Mexican Trucks on U.S. Highways

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On July 6, 2011, the U.S. Secretary of Transportation and the Secretary of Transportation of Mexico signed agreements resolving disputes over long-haul cross-border trucking services between the United States and Mexico, as provided for in the NAFTA treaty. The disputes related to implementation of the provisions in the NAFTA calling for access to U.S. highways by Mexican trucks. As a result of delays by the U.S., Mexico imposed over USD 2 billion in retaliatory tariffs on U.S. manufacturers.

On the U.S. side, the delays were caused principally by the Teamsters and the Owner-Operators Independent Driver’s Association (OOIDA). They objected to allowing Mexican trucks on U.S. highways, claiming that Mexican trucks and drivers were not safe. They did what they could to stonewall any possible settlement. However, as the costs of the tariffs continued to mount, FMCSA became more aggressive in working toward a resolution with Mexico that spoke to the safety objections raised by the Teamsters and by OOIDA.

As part of a final settlement with Mexico, each Mexican carrier that will operate in the U.S. will have to apply for rights from FMCSA. Mexican trucks will be required to meet all U.S. motor vehicle safety standards and to have electronic on board recording devices (EOBR’s) to keep track of hours of service and other safety requirements. The EOBRs will be installed and maintained by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

In addition, the drivers of Mexican trucks will be subjected to drug testing managed through Department of Health and Human Services facilities. HHS will review the driving record of each driver and require drivers to undergo an assessment of their ability to understand English and U.S. traffic signs. Therefore, FMCSA will be able to monitor compliance with FMCSA regulations.

Mexican trucks have been operating within the U.S. border commercial zones for many years. Under the new regime, Mexican trucks will also be able to handle international traffic on U.S. highways.

Notwithstanding the safety requirements imposed on the Mexican carriers and Mexican drivers under the settlement agreement, the Teamsters and OOIDA continue to object to any implementation of the Mexican truck program in the NAFTA treaty. It may be that their real concern is that they will now have to compete with the Mexican trucks for the international traffic. Either way, the Obama Administration has determined that the tariffs imposed by Mexico had created an unreasonable and unnecessary burden on the U.S. economy and had to end.

Mexican carriers having questions and needing assistance with meeting U.S. regulatory requirements and accessing the U.S. market are encouraged to contact transportation/logistics lawyer Robert M. Spira, [email protected].

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