Each year in the United States there are approximately 5,000 deaths and over 100,000 injuries from 18-wheeler accidents. The thought of allowing Mexican trucks free access to our highways has caused an outcry and protests in 2007.
In September 2007, under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the Bush administration approved a pilot program that would allow Mexican trucks to freely traverse US highways. However, the period between September 2007 and February 2008 saw only 247 Mexican trucks make long haul trips under the program.
Administration Promises Full Inspection Of Every Vehicle
Mary Peters, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation, told the congressional committee that held hearings concerning the opening of our highways to Mexican trucks in March 2008 that the pilot program would require a thorough inspection of every truck before it crossed the U.S. border. This was in an effort to put to rest any questions of unsafe vehicles entering the country that might contribute to additional 18-wheeler accidents. Critics of the plan, however, doubt that “every truck, every time” could be inspected.
Truck Inspections Raise Several Questions
The current high-volume of traffic flows brings concern that inspection centers lack the space, manpower and technology to monitor and catch problems that would reduce 18-wheeler accidents. There are also significant differences between Mexican and U.S. truck safety standards.
In the United States every truck must meet U.S. safety standards. Public Citizen, a major critic of the Bush pilot program, fears that the Department of Transportation assumes all trucks produced after 1996 that are used by Mexican based companies are built to U.S. standards. Further more, since there is no current, reliable method to verify manufacturing date of Mexican trucks, the DOT is going to just rely on statements from Mexican companies that their trucks meet the criteria.
Drug Testing Concerns
Conducting reliable drug tests on Mexican drivers adds additional concerns. Mexico does not have a drug-testing lab that meets U.S. standards according to Public Citizen. A 2005 drug and alcohol survey related to 18-wheeler accidents, estimated that 1.7% of drivers used controlled substances while driving.
The public advocacy group, The Teamsters Union, the Sierra Club and other trucking and safety interests in the United States charge that the U. S. government doesn’t have enough inspectors at the border to thoroughly check each truck and driver from Mexico making “every truck every time” a hollow promise.
Truck drivers in the U. S. have strict rules regarding the number of hours they can drive without a rest since driver fatigue is a factor in fatal crashes. Truck drivers who spend more than eight hours behind the wheel have twice the chance of an 18-wheeler accident, according to The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety from a study they conducted.
It’s Been 15 Years Since NAFTA Was Signed
January 1, 2008 was the date NAFTA went into effect after being signed by Mexico, Canada and The United States. Canadian trucks have freely crossed the border over the past 10 years while Mexican trucks have been blocked. The United States agreed to remove restrictions by 2000 if the Mexican trucks met U.S. standards. There were however disagreements and in 2001 Mexico filed a challenge under NAFTA. They won and the U.S. was forced to open its border to Mexican trucks, but the Bush Administration put into effect the controversial pilot program in September 2007.