Recently, U.S. and Mexican officials finalized an agreement to allow Mexican freight trucks to transport goods within the United States. Previously, Mexican suppliers would transfer goods at the Mexican border to long-haul American trucks for transport throughout the U.S.
Those in favor of the agreement argue that (1) it will force Mexico to lift some tarrifs on dozens of Mexican products, and (2) it will save some businesses money from having to pay to unload trucks at the border and put the loads on American trucks.
Critics argue that (1) the likely outcome will be higher cost for U.S. government regulation of the Mexican trucks that will be traveling throughout the U.S., and (2) there is a greater chance illegal drugs will enter the U.S.
In 2010, criminals in Mexico hijacked more than 10,000 commercial trucks . Transportation Security Administration reports claim drug traffickers mimic legitimate commercial trucks that were previously hijacked to transport illicit cargo across the border.
The Department of Transportation outlined strict rules for Mexican trucks to protect the safety of the American public, the environment, and the road system. These rules include requiring the vehicles to comply with U.S. safety and emissions standards, drug testing for the drivers, mandatory ability to speak English, and electronic monitoring of the trucks.
However, according to a February 2010 Congressional Research Service report, the cost of enforcing the strict rules for Mexican trucks will likely far outweigh the benefits to U.S. importers and exporters.
This report estimates the cost to U.S. taxpayers for only monitoring the trucks coming from Mexico for compliance with safety standards to be over $500 million over the course of three years. This cost does not take into account the additional strain on communities around the country that will have to deal with the influx of these Mexican trucks.
Thirty-four federal law makers recently stated their opposition to the implementation of this program allowing Mexican trucks into America. They asked Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood to terminate the program, citing the "outrageousness" of asking the American public to pay to insure that the Mexican trucking industry complies with American safety standards.
Will the influx of Mexican trucks into the United States make our highways and country less safe? The answer depends on whether the United States can afford to pay the cost of the new program. With a large federal deficit and talks regarding making painful cuts to many federal programs, financing and properly enforcing this new program could become an issue.