OOIDA resumes false claims about Mexican trucks in latest press release.

Unsafe Mexican Truck? Not on your life!
This is one of the trucks OOIDA and other opponents claim is unsafe and continue to try to keep off US highways through campaigns of misinformation and preying on the prejudice and fears of it's members and the public. Most that would see this rig on US highways, or the one parked on the shoulder, would not know it was a Mexican carrier.

It only took the mention of resuming talks on allowing Mexican trucks into the United States, as we’re obligated to do under the NAFTA treaty for OOIDA to begin another campaign of misinformation and preying upon the fears and prejudices of their members and the general public.

Today, they issued a press release inappropriately titled, “The U.S. must challenge Mexico’s tariff bullying
Highway safety and security must trump free trade ideology

I say inappropriate because of the title and the message being sent. We should be challenges those who put protectionism and their own self interests ahead of the US complying with their obligations and keeping their word.

In the press release, “The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) is calling upon the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative to immediately challenge the legality of the tariffs so that the debate regarding cross-border trucking with Mexico can be shifted from economics to highway safety and security.”

What they’re saying, is they want want USTR Ron Kirk to challenge the tariff before a NAFTA mediation panel, the only venue with the authority to make a ruling.

The last time the United States was hauled before the mediators, comprised of two representatives from each of the three countries involved in NAFTA, the US was told they had to comply and allow Mexican trucks equal access to the US, the same as we allow the Canadians. However, this ruling was with the caveat that the United States could set certain standards of safety that the Mexican carriers would have to comply with. OOIDA’s position has incorrectly been that this meant that Mexico must change their regulatory structure to mirror the United States. Again, this was an incorrect interpretation and spin on the part of OOIDA and others. They ruling meant that the US could establish safety standards that the Mexican carriers would have to abide by, when operating in the US. These standards were the same as US and Canadian carriers must conform to, with glaring exceptions.

Whereas the Canadians are treated as equals to the US, when applying for operating authority and being allowed access into our country. It was determined that Mexico would have to complete a very stringent Pre Authority Safety Audi in addition to a CVSA Level I inspection on all their trucks and drivers before being granted provisional authority.

But I digress. Let’s take a look at OOIDA’s press release in detail.

USTR Ron Kirks position and OOIDA’s backlash

OOIDA states in paragraph 2:

Instead of questioning Mexico’s strong-arm tactics, U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk has indicated a willingness to give in to that government’s bullying and has publicly stated that the easiest way to put an end to the tariffs is to start yet another cross-border trucking program. Mexican officials not only have indicated that they plan to keep the tariffs in place, but also have hinted at imposing even higher tariffs if the cross-border trucking issue is not resolved to their liking.

Representative Kirk is correct. Given the statistics returned from the previous Cross Border Program, and the following assessments by the independent USDOT Office of Inspector General, there was no reason to stop a very successful program, other than politics and the will of Teamsters President James Hoffa.

Bully for Mexico, that after 16 years, they find the cojones to stand up to the United States and press forward for what was agreed upon. As Benito Juarez once said, “Mexico, So far from God, so close to the United States”.

Concerning Mexico’s safety infrastructure, cartel violence etc.

Paragraph 3, they resort to more fear mongering and blatant misinformation about Mexico’s safety infrastructure and the cartel violence happening in Mexico. And as they did on the first day of the Cross Border Program, when the truck in Coahuila was hit head on by a drunk pick up truck driver and exploded, they use the recent theft and immediate recovery of 18 tons of mining explosives as another reason to deny us fulfilling our obligations.

In addition to lacking a regulatory infrastructure for trucking safety, Mexico has yet to fully address numerous other issues related to homeland security, criminal activity and its trucking industry. News reports appear daily about ongoing border violence and the inability of the Mexican government to maintain control over its drug cartels. Customs officers regularly find narcotics and illicit cargo embedded in truckloads crossing the southern border into the United States. Recently, a trailer with 18 tons of explosives was stolen in northern Mexico.

This is a blatant mistruth about Mexico not fully addressing homeland security issues, criminal activity and it’s trucking industry. Let take them one by one.
Homeland Security
A buzzword meaning total insurrection on the southern border and not the least bit of truth to it. Homeland Security (US) is not Mexico’s responsibility. Mexico and the US recently began a joint effort between Mexico’s Federal Police and the US Border Patrol to strengthen security on both sides of the border. Southbound inspections by USCBP agents have resulted in the seizure of 100’s of weapons destined for Mexico and millions in drug profits. On the Mexican side, X-Ray scanners for pedestrians, weight and photo systems for vehicles that scan the license plates of vehicles entering the country have been installed at all major border crossings

Criminal Activity and Border Violence

Contrary to OOIDA’s assertions, the above mentioned steps are going a long way in rooting out and stopping typical criminal activity. As far as controlling it’s cartel violence, President Calderon has made that a cornerstone of his administration and with some success. Extraditions of drug lords and kingpins from Mexico to the US are commonplace, and the Army and Federal Police are aggressively pursuing the cartels. Our contribution under the Merida Initiative has also helped. But like the gangster of the 20’s, the Mafia of the later years and the Cocaine Cowboys in South Florida in the 70’s, there is no difference between the past, and what is happening now. Perhaps it is time to have a national discourse over our failed National Drug Policy as part of the solution to stopping the violence.

Trucking Issues
Mexico, over the past 16, has complied with each and every suggestion, regulation and directive issued by FMCSA and Congress, only to be met with additional roadblocks thrown at them at the behest of groups like OOIDA and the Teamsters. And they’ve patiently complied, until the patience ran out.

OOIDA nitpicks the little items, for example in 350c, which was issued in I believe, 1994. Yet according to the USDOT Office of Inspector General’s report on compliance with 350c (Report available in the download section of this site), the main items of the section have been complied with. The areas needing attention are administrative or statistical in nature and has absolutely nothing to do with the safety or fitness of Mexican carriers to operate in the US.

US Customs and Narcotics Seizures
The one bit of truth that Norita Taylor states in her press release is that USCBP regularly find shipments in trucks crossing the border. But this is what she doesn’t want you to know, including the obvious.

1. If they’re catching these loads as they are, that means the system in place for all trucks crossing the border is working and working well.

2. Reading the news reports of these seizures, it states that many of the driver are released and their equipment seized. If the driver is released, that tells us he knew nothing about what was included in his load. Drivers sometimes wait in line 3 or 4 hours to cross the border, clear Customs and DPS Inspection stations. During that time, CBP officers are walking the dogs and checking each and every trailer and tractor for hits from the dogs, and to gauge reactions of the drivers to their presence. It is effective. Truckloads that get past the Customs portals, generally have help from corrupt Inspectors on both side of the border.

And looking at trucks in impound at the I-35, Sarita, and Falfurrias Border Patrol check points, they are invariably all US trucks driven by US drivers.

OOIDA Vice President Todd Spencer chimes in!

The head spinmeister of OOIDA is back with more of the same garbage that has been debunked her and by FMCSA inspection reports over the past 3 years. But you know, you tell the same lies long enough, you tend to believe them as the truth, even in the face of evidence to the contrary. Here’s Spencer’s take on the subject.

“These are just a few examples that show Mexico is nowhere near ready to have full access to U.S. highways. Too many safety and security issues have yet to be resolved. Those issues certainly haven’t improved in the past year,” said OOIDA Executive Vice President Todd Spencer.

“This is what officials from Mexico should be focused on, and our U.S. trade rep should not be bashful about telling it exactly that way,” Spencer said.

As I said earlier, all these assertions have been thoroughly debunked so we can move on. The evidence to support our position and discredit Spencer’s and OOIDA’s can be found in the download section of this site and by running the USDOT numbers of the participating Mexican carriers through the SAFERSYS database.

In the latter paragraphs of the press release, Taylor claims that to date, there have been no reports from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration or from Mexican officials as to what efforts Mexico has made to comply with the regulatory items stipulated to them for gaining access to U.S. highways

What total and blatant BULLSHIT! Congressionally mandated reports from the Office of Inspector General, SAFERSYS statistics and numbers from CVSA reflect the absurdity of her claims. Perhaps she should read them before putting her foot in her mouth. But then, OOIDA isn’t about the truth.

The items she claims that Mexico is not in compliance with include safety regulations such as comparable drug and alcohol testing, commercial drivers licensing and tracking, and hours-of-service requirements, among other issues, such as “Being Mexican”

1. The USDOT Inspector General found, in his final report, that Mexico’s drug and alcohol testing WAS comparable to US standards. It’s in the report, read it!

2. In a 1994 Letter of Mutual Understanding concerning the compatibility of the US CDL and the Mexican Licencia Federal de Conductor, the FMCSA agreed they were substantially the same and acceptable and vice versa. The letter is available in the download section of the site. Unlike the CDL in the United States which is issued by individual states under Federal mandate, A Mexican CDL is a document issued at the Federal level and tracked by the government. In speaking with DOT officers around the county about the Mexican truck issue, one thing has been clear, especially from a DOT officer at the I-29 scales in northern Missouri. The Mexican Licencia Federal is easier to run a check on than the Canadian CDL.

3. Hours of Service in Mexico are mandated by the Secretariat of Labor. Generally, Mexican truckers in country do not have to carry a log book, unless they are hauling and licensed for hazardous material. However, carriers that participated in the Cross Border Program have required their drivers to carry and maintain a log book identical to the US version. Canadian HOS regulations are much more lenient than ours, but we hear nothing about forcing Canada to follow our lead. Yet, OOIDA ignores the fact that ALL DRIVERS, without regard to nationality or home base, must fully comply with US laws and regulations when operating in the US.

Spencer’s Last Word

In the final paragraph of this “press release”, Todd Spencer babbles on, but this time, there is a teeny tiny bit of truth to what he says:

“Small-business truckers and professional drivers based in the U.S. must contend with an ever increasing regimen of safety, security and environmental regulations,” added Spencer. “Mexico-domiciled trucking companies and drivers simply do not contend with a similar regulatory regimen in their home country nor must they contend with the corresponding regulatory compliance costs that encumber their U.S. counterparts.”

The above is true concerning US truckers but blatantly untrue about our Mexican counterpart.

Mexico has it’s own set of safety standards, in addition to something that is becoming increasingly forgotten in our industry in the US. Personal responsibility. Perhaps CSA 2010 will rectify that, but probably not.

In Mexico, truckers learn the rules and the penalties for ignoring or defying them. And the premise is simple. Have an accident and you’re determined to be at fault, go to jail and possibly lose your license for a time. If there is major property damage or a death, and the driver is at fault, go to jail, excuse me, prison, and wait there until a Judge decides you sentence. No bail for an offense that carries a penalty of two years or more in prison. Lose your license for 10 years to Life. A powerful incentive to do things right the first time, because there are no second chances. And in a country where the average worker makes between $125 and $200 dollars a week, bringing home a check for $5 or $600 dollars is not a gig the average Mexican trucker wants to lose.

Concerning costs as outlined by Spencer. Mexican truckers have similar costs and if they desire to operate in the US, even within the commercial zone, those costs increase to where they are similar or higher than their US counterparts.

Mexican carriers must have liability and cargo insurance in Mexico. Additionally, if they cross the border, they assume the cost and burden of US coverage by US companies. Fuel is more expensive in Mexico, especially now that the 20% government subsidy on diesel has been discontinued. Those that say fuel is cheaper in Mexico should ask yourselves why you see all the Commercial Zone carriers fueling in Laredo and other border cities.

The cost of money in Mexico is outrageous. By money, I mean loans to buy equipment and capital to run the business. Interest rates in the double digits are not unheard of and loan terms generally are half as long as they are in the US. Equipment licensing is ridiculously expensive in Mexico, and those carriers who chose to operate in the US using dual registrations incur that additional expense.

This is all more smoke and mirrors from OOIDA who again is trying to blow smoke up peoples asses and hide the fact that any job losses have never come from allowing Mexican trucks on US highways, but from there continued opposition to the trucks which led to the LEGAL tariff’s which have cost American’s jobs and market share.

But you’ll never get them to admit to that.