Tuesday, October 18, 2011
SAN ANTONIO, Texas — Guillermo Pérez knows all eyes will be on his trucks, but he says he’s up to the challenge. He’s a manager at Transportes Olympic, the first Mexican trucking company to receive U.S. approval for direct, long-haul trips north of the border.
The first truck is expected to arrive in the U.S. sometime this week.
“We’re really, really happy with this news,” Pérez said by phone from his office in Monterrey, Mexico. “We can actually give door-to-door service to our clients.”
Previously, all Mexican trucks had to stop after crossing the U.S. border and transfer the cargo to U.S. trucks. Now, they’ll be able to continue inland.
In return, Mexico will lift tariffs it had maintained on U.S. agricultural products. Pérez knows his company will serve as a guinea pig, but he’s more than ready to prove skeptics in the U.S. wrong.
“We want to prove that we as a Mexican company can do this job, can compete at the international level,” Pérez said. “The message to other Mexican companies is that this is a goal that can be reached.”
Experts in U.S.-Mexico commerce said it’s about time. Not only will it boost trade, but it will also cut down on drug trafficking.
The issue hits home for Kyle Burns. He’s the director of the Free Trade Alliance in San Antonio, the organization that originally drafted the cross-border trucking program that was incorporated into NAFTA (which, not coincidentally, was signed in San Antonio in 1993).
“It’s much harder to put contraband in a truck that’s moving quickly across the border than it is for one that’s parked there for days,” Burns said.
U.S. labor unions, such as the Teamsters, battled the cross-border trucking program for years, citing safety concerns and saying it would take away jobs in the U.S.. But the U.S. Dept. of Transportation will inspect trucks in Mexico to make sure they meet U.S. standards. And Mexican drivers will be screened, including drug tests.
Once in the U.S., they will be tracked by GPS to make sure they reach their intended desti