The Impact of NAFTA on Trucking

NAFTA is a treaty agreement that can be described as slightly controversial. One of the areas where NAFTA has had an effect is on the commercial trucking industry.

NAFTA is a treaty agreement that can be described as slightly controversial. One of the area where NAFTA has had an affect is on the commercial trucking industry

In 1994, the United States, Canada, and Mexico signed the North American Free Trade Agreement known as NAFTA. This agreement was intended to encourage the free flow of trade between the countries of North America, and was viewed and touted as a wonderful boost to the economy of all three countries. In the years since the agreement was signed, problems were encountered that were not carefully thought through or ignored by the drafters of the agreement.

Many of these problems directly relate to the trucking industry. The primary cause of concern was the provisions in the agreement that would allow the trucks of each of the signatory countries to travel freely upon the highways of each other’s countries. The main bone of contention has been the overall conditions and standards in the Mexican trucking industry, and the quality of Mexican highways. The 67,000 member strong Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (ODIDA) has been outspoken in it opposition to free access being granted to Mexican drivers.

In 2003, there was court ordered Environmental Impact Reports done on the effect of Mexican drivers using U.S Highways. The courts ruled that the EIR was inadequate, and further studies needed to be done. Recent efforts to control the influx of illegal immigration between Mexico and the United States, and talk of a border fence and increased border security have further complicated the issue.

Mexico does not have anywhere near the safety regulations of the U.S. trucking industry, and if Mexican truckers were to be allowed on U.S. highways, higher insurance rates are one of the predicted impacts of this on the trucking industry. Insurance rates have been steadily climbing as the result of increased liability demands and further increases would create a severe hazard on an industry already reeling from the impact of increased fuel costs.

American truckers see the NAFTA tradeoff as opening up lucrative and already highly competitive American markets to Mexican truckers who will be able to travel freely on one of the best maintained and extensive highway system in the world. In return, American truckers get the chance to travel on poorly maintained and inadequate Mexican highways to visit markets that provide considerably less income potential than what they have in their own backyards. It does not appear to be a very good deal.

The trucking industry faces many challenges of its own today, and the prospect of having it hurt even more by unfair foreign competition is extremely disturbing to truckers. The future of NAFTA and the decisions that will be made in the future by the Congress concerning its implementation are of great concern to everyone in the industry, and also to everyone who depends on the industry to meet their transportation needs.

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