For those traveling on the road this holiday, certain things most certainly are on your mind: more people on the road, high gas prices, police radar (that means you - slow down!). Here’s one more: dangerous Mexican trucks.
Earlier this week, the Teamsters, Public Citizen and the Sierra Club filed suit in federal court (i.e., expanded their lawsuit) against the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration “to block the U.S. Department of Transportation from opening the U.S. border to dangerous Mexican trucks.” Perhaps you were unaware that until this year, these unsafe trucks and polluting were not allowed on our roads. Public Citizen explains:
In February 2001, a North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) tribunal ruled that the U.S. has been violating the terms of NAFTA because it has limited access of Mexican trucks to a 20-mile commercial zone along the border. NAFTA, which took effect in 1994, required the U.S. to allow Mexican trucks access to all border-state roads starting in 1995, and to drive anywhere in the country by January 2000. The Clinton administration recognized the danger the trucks posed and for seven years refused to expand their access beyond the narrow border zone.
Public Citizen analyses have found that Mexico's truck inspection system is riddled with holes that allow vehicles with major safety defects to stay on the road. In addition, federal studies have shown that Mexican trucks are three times more likely to have safety deficiencies than U.S. trucks.
But earlier this year, under an agreement “quietly signed” in Mexico City, Mexican trucks will be allowed on U.S. highways “in return for Mexico's decision to lift tariffs on U.S. goods.” Although DOT outlined strict new safety and environmental rules for these trucks, “recent government studies raise some doubts about the effectiveness of those measures.” In addition, “The cost of ensuring Mexican truck safety outweighs the amount saved by U.S. importers or exporters, according to a February 2010 Congressional Research Service report.”
This led 34 lawmakers to send a letter to Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood “to terminate the program, citing the shortcoming of the previous cross-border program, which ‘failed to assure that every Mexican truck was properly inspected at the border.’” See also letter from Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.).
The pilot program got off to a rocky start when the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration approved trucking operator Grupo Behr from Tijuana, Mexico. The carrier owned one 20-year-old semi-tractor trailer with numerous safety issues. FMCSA had to disqualify it from the program after the Teamsters Union and others brought Grupo Behr's safety record to light. A second carrier, Transportes Olympic, of Monterrey, Mexico, started operating in the U.S. last month. Safety concerns have also been raised about Transportes Olympic.
The lawsuit alleges that the pilot program is illegal because the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is breaking numerous safety and environmental laws.
In the meantime, the Truck Safety Coalition has some important information for all of you holiday motorists out there. Drive safely.
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