Transportes Olympic, meet Stagecoach Cartage and Distribution. Olympic is a Mexican truck company in Nuevo León, the first to be certified by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to carry cargo into the interior of the United States in a one-year test of a provision of the North American Free Trade Agreement. A driver made the inaugural delivery this month of Mexican steel to a construction site in North Carolina.
Stagecoach is an American trucking firm in El Paso, the first to be certified to carry cargo into Mexico under the same NAFTA provision. A week after the Olympic truck rolled into the United States, a Stagecoach rig carried an initial load of American plastic pellets to a razor factory near Hermosillo.
The long-delayed test program has met with intense opposition on this side of the border. There’s scary talk about what dangerous Mexican drivers will do to American highways and smoke-belching Mexican rigs to the environment. Behind the scary talk, however, the basic issue is the fear by Teamsters that lower-paid Mexican drivers will cost some of them their jobs.
Mexican truckers raise the mirror objection. If U.S. trucks aren’t forced to offload their cargoes at the border, some of them will unjustly lose their jobs to wealthy Americans.
Truckers on both sides have a vested interest in maintaining an inefficient system that adds time and costs to cross-border deliveries — an inefficient system that doesn’t exist, by the way, on the U.S.-Canadian border.
Unfortunately, opponents of competition appear to have enough allies in Congress to pull the plug on the test program, despite the efforts of Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, to ensure stringent oversight of Mexican trucks and drivers.
Businesses and consumers in both the United States and Mexico stand to gain from the elimination of the current load-unload-load arrangement. And Congress is sending a terrible message to our Latin American neighbors about the U.S. commitment to free trade and treaty obligations by holding Mexico to a double standard.