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Should Mexican truckers hit the road?

Mexican truck passing a bus

TEXT OF INTERVIEW

Scott Jagow: One aspect of NAFTA is that all roads in North America are supposed to be open to truckers from the U.S., Mexico and Canada. But right now, Mexican truckers are only allowed a certain distance into the U.S. The Bush Administration wants to let them go anywhere they want starting next week, but several groups, including the Teamsters Union and the Sierra Club, have filed a lawsuit to stop that from happening. Joining us now is Michelle Middlestadt. She's a reporter at the Houston Chronicle. Michelle, what's the opposition here?

Michelle Middlestadt: Well the argument against is that the fleet of Mexican trucks is historically older and less safe than U.S. trucks, that Mexican truckers are not subjected to the same regulations, the same alcohol and drug testing and that their trucks also don't have the same environmental standards and therefore bringing Mexican trucks would pose safety concerns for Americans on the roads.

Jagow: Now how do Mexican companies feel about this? Are they excited about the opportunity or no?

Middlestadt: You know interestingly, we talked to some truckers in Mexico and they were saying that this really is more sort of a dispute and a haggling that's taking place at the political level in Washington and Mexico City. For the most part, most Mexican truckers don't actually want to gain access to the U.S. market because insurance rates would be so much higher, because there's so much congestion at the border. There really isn't a huge public appetite, certainly among truckers in Mexico, to gain access to this U.S. market right now.

Jagow: Is there the opportunity for trade here or is there not that market?

Middlestadt: 85 percent of all the trade that occurs between the United States and Mexico is taking place on trucks. The difficulty right now is The difficulty right now is that Mexican trucks right now can only drive into what's considered a 20 to 25-mile buffer zone in the United States. So they bring their trucks into places like Laredo, Texas offload their cargo and then a U.S. carrier will pick up that cargo and truck it to Chicago or San Francisco or wherever else. Both the Bush administration as well as many U.S. companies and Mexican's say this is a very onerous and cumbersome process and it would be easier and cheaper if those companies could just have unfettered access to carriers from both countries.

Jagow: All right Michelle Middlestadt from the Houston Chronicle thanks for joining us.

Middlestadt: great to join you Scott.

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