open. Thus, to inspect all entering Mexican trucks, U.S. inspections would have to rise from 2 million to 9 million trucks per year. Currently, there are 60 federal truck inspectors on the border who are able to cover 35,000 (approximately 1%) of the current 4 million Mexican trucks. Thus, to cover every Mexican truck with even a cursory inspection would require 10,500 inspectors! Will the Administration guarantee this enormous resource allocation? How about funding construction of the huge new inspection facilities that would be needed to avoid week-long border backups?

6. Until Mexico establishes its own truck safety system, limited U.S. access is the effective safety option. Given the lack of a Mexican truck safety system, the U.S. government - under pressure from consumer, insurance, truck driver and highway safety groups - has limited access of Mexican trucks to a border zone. Inspection is an important part of a comprehensive truck safety system. There is no way to inspect every Mexican truck at the border. Until Mexico enforces safety rules, opening the border would be a deadly mistake.

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