WASHINGTON, Jan. 6, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa today questioned why the Department of Transportation (DOT) proposed a new cross-border trucking program at a time of persistent high U.S. unemployment, budget deficits and unrelenting drug violence in Mexico. He said the proposed program would threaten the traveling public in the U.S. and open our southern border to increased drug trafficking.
The Obama administration closed the border to unsafe Mexican trucks in February 2009 after Congress shut off funds for the cross-border pilot program. Mexico retaliated with tariffs that the Teamsters Union believes are excessive. The administration should have brought a challenge against Mexico for imposing excessive tariffs on U.S. goods, as the Teamsters Union has urged for nearly two years, instead of a “concept” document that would still open the border to unsafe trucks.
“I am deeply disappointed by this proposal,” Hoffa said. “Why would the DOT propose to threaten U.S. truck drivers’ and warehouse workers’ jobs when unemployment is so high? And why would we do it when drug cartel violence along the border is just getting worse?”
Ciudad Juarez, which is right across the border from El Paso, is now the most dangerous city in the world. The administration’s own Homeland Security Department issued a warning just last month that noted Texas safety officials urged people to stay away from Mexico. “The warning comes as kidnappings, violence between drug cartels, as well as between law enforcement and the cartels, increases,” Homeland Security said.
Hoffa noted that the trade agreement benefits Mexico but not the U.S. “Given the drug violence, there’s no way a U.S. company would want to haul valuable goods into the Mexican interior,” Hoffa said. “Trade agreements are supposed to benefit both parties, but this is a one-way street.
“We continue to have serious reservations about DOT’s ability to guarantee the safety of Mexican trucks. Mexican trucks simply don’t meet the same standards as U.S. trucks – they don’t even have to have anti-lock brakes. Medical and physical standards for Mexican trucking firms are lower than for U.S. companies. And how can Mexico enforce highway safety laws when it can’t even control drug cartels?”
“The Bush-era pilot program was a failure that shouldn’t be repeated,” Hoffa said.
The U.S. government spent $500 million on the pilot program, which began in September 2007. Only about three Mexican trucks per day traveled beyond the border zone since then, according to the Transportation Department’s office of inspector general. The inspector general also reported that “FMCSA does not have assurance that it has checked every Mexican truck and driver … when they cross into the border in the United States.”
“I do appreciate that DOT is proposing to raise the bar on safety for Mexican trucks,” Hoffa said. “But the stricter standards aren’t enough, and they could cost the U.S. taxpayer. For example, the administration proposes that Mexican trucks be checked for U.S. EPA emissions standards and that drug testing take place in U.S. labs.
“Why should American taxpayers pay for Mexican trucking companies to take away American jobs?”