Mexican long-haul trucks will now have full access to U.S. roadways.
The Bush Administration won a major NAFTA-related court battle last week when the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the Transportation Department can proceed with plans to grant Mexican trucks unrestricted access to U.S roadways. Previously, trucks coming over the border were limited to ports of transfer near the border, where their cargo was then downloaded onto trucks owned by U.S. companies for transport to their ultimate destination.
Of course, only the most hardened cynic would greet this news by asking "How many aliens can you fit in a Freightliner?", and we'd never be so cruel, even if we are journalists.
Of course, there's a flipside: U.S.-owned long-haulers will likewise be granted unlimited access to Mexican roadways, which we suppose could mean that American truckers will eventually come to know and love the impromptu traffic stops and 100-dollar shakedowns that American tourists to Mexico have savored for years.
More serously, if you're looking to bash the Bush Administration over this one, it's not so simple: The unlimited shipping access provisions in NAFTA were a part of the original 1994 treaty, but the Clinton Administration never enforced the rules for commercial trucks. Personally, we can think of good and defensible reasons why Clinton made that decision, but we also can think of good and defensible reasons why Bush decided differently. We can also think of some bad reasons for both decisions, but we'll let you speak your minds first.
We know this one's a bit off-topic for a 4x4 site, but it is about trucks, and we figured it would generate a lively discussion. So have at it!
UPDATE (Sept. 12): The U.S. Senate yesterday voted to defund the section of the DOT budget that regulates the new Mexican truck program for 2008. The bill was S. 1789, and the vote was a lopsided 74-24. The House of Representatives passed similar legislation last May as part of an appropriations bill that funds the DOT for 2008. The two measures will need to be worked out in conference, but if the no-Mexican trucks provision stands, the new measure will become law unless Bush vetoes it. Stay tuned, we'll keep you posted.