Monday, September 10, 2007

Exploding Mexican Trucks- coming soon to a highway near You

Today a truck hauling dynamite collided with another vehicle on a busy highway in Mexico, leaving a crater in the concrete 40 feet long and 10 feet wide, killing at least 34 people, and injuring more than 150. The explosion was powerful enough to blow the windows out of a bus a quarter mile away.

Last weekend, Mexico sent its first tractor-trailers into the U.S. as permitted under a long-delayed, NAFTA-mandated program. They used to be restricted to a zone 25 miles wide near the border. Supposedly trucks hauling hazardous materials aren't included in the new program. Yet.

Imagine the effect this explosion would have in your hometown. Picture it happening along I-94 between Detroit and Chicago, on I-80 across the top of northwest Indiana, or on I-70 between Columbus and Indianapolis. Imagine the effect during rush hour where homes crowd the margins of the highway.

Are Mexican trucks subject to the same safety regulations as American trucks? Are they as well serviced? Do they have the same weight limitations? Do they pay the same tolls and fuel and highway taxes? Are they subject to the same traffic enforcement and the same DOT regulations? Do they have the same exhaust pollution restrictions?

Do Mexican drivers have the same time-behind-the-wheel safety limitations as American drivers? Do they have the same training? How many American driving jobs will be lost to Mexican truckers?

Never mind that plunging Mexican trucking into the heartland provides a toehold for the NAFTA Superhighway. Trucks must be inspected by customs officials before they enter U.S. Territory, not at some terminal in Kansas City. Expect customs officials to rack up a lot of overtime. Expect the cost of street drugs to plummet. Expect terrorists to have a far easier means of entry than they do now. If we let the border become this porous we raise the specter of tons of explosives, even a dirty bomb, deliberately trucked to within striking distance of an American city in the name of Free Trade.