Supreme Court rules for trucking
Jul 1, 2004 12:00 PM, Editorial By Charles E Wilson
ALL THAT remains is the waiting now that the US Supreme Court has cleared the way for the Bush Administration to grant Mexican truckers the right to operate across the United States. It's been a long time coming.
Mexican truckers were supposed to have been granted access to the entire United States when the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) took effect in 1994. In return, US trucking companies would have been allowed to operate throughout Mexico. This arrangement already was in place for US and Canadian carriers operating between those two countries.
Unfortunately, apparent anti-Hispanic hysteria was used by the Teamsters and other groups to block implementation of NAFTA's US-Mexico trucking provisions. The most recent effort to bar Mexican truckers from the United States came when the Teamsters and allies convinced the very liberal 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals in California to order the Department of Transportation to perform an exhaustive environmental impact study before letting Mexican trucks into the United States. The contention was that exhaust emissions from Mexican trucks were more dangerous than those from US or Canadian vehicles.
It was that ruling that the Supreme Court soundly repudiated with its unanimous decision announced in early June. Ruling on narrow procedural issues, the high court said that the president has authority to open the border and does not have to defer to a federal agency.
The Supreme Court ruling returns responsibility for international treaties to the President of the United States as is stipulated in the US Constitution. That's something that the judges in the 9th Circuit often seem to forget.
So, what happens now? It's a virtual certainty that the border will be opened to Mexican truckers, and it probably will happen sometime after the US Presidential election in November. Hopefully, Mexico will reciprocate in a timely manner, and the transportation community will be one step closer to fully realizing the benefits of NAFTA.
Even with NAFTA still incomplete, we've seen an incredible explosion in trade between the United States and Mexico over the 10 years since the trade agreement was ratified. Tank truck carriers are among those that have benefited handsomely.
Mexican trucks make about 4.5 million border crossings each year, primarily shuttling trailers within the 20-mile border zone. Opening up the border will not send these trucks zooming throughout the United States.
Only the largest, best-financed Mexican trucking companies will apply for US authority. They are the ones that can afford equipment that is compliant with US regulations. They'll also have to employ drivers who speak and read English if they plan to haul hazardous materials. They have to know and follow the regulations just like US fleets.
Many US and Mexican tank truck carriers say they believe the current interline agreements will remain in place. The only thing likely to change in the near term is the transfer point.
Many US chemical fleets have terminals in Houston, Corpus Christi, and San Antonio, Texas. These locations may become the logical interline point. This would be beneficial because it would reduce truck traffic in the border cities.
In addition, rail links between the two countries will continue to improve. Industry experts say this will spur fresh growth for the rail transloading sector, especially in Mexico, where such operations are still in their infancy.
As we wait for President Bush to decide the timing, all we know for certain is that the US-Mexico border is going to open fully for trucks, and the transportation operations of tomorrow will look very different from today. The challenge for trucking companies on both sides of the border is to make sure they aren't left behind.
© 2013 Penton Media Inc.
Acceptable Use Policy blog comments powered by Disqus