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No Green Light for Mexican Trucks

September 25, 2007
Corporate Governance Newsletter

By a margin of 74-24, the Senate overwhelmingly passed the Dorgan Amendment, which would end funding for a NAFTA plan to allow Mexican long-haul trucks to freewheel across the border to any destination in the United States.  The Department of Transportation had announced a pilot program, beginning in September, which would permit up to 100 Mexican trucking companies to begin rolling in the continental U.S., despite vocal opposition from environmental and labor groups.

Health and safety risks are key issues, according to attorney Al Meyerhoff, Of Counsel to Coughlin Stoia, who has followed the program since its inception.

he Mexican trucking fleet is older – and far dirtier – than its U.S. (or Canadian) counterpart, and these older trucks do not meet tough new diesel requirements adopted in recognition of the severe threat diesel pollution poses – including increases in cancer, respiratory disease, asthma and premature death,” said Meyerhoff.  Indeed, according to Meyerhoff, trucks from Mexico put out 150% more smog and 200% more particulate matter than most modern U.S. trucks, and many still contain illegal devices which allow “dirty” trucks to cheat emissions inspections.

Opposition to the Mexican trucking program united a broad spectrum of political opinion, from the Sierra Club and Public Citizen to the International Brotherhood of Teamsters and highway safety groups.  As the Detroit Free Press noted, “[N]o labor organization can command 74 Senate votes.  There are legitimate larger issues.  Mexican trucks are generally older than U.S. rigs and pollute the air more.  Their drivers are not covered by U.S. limits on how long they can stay behind the wheel.”

The amendment garnered support from both sides of the aisle.  As reported by Reuters, Senior Pennsylvania Republican Senator Arlen Specter urged his Senate colleagues to support the trucking ban, advising, “We do not want to impede legitimate commerce, but safety is a very vital factor....”  As if to affirm Senator Specter’s safety concerns, on the second day of the pilot Mexican trucking program, a disastrous trucking accident occurred in Mexico, resulting in 30 deaths.  Even The Economist agreed that “the tragedy hardly inspires confidence.”

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