U.S. truckers still worried about highway safety, untrained drivers, ‘drug issue'

May 08, 2001|By AARON CLAVERIE, Staff Writer

In 1993, when the North American Free Trade Agreement was approved, the Mexican border was supposed to become similar to the Canadian border, where trucks are allowed to motor back and forth with just a simple weigh-in and a check of paperwork.

In 1995, the Clinton administration, under pressure from trucker unions, delayed the relaxation of that border regulation, citing highway safety concerns.

Rob Black, a spokesman for the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, said Friday those concerns are still valid.

"The drivers are not trained, the trucks are not safe and drugs are an issue as well," Black said.

In 1998, the Mexican government sued the United States under the provisions written into NAFTA to settle disputes.

Around the same time Mexico developed a database to track Mexican truck drivers and their cargo.

The border was supposed to be opened to Mexican trucks in January 2000 once all those services came online.


That deadline came and went as well.

Before the November election, Clinton canceled the implementation of the new rules to spare Vice President Al Gore heat from unions, say some Washington, D.C., pundits.

Near the downtown Calexico East Port of Entry, the Highway Patrol runs a pilot program created to address concerns in the 1998 Mexican lawsuit. It is called the Licencia Federal Information System.

This system is the model on which the new nationwide tracking system will be designed.

Highway Patrol Officer Shawn Angulo said the CHP can check the record of any Mexican driver crossing the border.

"Mexico City sends the information to Washington, D.C., and then they send it to us," Angulo said.

Staff Writer Aaron Claverie and the Associated Press contributed to this story.

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