Mexican-owned trucks hauling goods from south of the border may soon be rumbling along Valley highways — and throughout the United States.
The “Cross-Border Demonstration Pilot Program” is the result of an agreement reached between the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Mexican government.
Mexican and American trucking companies are prohibited from motoring on their respective nations’ roadways.
They are allowed, however, to cross the border, but they must remain within a 25-mile zone on either side.
The bilateral agreement was sealed April 27 during the first trilateral conference in Tucson between the U.S. Secretary of Transportation Mary E. Peters, Luis Téllez, Mexico’s secretary of communications and transportation, and Lawrence Cannon, minister of transport for Canada.
The pilot program also allows American trucking companies to cross the border and deliver products throughout Mexico.
Canadian and United States trucking companies since the adoption of the North American Free Trade Act (NAFTA) in the late 1990s have traveled across the northern border into Canada and the United States, but the U.S.-Mexican travel exchanges have — until the Tucson agreement opened the gates — been restricted.
A truck crosses the Canadian-United States border every 1.5 seconds and travels freely through both countries, according to the Canadian transportation authority.
“We are working to give American truckers an unprecedented opportunity to compete in a substantial market” in Mexico, said Peters, who served as director of the Arizona Department of Transportation before being nominated by President Bush last year for the federal job.
“This announcement puts the program on track to lower costs for U.S. consumers, make our economy more competitive and give U.S. truckers new business opportunities.”
Peters said NAFTA-related trade in Arizona has created nearly 500,000 new jobs since 2001.
She said pipelines, rails and roads have carried nearly $1 billion worth of freight across the border between Arizona and Mexico.
Until 1984, Mexican-owned trucks regularly crossed the border into the United States and vice-versa, but the trade exchange came to a halt partly as a result of political pressure on both sides of the border and objections from environmental groups and the Teamsters Union, which represents truck drivers.
The Teamsters Union, Public Citizen, an advocacy group, and the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association joined with the Sierra Club and the Environmental Law Foundation and filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California in San Francisco aimed at stopping the border-crossing plan.
The suit contends the Department of Transportation failed to publish a detailed description of the pilot program and to allow public comment, thus violating legal requirements.
However, the recent agreement, including information about truck and driver requirements, is now posted on the Federal Register on the Internet at www.dot.gov and encourages public input.
Basically, it describes the agreement that allows about 100 Mexican and 100 American trucking companies access to highways in each country.
The drive-through program is scheduled to begin no later than July 15.
Clayton Boyce, vice president of the American Trucking Associations in Alexandria, VA. said the US-Mexican agreement is a positive plan.
“It’s good news,” said Boyce. “We (ATA) want the United States and Mexico to compete on a level playing field.”