For years, opponents of opening the U.S.-Mexico border to Mexican long-distance trucking have cited shoddy, unsafe equipment as one of their concerns. Now Mexican trucking interests are saying they're tired of the U.S. sending its "shoddy used trucks" south of the border.
Photos of Mexican trucks operating in Mexico -- maybe it's a myth that Mexican trucks are a safety nightmare. (Photos courtesy Mexico Trucker blog)
Photos of Mexican trucks operating in Mexico -- maybe it's a myth that Mexican trucks are a safety nightmare. (Photos courtesy Mexico Trucker blog)

According to a report in the Latin American Herald Tribune, Canacar, the Mexican trucking association, took out a paid newspaper ad last week saying Mexico should immediately ban imports of "shoddy used trucks" from the U.S., saying the represent a "threat to the safety of highway users" and "put thousands of jobs at risk."

The ad said the government should take action to clamp down on the used-truck imports as part of efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions. The association noted that the Mexican government was one of those last year that "pledged to take necessary action to meet the challenges of climate change" during a U.N. conference on climate change in Cancun, Mexico.

That's a bit of a twist, isn't it? The "conventional wisdom" in this country tends to be that Mexican trucks are the ones that are old, shoddy, polluting and unsafe, and American trucks are all shiny, new, clean-burning models.

Now I have to admit I have never been south of the border myself. But in talking to those who have, or who operate near the border, it seems that judging Mexican trucks by the quality of some of the short-haul ones operating right at the border is a bit like judging all American trucks by the quality of the drayage trucks operating at many of the nation's ports. Let's face it, at least until some ports recently started implementing bans on older, higher-polluting trucks, drayage has had a reputation as the place where old trucks go to die. Not all, of course, but on average they definitely tended to be on the older side.

In contrast, check out the AP photo of the sharp-looking Mexican Kenworths with this article that ran in the New York TImes.

Sure, they're not all like that. But they're hardly all death-traps, either.

For a variety of pictures of Mexican trucks and highways, and an interesting take on the whole cross-border trucks issue, check out this blog, Mexico Trucker Online, which advertises "Straight Talk about Mexico & Mexican Trucks."

This blog is written by someone who's spent 35 years in the trucking industry and has lived in Mexico for more than 10 years. His goal is to "rebut and rebuke the patently false allegations and defamations" that one often hears regarding the Mexican cross-border trucking issues.

It's a good time to try to look at the issue from another viewpoint. Last month, the DOT unveiled a "concept document" for restarting the border trade that was interrupted when Congress cut off funds for the Bush administration's pilot program. That cut-off in March 2009 led to a series of tariff actions by Mexico in retaliation for U.S. violation of the North American Free Trade Agreement, under which the U.S. is supposed to permit long-distance trucking.