The U.S. Government recently reached a new trade deal with Mexico that raises safety concerns for Americans traveling on our nation's highways. Soon, Mexican trucking companies will be able to apply for the right to make long-distance trips through the United States. The trucks will have to pass safety inspections, the drivers must posses a valid commercial driving license from the US or Mexico, and participate in drug screenings. Truck drivers will also have to pass a test regarding their knowledge of the English language.
This deal was reached after years of negotiations and a three 3-year pilot program that tracked fifteen Mexican trucking companies. The pilot program tracked the long haul companies as they logged thousands of trips and millions of miles over U.S. highways. Information was kept about maintenance, safety and regulatory compliance. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation:
"Data from the three-year pilot program, and additional analysis on almost 1,000 other Mexican long-haul trucking companies that transport goods into the United States, proved that Mexican carriers demonstrate a level of safety at least as high as their American and Canadian counterparts," said Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx in the department's announcement.
All of this sounds reasonable, so what's the problem with this new agreement? Some fear that the pilot program did not have a sufficiently high number of Mexican trucking companies or over-the-road truck drivers to gather accurate data to paint a realistic picture of what we can expect. In fact, consumer safety groups such as Public Citizen have done research and believe that Mexico's truck inspection system is riddled with holes that allow vehicles with major safety defects to stay on the road. Also, our own federal government has done studies that shown Mexican trucks are three times more likely to have safety deficiencies than U.S. trucks.
In short, many fear that Mexico's trucking companies will not be held to the same strict regulations as United States companies. Also, many opposed to letting Mexican trucking companies run in the US feel that some drivers may slip through the cracks. They may be regulated at first, but enforcment will decline as time passes. Hopefully, the U.S. keeps Mexican trucking companies accountable and holds them to the same safety regulations as all other operators on American highways. We cannot afford to risk the safety of everyone else by lowering our trucking safety regulations.