Safe, Reciprocal Crossborder Trucking

Safe, Reciprocal Crossborder Trucking

The trucking industry has long viewed free trade as an important tool in improving our country's economic growth. Motor carriers play a critical role in the success of the NAFTA. In 2006, trucks transported $219.4 billion worth of goods, representing over 80 percent of the value of U.S.-Mexico surface trade.

However, motor carriers have not had an opportunity to seize NAFTA's full promise of improved transportation efficiencies to handle the increasing trade flows.

Today, a shipment traveling from the United States to Mexico, or vice-versa, requires no less than three drivers and three tractors to perform a single international freight movement. In addition to requiring two long-haul carriers and a drayage carrier, the process includes freight forwarders, customs brokers, as well as the processing by government inspectors and enforcement officials.

This process results in extra trucks on the road, congestion, delays and "over handling" of shipments which invariably leads to increased costs. The Department of Transportation recently estimated the present drayage system results in $400 million in additional costs. The American Trucking Associations surmises this figure was reached by multiplying the number of truck crossings taking place on the southern border by an estimated $100 dollar fee for the drayage operation.

If this is correct, there are additional costs related to warehousing, delays, and other costs harder to quantifythat were not likely included in that $400 million figure.

Based on these facts, ATA supports the implementation of the trucking provisions established under NAFTA, both in the areas of investment and crossborder access. In general terms, ATA supports the pilot program announce by Transportation Secretary Mary Peters and her Mexican counterpart, Luis Tellez, to begin the process to allow motor carriers from both sides of the border to apply for operating authority to move cargo directly across the border. ATA believes the DOT has established a strong array of safety procedures to ensure that Mexican motor carriers operating under this pilot, and potentially beyond, are in compliance with all applicable U.S. regulatory requirements. 

These steps, mandated by Congress in 2001, include an array of documentation, inspections, certifications and audits that go well beyond any such requirements imposed on new entries into the U.S. trucking industry or of Canadian motor carries operating in the United States.

ATA fully supports rigorous enforcement of all U.S. standards for all carriers operating in this country, be they U.S. or foreign-based motor carriers. For the pilot, only Mexican carriers who successfully apply with DOT, pass a comprehensive safety audit and demonstrate compliance with U.S. standards will be given temporary U.S. operating authority.  Once they have successfully operated under their temporary authority, and had their vehicles inspected and drivers assessed every time they cross the border, Mexican motor carriers must successfully undergo and pass a safety compliance review to gain permanent operating authority. 

ATA believes that the process mandated by Congress, and as implemented by DOT, will succeed in ensuring compliance by Mexican motor carriers with U.S. requirements. We are concerned that attacks on our Mexican counterparts are based on an incomplete understanding of motor carrier safety and prejudice towards Mexican carriers, instead of being based on hard facts related to safety.

However, there are two concerns ATA and its members have expressed in regards to the pilot program as announced Feb. 23. ATA is unaware if Mexico's Secretaria de Comunicaciones y Transportes has finalized an application form for U.S. motor carries to apply for operating authority to begin cross-border operations into Mexico; and, ATA does not support the need for a six-month delay in implementing the pilot for U.S. motor carriers interested in operating into Mexico.

It is essential that SCT finalize and make available the application form and process for U.S. carriers to apply for operating authority in Mexico for cross-border operations, and that this form and process be clear and transparent.

In relation to the six-month delay, ATA believes that this interval should be eliminated so that U.S. motor carriers can process the application form with SCT and begin cross-border operations into Mexico at the same time as Mexican motor carriers begin to cross the border into the United States.

ATA is committed to ensuring that cross-border trucking operations remain on a level playing field and that all motor carriers, notwithstanding their national origin, abide by all U.S. standards and requirements mandated for U.S. motor carriers.

Once NAFTA's trucking provisions are fully implemented, our countries can begin to recognize the full benefits of NAFTA. Then, we can focus our efforts on the many business and practical issues that will arise from the crossborder integration process, which can only be tackled with the goodwill of committed trading partners.

Worthington is president of Con-way Freight-Southern, a regional LTL carrier that operates in 12 U.S. states, Puerto Rico and Mexico. This commentary is excerpted from his March 8 testimony on behalf of the American Trucking Associations before the Senate subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development and Related Agencies.