05:50 PM

A New Era

Almost 18 years after the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was signed, U.S. and Mexican officials have found a way to begin allowing each country's trucks to haul freight on the other's highways. For motor carriers and suppliers of vehicles, parts and services, the border opening is the begin- ning of a new era that will lead to growth and success.

There is no doubt that NAFTA has increased trade volume between the U.S., Canada and Mexico, and that trucking companies have been primary beneficiaries of that activity. Mexico is the third largest trading partner of the U.S. after Canada and China, and represents the second largest export market for U.S. goods. Trucks transport 80 percent of the value of U.S.-Mexico trade and 65 percent of the value of U.S.-Canada trade.

Arguments against cross-border trucking between the U.S. and Mexico are countered by facts. For example, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration indi- cates that Mexican trucks are as safe as U.S. trucks and that their drivers are gen- erally safer than U.S. drivers. Between 2004 and 2008, a 21 percent vehicle out- of-service rate for Mexican trucks was actually slightly lower than that for U.S. trucks (22 percent).

Mexican truck drivers performed even better, posting out-of-service rates of one percent in the same period compared to seven percent for U.S. drivers. Today, Mexican drivers involved in cross-border trucking operations have to pass safety reviews, drug tests and assessments of their English-language skills. Mexico has the authority to demand similar measures from U.S. truck drivers.

Cross border trucking is also expected to relieve congestion at crossings. Previously, a shipment traveling across the border required three drivers and three tractors

for a single freight movement— a U.S. motor carrier to transport freight in the U.S., trucks to move freight across the border to warehouses or yards, and a Mexican motor carrier to haul freight within Mexico. That activity was estimat- ed to add as much as five percent to the cost of goods.

Achieving NAFTA's original intention of eliminating barriers to trade between the U.S., Canada and Mexico is dependent on the flow of freight between the three countries. Opening cross-border operations for motor carriers has already had a measurable and highly favorable effect on trucking companies serving shippers on both sides of the U.S.- Canadian border. Applying the same approach to cross-border trucking between the U.S. and Mexico will only further enhance the growth and success of trucking companies, and the suppliers that meet their needs.