Arguably the biggest development to hit trucking industry news this year came toward year’s end, yet was two decades in the making. In October, the first Mexican carrier was scheduled to cross deep into the U.S. in a pilot project allowing for cross-border transport of goods.
The concept dates to the signing of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), signed some 20 years ago. But cross-border transport has existed since only in the abstract due to political wrangling and safety issues.
But even in the wake of cross-border test run, controversy over the issue has not abated. In a show of solidarity against the measure, U.S. Reps. Bob Filner (Democrat) and Duncan Hunter (Republican) joined Teamsters President James Hoffa in standing guard at the border with Mexico. Hoffa cited drug violence that has marred Mexican society as one of the reasons for his opposition.
“The fact remains that Mexico does not meet our safety standards, and a violent drug war is raging there, which the Mexican government is powerless to control,” he said in a statement.
In addition to the lawmakers, Hoffa was surrounded by some 75 union members from five states expressing opposition. Many haulers fear that letting trucking companies from Mexico deliver their goods instead of transferring them to American truckers for delivery will jeopardize American jobs and highway safety.
For its part, the American Trucking Association expressed tentative endorsement, praising both countries for working to end the “long-running and unnecessary dispute.”
Despite the pushback, Transportes Olympic became the first Mexican firm to be approved for such cross-border transport in October, the first since the 1994 NAFTA agreement that allowed for bi-national transportation of goods. The Mexican firm’s plotted trajectory involved crossing at Laredo, Texas, heading 450 miles north to Garland to deliver industrial equipment.
Early cross-border transport hasn’t sparked too much interest as yet, with only about ten Mexican firms inquiring about applying for the program. Only time will tell if cross-border hauling will bode well or ill for U.S. trucking companies. In the meantime, it’s an issue worth keeping an eye on cross-border trucking industry news in the coming year.