Truckers react to Mexican trucker legislation

Mexican truck drivers gained free access to American roads early this month.  The legislation allowing the trucks from Mexico into the U.S. is part of a one year pilot program involving one hundred Mexican trucking companies.  Prior to this new legislation passing and the new program, Mexican trucks had to transfer their cargo onto American trucks at the border dividing our countries.  This new program allows them to drive straight through the U.S. to their destinations.

While the Bush Administration says it will save the American consumer millions of dollars, truck drivers are up in arms.  Truck drivers in Wichita Falls spoke with 7News about their concerns and they say there are two main things they are upset about:  safety problems and losing American jobs.

In Laredo, Texas, truckers picketed the controversial program, but things were calmer in Wichita Falls.  But, that doesn't mean that local truckers and those traveling through weren't just plain mad.  "If they're gonna let 'em across and not do inspections on them, that's just more hazards on the road for everybody," said Rocky File from Allen, Texas.  And Mexican truckers aren't required to have a commercial drivers license which truckers say is just plain hazardous.

They're also worried about the language barrier.  "You know who's gonna be there to interpret?" asked Rick Talley from Tacoma, Washington.  "Are the Sheriff's Department and Highway Patrol gonna have to hire interpreters?"

Michael Smith from Caldwell, Idaho told 7News that it's a slap in the face for American truck drivers.  "Because they're gonna pull them guys up outta Mexico and they're gonna do my job for 19 cents a mile," said Smith.  "Not only will this new legislation affect safety on the roads, it will also take away jobs from truck drivers, like Mr. Smith here in the U.S," said Talley.

Mexican trucks will have to go through spot checks to meet U.S. inspection standards, but that means that perhaps only 20 out of 30 trucks will be searched.  The truckers say, for the other ten that cruise through - there's no telling what they're carrying.  The truckers worry about illegal aliens, guns and alcohol, just to name a few.

So far, 38 Mexican companies are taking part in the program, but we should expect to see 100 in the near future.  The government says it has put some new safety laws into effect, but truckers say they wonder if they'll be enough.