In a recent letter written to Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood and U.S. Trade Representative Ronald Kirk, Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) and 78 members of Congress urge the administration to repeal the Mexican truck program
Trucks cross the border at Tijuana, Mexico. (Photo courtesy of Learn NC)
Trucks cross the border at Tijuana, Mexico. (Photo courtesy of Learn NC)
and renegotiate the section of the North American Free Trade Agreement that opens U.S. roadways to Mexican trucks.

"Mexico has no meaningful system for commercial driver's licenses, drug testing or hours of service," DeFazio said. "This is a trade agreement that threatens the safety of the American public. Mexico has no right to use tariffs to force unsafe trucks with exhausted over-worked, under-paid drivers into the United States."

Under NAFTA, the U.S.-Mexico border was supposed to have been opened to border-state traffic in 1995 and to long-distance traffic in 2000. The opening was stalled until 2007, in part by difficult negotiations with Mexico, but mainly by the legislative and legal tactics of U.S. labor, owner-operator and citizen advocacy groups who fear loss of U.S. jobs to Mexican drivers and argue that Mexican trucks will not be safe. After Congress cut off a cross-border trucking pilot program a year ago by prohibiting funding for such a program, the Mexican government slapped $2.4 billion in retaliatory tariffs on U.S. goods.

DeFazio and his colleagues argue that opening the border to Mexican trucks poses a threat to the traveling American public as a result of the different safety standards governing the country. The letter also claims there has been no comprehensive independent review to assess whether Mexico's trucking standards and driver licensing and safety rules are equivalent to the requirements of the U.S.

"Mexico's regulatory standards and enforcement on trucks aren't even remotely equivalent to what we have here," said Todd Spencer, executive vice president of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, in a statement in support of the letter. "To open the border at this time is insanity from both an economic standpoint and safety."

The letter suggests the U.S. renegotiate the U.S. commitment to liberalize cross-border trucking. "This would remedy all the truck safety, homeland security, and unemployment issues associated with this long standing trade dispute. A successful renegotiation would also eliminate retaliatory tariffs, which are negatively impacting our export markets," the letter said.

For a full copy of the letter, click here.