Because, in the end, we’ll still be at least 100,000 drivers short in the long run!
What am I talking about?
Last week, CNN ran an article that noted that the program to allow Mexican trucks on U.S. roads [is] off to a slow start, which really shouldn’t be a surprise, considering the onerous, and costly, restrictions that were placed on the pilot program.
A pilot program that is a little ridiculous when you think about it. As summarized by this recent article on MexicoTrucker.com on NAFTA and Those Unsafe Mexican Trucks: Fact or Fiction,
- All Mexican drivers hold a Federal License from the Republic of Mexico, the equivalent of a U.S. CDL. The validity of this license as been recognized in a MOU between the United States and Mexican governments, and this has been upheld by the The United States Supreme Court.
- As a result of their license, drivers must present proof of identification, residency, and a current medical certification upon request.
- If they receive authority to operate in the US, they must comply with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety regulations. This means that they must pass a safety audit and be subject to random audits like U.S. drivers.
- Most do short-haul drayage shipments within the 100 mile radius of the commercial border zone, where the shipments are handed off. Reporting requirements for short-haul are not substantial, and these logs are easily maintained.
- Unlike many U.S. carriers, major Mexican carriers that wish to do cross-border trucking into the US conduct socio-economic studies and criminal background checks and only hire drivers with at least two (2) years experience.
- There is a lot of similarity between the U.S. and Mexican regulatory schemes. Some of the similarities are highlighted in this HighBeam Industry Report on Trucking, Except Local
- Mexicans are a proud people and the author of the aforementioned article is not embellishing when he says that the job of a truck driver is viewed as one of importance, responsibility, and trust as well as being a highly desirable, better-paying, job for someone with limited education or white-collar skills. I think it’s important here to point out that the U.S. is #2 in vehicles per capita, at 81% penetration, and that Mexico is #56, at 28% per capita. It’s also important to point out that, per capita, domestic freight by road is roughly 1/3 that of US, as per this study by Matt Drake et. al at Duquesne University*.
When you add all up all of the pre-assessment, assessment, registration, and certification costs associated with the pilot program, it’s a lot of effort for little reward. Especially when you consider that all of the arguments against letting Mexican drivers on US roads, which led to their restriction and this pilot program, are ludicrous when placed under scrutiny. The biggest arguments are national security, safety, and American job loss. From a security perspective, this is no different then letting Canadian truckers on the road. U.S. security legislations, including C-PTAT and 10+2, apply to anyone crossing the border, so there are no additional security concerns once the drivers have been certified. As for safety, Mexican regulations are almost as strict as U.S. and the law clearly states that Mexican drivers and trucks will not be allowed on U.S. roads unless they comply with U.S. regulations, and any carrier that wants to be on U.S. roads will happily comply. This just leaves fear of American job loss, which must be the real reason, but a close examination of the issue should demonstrate that there should be little concern on this front.
First of all, the Mexican trucking industry is near, or at capacity. Then you have the fact that Mexico, like the rest of North America, is facing a driver shortage at least as severe as the US, as per this article on the truck driver shortage. And when you consider the driver shortage in the US is going to exceed 110,000 within 2 years, as per the aforementioned HighBeam article (and a post on SI five years ago advising you to Roll On!), even assuming Mexico could add drivers to its ranks faster than the US, when you consider the relative populations, and relative trucking capacities, it is exceedingly unlikely that Mexicans could fill even 10% of the current driver shortage in the U.S.
So I say we forget the political buffoonery and the non-existent issue of American job loss, drop the pilot program, and let any driver who can meet the requirements on American roads. After all, the only thing the pilot program is doing is driving good drivers away, who have been burned by these programs in the past. The real issue is how we are going to continue to move our freight, and given the serious driver shortages across North America, we have to work together.
* The study is a little dated, but the most detailed I could find.