Thursday, February 18, 2010

Funny the difference a recession makes

When the Bush administration threw the border open to a select group of Mexico-based domiciled motor carriers in 2008, the screaming commenced.

Every argument under the sun against the program was tossed to the side and determined to be irrational, inflammatory or downright wrong.

Eventually, cooler heads prevailed and the program was shut down before any damage could be done. Now, the debate is brewing again.

One argument that intrigued me was the potential loss of U.S. jobs and how the U.S. should not exercise “protectionism.” The free traders in the world said it was big, bad, evil wrong to even mention that U.S. jobs could be lost by opening the border to long-haul trucks from Mexico.

“Free trade, it’s the only way to go. It makes all markets stronger,” was their basic argument.

For argument’s sake, let’s try this on for size now that a wide sweeping, devastating recession has knocked the U.S. ego down a notch.

Small and mid-size motor carriers sustained a serious blow. Those who lost their jobs in this mess would probably say it was more like a sucking chest wound.

There are families who are living on life support. Families have lost their homes (even though they didn’t have a gimmick mortgage). Families are struggling to feed kids; forget sending them to college. The far-reaching impact of this recession has yet to even be felt.

Now, here we are, just starting to stand up – check that – sit up.

And the debate over opening the border is brewing like Hurricane Katrina off the coast.

It’s all because the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative will not exercise rights given to the U.S. in the North American Free Trade Agreement to fight retaliatory tariffs (see more about that here), and we’re supposed to cower to Mexico and ship trucking jobs south of the border – all in the name of free trade, of course.

Trucking is a leading economic indicator. When freight bounces back, you can bet jobs are right behind. When freight levels drop, see ya, steady paycheck.

Here we are on the cusp of what most of us want to believe is the end to this hellish run, and we’re talking about opening the border.

U.S. companies with operations right on the border will shut down the U.S. side and opt for locating in Mexico, where higher pay, taxes, workers’ rights, etc., are nonexistent.

Then they can hire Mexican truckers who think 22 cents a mile is sweet.

It’s not the fault of the Mexican citizens taking these jobs. It’s simply better than what they have. But we have to remember the effect this will have on U.S. truckers. Can we, as a country, afford to have taxpaying U.S. truckers losing their jobs?

This recession knocked pay rates and benefits down for the blue-collar working folks. So much that people are doing what their ancestors did and are working extra jobs and fighting for a better day.

So, it bears to ask the question now, when Mexico has made no efforts to fix the problems that ended the first cross-border program, why are we running with scissors and flirting with launching yet another dangerous program. One that will not only threaten highway safety, but U.S. jobs?

I think the question deserves a real answer this time.


  1. Give thanks to the disastrous neo-liberal economic policy that has made our economy terminally ill.

  2. you have a good eye on part of the problem and look at the rest of it and you will have seen it all the free trade program has been the down fall of jobs on the usa since it was put in to efect.

  3. JJ: I lived down in Arizona for 20 years. An I DON'T know how many times that the Arizona Dept. of Public Safety would RUN Commercial Vehicle Check Points AND SPECIFICALLY STOP BIG RIGS FROM SOUTH OF THE BORDER!! I don't have any figures, but you could get them from AZ DPS, but on SEVERAL Occassions TV News Crews were with those officers an the Officer's showed WHY the trucks were being "SHUT DOWN"!! Those trucks were shut down for: Bad Tires (lack of tread depth), Bad Brakes, No pollution control devices ANY WHERE on the vehicle, etc., etc. When Former Pres. Bush wanted to open the Border You should have heard the "OUT CRY" coming from Regular citizens of the State of Arizona! They "DID NOT" want that to happen! For the simple reason, those trucks ARE NOT properly maintained an maintained in such a manner to make them a SAFE vehicle on United States Interstate Highway system, or ANY OTHER HIGHWAY FOR THAT MATTER!! There were numberous citations written, and those very same trucks kept on coming back across the Border an if it happened a 2nd or 3rd time, an no repairs were made, or things weren't fixed, vehicles were towed away - load or no load! The vehicle was not going to be allowed back on U.S. roads UNTIL repairs were made!! Plain an simple. Now for some reason, we've got to bring this up again...And the SAME PROBLEM EXISTS!! U.S. DOT, FMCSA, U.S. BORDER PATROL, AZ DOT, CA DOT, NM DOT, TX DOT, "ALL NEED TO GET TOGETHER" AND IF YOUR GOING TO ALLOW TRUCKS FROM MEXICO TO CROSS THE BORDER AN COME INTO THE U.S. THEY TOO, NEED TO BE REGULATED UP THE "WAZZO" LIKE ALL THE BIG RIGS ARE HERE IN THE UNITED STATES!!

  4. JJ: This is NOT a Recession! This is a DEPRESSION!! When is someone going to wake up an smell the Coffee back in Washington, D.C.? Miss Nancy & Mr. Ray (who can enact a law at a moments notice & he has NO authority to do so!) need to get their heads out of the sand!! An taking jobs back across the border is just going to continue to the demise of our Great Country!! An the Companies that think THAT THEY ARE NOT going to have ANY more accidents due to "INCOMPETENT" TRUCK DRIVER'S...WAKE THE HECK UP & SMELL THE COFFEE!! In the words of EVERYONE about CSA 2010 "ITS YOUR SAFETY RATING" THAT IS GOING TO GO DOWN THE TOILET!!

  5. Hey Jami. Nice post. One thing that I am sure OOIDA is aware of (though I haven't seen it discussed much) is that the big box carriers all have sister companies in Mexico. When I worked for Crap A don, aka Celadon, Celadon's sister company Jaguar in Mexico at the time was regulated to the trade zone. Most freight going into Mexico was brought to Celadon's drop yards in either Wax (Waxihachie SIP) or Laredo. Jaguar brought frieght into and out of both these yards under the Commercial Trade Zone rules. Frieght going and coming out of Laredo was at the time heavy in volume, but once G.W. opened up the borders and allowed for seemless transfer of freight, Jaguar was hauling freight to Canada and back. When a company has the option of paying 13 cpm with no benefits, you can be assured that they are going to use Jaguar and sit their U.S. & Canadain fleet in Laredo for as long as it takes to find a broker load out of Laredo. Celadon had bilingual dispatchers both in Laredo, Wax and Indianapolis. Why? Because the majority of the Jaguar drivers could not speak english. This right there presented a serios violation of FMCSA rules and regulations. The most dishearting thing about it all is that the Obama Admin. has failed to seek relief from Mexico's legislation of Tarriff's. By doing so they have coward to Mexico and the big box carriers. Free trade is not a bad thing if all are on a level playing field. Until then, the Cross Border Program should remain discussion and not an action.

    Thanks for all you and everyone at OOIDA do for the Trucking Industry.

    Life Member Seth Martin Ward


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