Before these ridiculous proposals reach the desk of the president, senators must reconcile their bill with one the House passed earlier. The House bill includes plenty of its own inanities, including taxpayer dollars for such urgent needs as the National Mule and Packers Museum in California and walking tours of Boydton, a Virginia town (pop. 463) that I’ve never heard of before.
Let’s get something straight: Transportation infrastructure is one of the most vital projects of government. Unless we begin to improve the conditions of our country’s roads, highways, canals, locks, and bridges, we might as well pull the mules out of that museum that none of us will ever visit and quit pretending we live in the 21st century.
One of the most offensive features of the transportation bill doesn’t involve something that’s actually in it, but rather something that’s not there at all: Both the House and the Senate have voted to deny funds to a pilot program that would have allowed a limited number of Mexican trucks onto American highways and American trucks onto Mexican highways.
The program’s foes say they’re motivated by safety, but that’s just political posturing. Plain as day, it’s a case of special-interest protectionism that will negatively impact everyone.
During the Clinton administration, in the NAFTA agreement, the United States promised Mexico that its long-haul truckers would receive full access to our highways and our truckers would have full access to theirs–a benefit that Canadian truckers have enjoyed for a quarter century. For 11 years, the Teamsters and the rest of Big Labor have made America go back on its word. As a result, consumers now pay a price for an inefficient system that requires products from Mexico to be loaded from one truck to another at the border, adding cost and time to buy my fresh vegetables.
We should begin with the observation that unsafe trucks don’t deserve to drive on American roads under any circumstances, regardless of origin. If they fail to meet a basic set of safety standards, they should go back to their garages until their problems are fixed.
As it happens, a limited number of Mexican drivers are already allowed to operate within a few miles of the border. Their roadside inspection records are very similar to those of Americans: 79 percent passed, compared to 77 percent for the U.S. trucks.
“It’s my impression that [Mexican trucks] run about the same” as American ones, said an official with the Texas Department of Public Safety.
If the political opponents of Mexican trucks were serious about safety, they would offer a simple proposal: Any truck that fails its inspections should be banned from U.S. roads until they are fixed and pass.
They won’t do this, of course. Their priority is protectionism.
The Department of Transportation’s priority really is safety: That’s why it wanted a test program that would require Mexican trucks to undergo rigorous inspections. It would involve 500-600 trucks—that’s about the number of trucks that drive down a mile-long stretch of I-80 in a two hour period of time on any given day.
This is what Congress is attempting to ban again by denying funds–apparently so it can have its pork for peace gardens and mule museums.
The truck fleets that deliver products in, out, and around the United States are as much a part of our transportation infrastructure as our bridges and railroads. Making sure that they’re safe, efficient, and readily available should be one of Washington’s top priorities.
Unfortunately, Congress has refused to exercise common sense. Bad politics is bad business, and we all pay a price for this failure.
Tim Burrack raises corn and soybeans in partnership with his brother on their NE Iowa family farm. Tim is a Board Member of Truth About Trade and Technology