LAREDO — A day after being cleared to operate in the United States, Nuevo León-based Transportes Olympic spent Friday preparing to make its first journey beyond the Texas border in at least 25 years. José Gil, Transportes’ logistics director, said a truck carrying steel bound for Wilson Hills, N.C., left the company’s headquarters Friday evening.

Despite American truckers’ protests, Páez is optimistic. “If the Teamsters don’t burn our trucks, everything will work out fine,” he said. Páez’s company was granted operating authority in the United States late Thursday.

Mexico, in turn, granted El Paso-based Stagecoach Cartage and Distribution permission to operate south of the border — a privilege U.S. trucks never have had. That lack of access to the Mexican market led the United States to deny operating authority to Mexican trucks after 1982.

Mexican trucks operating in the U.S. before then were allowed to continue making deliveries anywhere in the country. Up to 1,300 Mexican trucking and bus companies have had operating authority in the United States for the past two decades, DOT spokeswoman Melissa DeLaney said.

DOT could not say how many of those companies were solely in the trucking business or how many of their trucks were operating on American roads.

“We’ve had Mexican companies’ trucks showing up at various places in the U.S. for years, and there’s never been a problem,” said Brigham McCown, a partner in the Dallas law firm Winstead PC.

McCown is a former chief counsel to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, the government agency overseeing the cross-border trucking pilot.

“The stakes of letting a few more Mexican trucks in are lower compared with the black eye the U.S. would suffer by refusing to do what it said it would do under NAFTA,” McCown said.

Under NAFTA, truckers from Canada, the United States and Mexico are to have access to one another’s roads.

“It improves the competitiveness of our industry, and ‘our’ meaning North America,” said Manuel Rodríguez Arregui, an undersecretary in Mexico’s Ministry of Communications and Transportation. “We have to realize that there are other trading blocs that have improved their competitiveness by coming together.”

A legal filing the government made in response to the Teamsters’ San Francisco lawsuit said the federal government’s failure to open its border to Mexican truckers could lead to trade sanctions against the United States.

Democrats and organized labor successfully have kept NAFTA’s cross-border trucking provisions from being implemented, citing concerns over emissions standards and the safety of American motorists.

The DOT pilot aims to test whether opening the country’s southern border is indeed a threat to the environment or a danger to American motorists.

Under the one-year program, up to 100 Mexican and U.S. trucking companies would gain access to one another’s roads. A maximum of 540 Mexican trucks are expected to operate in the U.S. under the program.

McCown said opposition groups still have options to fight the pilot, but they face a tough road. The Teamsters lawsuit still could stop the program or legislators could freeze the funds that would be used to administer it, he said. Those efforts, however, could take months to gain enough traction to shut down the pilot.

“With the border already open, it’s going to be harder to shut it,” McCown said.

Editors Note: Let’s hope now the morons don’t try any violence against these guys. Remember, they are truckers just like we are and in reality, they pose no threat to our industry, now, or in the future.

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