Tuesday, May 10, 2011

South of the border, down Mexico way

Photo by Gary Bricken
Let me see if I’m understanding this right. The U.S. and Mexico are working toward fully opening the border for both U.S. and Mexican trucks. The Mexican trucks are going to have to stand up to our rules, meeting the U.S. safety standards. To name a few things, they’ll be using black boxes (well, EOBRs), which U.S. taxpayers will pay for. There will be driver background checks, past drug history, etc. Drivers must handle English adequately.  

It’s been said over and over, and I’ll say it again. In Mexico, it’s not the way they claim it will work. It’s the way it will REALLY work. If they want a driver for the program they are starting, they can take a blank sheet of paper and create him a background, drug-free past, excellent driving record. And how are you going to check it?

That first bunch that comes across will be standing tall, driving late model trucks that are familiar to us. They will have drivers with the proper paperwork, speaking English, doing all the right things, marching to our drums.

By the way: We’ve just learned that your elected representative in the U.S. House is being asked by Congressman “Doc” Hastings of Washington state to sign onto a letter to support a “new” cross-border trucking program with Mexico. I think these lawmakers that are pushing this so hard should go down there and see the real trucking world in Mexico. I don’t mean fly over it in a chopper. Rent a car, leave all black brick gadgets in the motel except cameras, and go where there is heavy truck activity. They would get a sample of the trucks that will be coming across as soon as the newness wears off the program.

What they would see are trucks with name brands they’ve never heard of, and U.S. trucks they bought after we wore them out. You can see these trucks every day, being piggy-backed three or four at a time, one towing two wrecks, flatbed loads of wrecks, engines, drivetrains and so on headed for Mexico. It seems like most of these at some point will funnel into I-35, which of course runs from Minnesota to Laredo. Rest assured, these trucks will be back.

The border towns don’t sound anything like I knew not so long ago. A lot of us drivers went across for a little R&R. I didn’t ever feel threatened. As young as I was when I first drove a truck into Mexico, it was easy to figure some basic ground rules. Don’t get drunk, be friendly, and don’t start nothing. And be ready to pay cash for what you want. One time I “hired” a guard to keep an eye on my truck overnight, like for five bucks. Next morning he was lying in a hammock hooked up under my trailer. Nobody bothered a thing.

Back to U.S. trucks being able to go anywhere in Mexico. With all the violence going on down there I wouldn’t expect many drivers would be too anxious to haul freight down there.

The daily news, however, is reporting that Mexico is amping up security for truckers by posting more police along the truck routes. All this does is make me think about some of the “what ifs.” Everybody knows that so many law enforcement people are on the take. That’s why the drug cartels have them in their pocket; they can pay more than the government. So “what if” a federale stops you for some infraction? Do you think he’s going to give you a ticket, or have you contact the court? Zip your Comdata card? Again, mucho dinero is the answer.

What if he says you need to “go downtown” … trust me, you don’t want to go downtown.

So how much cash would you need to carry on a trip to cover stuff like this? That’s a big concern, carrying cash. Would the boss reimburse you? You ain’t going to have receipts.

This all sounds pretty ugly to me. On the other hand, it could be an opportunity for U.S. truckers with the “soldier of fortune” mind-set.

What if someone offered me a deal with big bucks, bonus, armored truck, a couple U.S. Marine Rifle Squad escorts? I would consider it but not for long.


  1. Let me see if we understand *you* right. A small segment of your post presumes that after a few years the DOT is going to just "give up" and allow an invasion of ratty old, unsafe trucks to travel our roads. In fact, you go on to describe these ratty old trucks quite accurately, but no paragraph describes the sequence of events which would result in the veritable meltdown of the DOT and every police agency in this nation.

    "They would get a sample of the trucks that will be coming across as soon as the newness wears off the program."

    Oh, yeah. That's what will happen...

    Concerning the rest of the incessant anti-Mexican truck nattering, I've hear that the industry experts, i.e trucking company executives, roundly agree that the program will likely have small participation. That remains to be seen, considering the sources, no matter how reasonable they sound.

    But they do sound reasonable. If they slipped in one small sentence of nonsense, I would lose interest in their arguments...too.

  2. Bob, You are "right on" with your blog on Mexico. It is a sad day in the U.S.A. when "Our Elected Representatives" are "Pushing" legislation which improves the standard of living for citizens of another country and reduces or eliminate income earning opportunities for legal citizens of the U.S.A. "Trouble"

  3. That is the beauty of American politics, if the American trucker/ workers won't do it for less, we will just let China, Taiwan, Mexico do for cheaper and put the rope around the American people's neck for ganerations to come

  4. @ first anonymous comment...

    Let me see if I understand "you" and "your" intentional ignorance "right". How much do you even know about the DOT? Such as several partnerships between undertaken between major US Carriers and federal agencies. Partnerships that are being understaken by trucking companies who are already under consent decrees, court judgements, and IRS/SEC enforcement actions? That DOT?

    The same DOT who turned the other way during MN illegal fatigue witchhunts?

    Either you are a Washington DC Lobbiest, or you've had your head in the sand. If it's the latter, uh how can "you" still be so naive and not actually brain dead? What part of the last attempt at this by the Bush Administration did you miss---You know when that unplacarded Mexican Truck blew up, the one carrying dynamite, and oh I don't know, took out 40 people, including a reporter? On the same day Bush attempted to open up the border during the first "trial" period?

    There should have been a trial all right---just not on the highways. A courtroom sounds about right. For treason.

    Re: Doc Hastings. This guy is an embarrassment to Washington State politics. If he didn't have his head planted so far up the not so nice smelling regions of DOE (Hanford Nuke Res), Washington Orchard Production Lobbyiests (Apples, Pears, Peaches and Cherries) and Washington Agribusiness, he'd be nowhere near supportive of this latest chapter in Republican "Our Lattest Vote in Crazy."

    And just try collecting on an accident claim, say with a Mexican Carrier, who is owned by a US parent corporation, who set up shop south of the border just to avoid US Labor and inusrance regs.
    Its already damn near impossible to collect against the self insured big boys as it is. Again, read all about the behavior of C R England, SWIFT, and a host of other "players" in the inudustry. All it takes is a google search. You do know how to use that don't ya?

  5. I was reading an article just yesterday on how things aren't likely to change much due to lack of contacts for the Mexican Carriers within the states. Then he turned around and admitted that it wouldn't be beneficial for American truckers "at first" but that we would benefit from complying with NAFTA. Honestly, by the time I was done I'm a little confused about what, exactly, if any, valid argument he was making in support of opening the border? Firstly, NAFTA is supposed to be a 'two way street' as it were and it will never be until they get their violence under control. Period. That would make a nice first step. Secondly, it's only a matter of time before they do have said contacts and I've felt it first hand when a mexico affiliated carrier took our run of three years (we weren't getting rich from it but it was steady work) because NO ONE could match their price and continue to operate under our current US regulations and cost of compliance. That's fixing to get worse with the black boxes and then they want us to pay for our Mexico counterparts upgrade too? I'm sorry, I just don't see all that in NAFTA and if it were actually there, the author(s) should be tried for treason since the best interests of our nation can't be used as an excuse as long as foreign drug cartels are committing what from anyone else would be acts of war (or terror)on our soil and they do nothing about it. Sorry, not buying their story or excuses. And I'm not interested in giving a potential competitor an equipment upgrade either, whoever thought that one up must have been high on some product from our neighbors, that would explain a lot.


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