With the U.S. border being opened to long haul Mexican trucks, it’s highly probable some of those trucks will roll along Mississippi roadways. State trucking industry leaders, however, are not worried about negative impacts or loss of business for local companies.
“Our members have not expressed concerns,” says David Roberts, president of the Mississippi Trucking Association (MTA). “It’s not really likely to affect Mississippi trucking companies.”
The MTA has not taken an official position on the development, and Roberts says the organization expects there will be much less traffic from Mexican trucks than others are predicting.
“We expect most of the traffic that does result from this to be concentrated in the western states,” he says, “and we do not have any Mississippi trucking companies that have applied to go into Mexico.”
Scott Miller, president of Miller Transporters, won’t lose any sleep over the Mexican haulers. “We haul flammable materials and they are not allowed to haul that right now, but that will probably come later,” he says. “If we let them come in, eventually we stand to lose some hauling, but I don’t think we have anything to worry about.”
He’s been in the trucking business 65 years, running the company started by his father in 1942. The flammable haulers transport freight in Canada and this county. They haul to Brownsville, Texas, where a Mexican partner picks up the freight and carries it into Mexico.
“We’ve been doing that for 25 years, and it’s only 10 or 15 loads a month,” Miller says. “Our partner has had several wrecks. They don’t have the same rules down there like we do here and Canada does.”
The United States’ stringent rules of operation for trucking companies are uppermost in the mind of Willie Huff, chief of enforcement for the Mississippi Department of Transportation (MDOT).
“They must comply with the rules and regulations of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration just as American trucks do,” he says. “Mississippi adopted those rules and regulations.”
Huff says the industry runs approximately a 20% out-of-service number for American trucks due to violations. His officers are aware of the ruling allowing Mexican truckers to enter the country and are prepared for the pilot program with trucks inspected the same as American trucks. The year-long program will allow 100 pre-cleared Mexican trucking companies to enter the U.S. They may haul from Mexico to the U.S. and back to Mexico but are not allowed to haul from point to point within the U.S.
“That could be about 1,000 Mexican trucks, and that few won’t create more of a workload for us,” Huff says. “Six million trucks travel through our scales each year.”
The rules spell out that Mexican trucks must be registered in a border state; obtain state operating authority; pay fuel, road use and other applicable taxes; have insurance from an American company; carry log books in the truck; have working safety equipment in the truck at all times; drivers must have Mexican commercial drivers licenses and read and speak English; comply with U.S. hours of service regulations; and, cannot transport passengers or hazardous materials.
“It’s called a pilot program to see how it will work,” Huff says. “The Mexican companies will have to have good records to get cleared. The addition of the foreign trucks on the state’s highways will not cause any extra problems for MDOT Enforcement.”
The pilot program came about as a result of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) that was signed between the U.S. and Mexico in 1994.
It seems opening the country’s highways to Mexican truckers will now happen as a result of recent court action that rejected a bid by labor, consumer and environmental interests to block the initiative. The U.S. Department of Transportation welcomed the decision and says allowing more direct shipments from Mexico will benefit U.S. consumers.
With such diverse groups opposing access to American highways by Mexican truckers, Scott Miller says, “I don’t know who’s pushing it. Who wants it?”
Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynn Lofton at email@example.com.