Another Border Delay

This Editorial appears in the Sept. 12 print edition of Transport Topics. Click here to subscribe today.

It’s disappointing to see that the Department of Transportation’s own inspector general doesn’t think the agency is ready to proceed with the interminably delayed cross-border trucking pilot program with Mexico.

The inspector general found that several of the preconditions necessary to open the border are still not in place, which virtually guarantees that the program won’t start until at least November, about three months later than originally anticipated (see story, page 1).

The new program, which was agreed to by the two nations in July to replace a similar pilot project that Congress squashed in 2007, will eventually lead Mexico to drop its $2.4 billion a year in punitive tariffs on U.S. goods.

The North American Free Trade Agreement between Canada, Mexico and the United States, which went into effect in 1994, provides the right for trucks from the three nations to make deliveries in any of them.

However, due in large part to objections from the Teamsters union, Mexican trucks have generally not been allowed to make deliveries here beyond a small strip of territory along the joint border.

The Mexicans finally ran out of patience and imposed the harsh tariffs on specific U.S. goods in order to encourage the U.S. government to act.

The pilot program is designed to prove that truckers from Mexico can operate safely and legally in the United States, as prelude to a wider opening of the border.

But the inspector general now says that DOT’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration isn’t ready to begin the program.

One of the missing elements, the report found, was one required by Congress: namely, the creation of a system to verify that specific trucks and drivers are eligible to cross the border.

Meanwhile, the Teamsters and their friends at Public Citizen have filed a suit claiming that FMCSA has violated several laws in moving to implement the program. This is the latest move by opponents to further delay opening the border, and we hope that the courts brush this challenge aside.

FMCSA Administrator Anne Ferro told the inspector general that the agency is hard at work putting the finishing touches on the program.

We encourage her to get the work done as quickly as possible.

While we believe that any Mexican carrier that operates in the United States needs to adhere to all U.S. laws and regulations, we also strongly believe that this nation needs to live up to its agreements with our neighbors.