The boundary was supposed to have opened to border-state trucking five years ago, on Dec. 19, 1995, under the North American Free Trade Agreement. But the Clinton administration, concerned about the safety of the Mexican trucks and under pressure from the Teamsters union, decided to keep the gates closed.
Now, the Jan. 1, 2000, deadline for that opening has passed and the gates remain closed.
“We are maintaining the status quo,” explained a Transportation Department spokesman who did not want to be named. “We still have concerns that some Mexican trucks are not safe.”
The spokesman said U.S. and Mexican authorities have been working cooperatively to build a safety system for the Mexican trucking industry, but they are not done.
What’s needed is a system that provides consistent oversight and inspections, a safety philosophy, trained personnel and data bases that can be used to track the safety performance of Mexican fleets, the spokesman said.
“We have been working on the U.S. system for decades,” he said. “It won’t take that long for Mexico, but it is a complicated project.”
He said he did not know when the work will be done, but noted, “We are making good progress.”
The safety of Mexican trucks remains a hot issue on Capitol Hill, following a recent report by the DOT Inspector General that some Mexican trucks have been crossing the border and doing business in the interior of the U.S. (See "DOT Confirms Illegal Mexican Truckers in U.S.").