[EDITORIAL] Teamsters scare mongering on NAFTA & Mexican Trucks

Mexican trucks such as this one pose no threat to US highway safety or US JobsThe home team trails in the third quarter as the underdog visitors steadily advance the ball. Coaches are nervous; fans are grumbling. Desperate for a turnaround, the home team announces a surprise rule change: From now on, the visitors are banned from crossing the 50-yard line.

Sounds absurd, but that’s what Congress proposes to do with NAFTA, the free-trade accord it approved in 1993. Sure, NAFTA might not be a crowd pleaser. It is, however, a treaty that legally binds the United States. The rules don’t change just because the home team is in trouble.

NAFTA has always included provisions to grant U.S., Mexican and Canadian truckers access to one another’s shipping routes. Bipartisan majorities in both houses of Congress, yielding to pressure from the Teamsters, voted last week to halt a year-old pilot program that allowed a few dozen properly inspected, safe Mexican trucks to haul cargo deep within U.S. territory.

Short of using actual facts, the Teamsters and truckers groups have done everything possible to feed the worst stereotypes about the dangers of Mexican trucks on U.S. highways.

It’s harder when facts get in the way:

  • Since 1995, the federal government has spent $500 million to improve border inspection facilities and hire 600 new inspectors.
  • All Mexican trucks entering the United States must meet all U.S. safety and security requirements.
  • Mexican truck drivers must meet U.S. licensing and safety requirements, without exception.
  • All 22 safety mandates required previously by Congress related to Mexican trucking have been met by the Department of Transportation.
  • Mexican trucks in the program have a better safety record than their American counterparts.

There is scant evidence to support assertions that Mexican truckers are inherently unsafe, but Congress wants to kill the pilot program regardless. President Bush is threatening a veto, and rightly so.

Before Congress tries to override him, members should stop confusing this blatant scare mongering about “road safety” with the real issue: American truckers’ fears about the safety of their jobs and lawmakers’ fears about losing Teamster votes in November.