Editorial: Opening the U.S.-Mexico Border

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The Department of Transportation’s move to conduct a broad test of opening the U.S.-Mexican border to truck traffic is a prudent step toward honoring mutual commitments made by both nations when the North American Free Trade Agreement was ratified.We have long supported the goal of open borders for trucking among North America’s three major nations, as long as all fleets meet the same safety standards and operating rules.DOT on Feb. 23 agreed to let up to 100 Mexican firms operate in the United States, provided every driver has a valid commercial driver license and proof of good health, understands and can speak English and complies with U.S. hours-of-service rules. This agreement will give everyone a chance to see if the Mexican fleets can operate safely and competently in the United States. Up to now, the issue has ignited a political firestorm in certain quarters, with hysterical press releases warning of waves of untrained drivers who don’t speak English flying down U.S. highways in rattletrap equipment and running innocent automobile drivers off the road.The one-year pilot project announced by DOT Secretary Mary Peters will give the Mexican fleets the opportunity to prove to all of us that opening the border permanently would be a good idea.The open border between the United States and Canada has attracted very little attention in recent years, even though the United States continued its moratorium on Mexican trucks’ operating outside the narrow border zone after the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement required the countries to admit each other’s trucks.When President Bush announced his intention to open the Mexican border, Congress in 2001 set 22 conditions to be met before that step was taken.DOT says it now has met those 22 conditions and is ready to proceed.The pilot project also will allow up to 100 U.S. fleets to operate in Mexico. Until now, U.S. fleets have had to establish Mexican subsidiaries or form partnerships with Mexican companies in order to operate there.We support DOT’s measured progress toward opening the border to truck traffic, as long as the Mexican government treats U.S. fleets seeking to operate there in a manner commensurate with how the United States treats Mexican fleets that seek to operate here.This editorial appears in the March 5 print edition of Transport Topics. Subscribe today.