Tuesday, October 25, 2011

First Mexican truck to enter U.S. interior sometime soon. I hope.

From The San Diego News, via a link from Radley Balko:

SAN DIEGO -- The first Mexican carrier is set to roll into the U.S. interior within days, but American trucking union leaders and two California congressmen haven't given up on stopping the cross-border trucking program that had been stalled for years by safety concerns and political wrangling.

The stall has had little to do with safety concerns.  It is about the political wrangling and protecting the constituents of some politicians that they've bought at auction prices. 

U.S. Reps. Duncan Hunter and Bob Filner said they'll take a bipartisan stand at the border Wednesday in San Diego to voice concerns about the bilateral pilot project that will allow approved Mexican trucks to come deep into the United States. Hunter is a San Diego-area Republican, while Filner is a Democrat whose district includes California's border with Mexico.

They will join Teamsters union President James Hoffa and Todd Spencer, the owner-operator of the Independent Drivers Association, in a last-ditch effort to block Mexican trucks from being granted full access to U.S. highways.

The trucks are crossing a river, a river that has symbolic meaning because of a war we had with Mexico.  This river became known as a "boundary". 
Boundary (noun) (bound*a*ry) 1. In the geographic sense, an arbritrary listing of lines of latitude and longitude to be filled in on maps with different colors.  2.  In the political sense, the far edges of your cage.

Allowing Mexican trucking companies to deliver the goods rather than transfer them onto U.S. haulers at the border will put American jobs and highway safety at risk, the union leaders say.

Horseshit.  According to Marc Levinson, author of "The Box: How the Shipping Container Made the World Smaller and the World Economy Bigger" the ancestors of these same union parasites once tried to unload and reload each shipping container as it entered U.S. "boundaries".  They didn't understand that the entire point of the shipping container was to load the thing at Point A and not have the load touched by thieving little Jimmy Hoffa hands until it was unloaded by the customer at Point B.  The unions insisted that they had a right to "strip and stuff" every shipping container, even if the load was going to be placed right back in the same shipping container.
All Jimmy Hoffa wants is to get his hands on the load.   

Washington on Friday approved the first Mexican trucking company, Transportes Olympic, nearly two decades after the hotly contested provision of the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement set off lawsuits and a costly trade dispute between the neighboring countries.

If I want to hire Transportes Olympic to haul a load from Juarez to Fort Worth, it really isn't Jimmy Hoffa's business.  It is the U.S. government's business, unfortunately.  They own the roads.  But they've also established that it is illegal to discriminate against people for racial reasons, and that's the only angle these clowns have to fight with. 

Transportes Olympic employees were busy Wednesday finishing the preparations for its historic, maiden trip.

The long-haul truck will cross the border Friday at Laredo, Texas, and head about 450 miles north to Garland, Texas, to deliver industrial equipment, said Guillermo Perez, the transport manager at the firm in the industrial Monterrey suburb of Apodaca, about two hours south of Laredo.

The company was also the first approved under the 2009 pilot program before President Barack Obama's administration cancelled it. Mexico retaliated by placing tariffs on 99 agricultural products worth more than $2 billion annually.

As well the should have.  It's called NAFTA.  It is a free-trade agreement, kinda.  We've been in violation of the law for about 20 years. 

Mexico cut the tariffs in half this summer after Obama and Mexican President Felipe Calderon approved an inspection and monitoring program for the companies that had been approved in 2009. The Mexican government has vowed to lift the rest once the truck heads out of the border zone Friday.

"We're really excited," Perez said in a telephone interview Wednesday with The Associated Press. "Now we can provide door-to-door service so it's about a 15 percent savings for companies."

Eliminating and lowering idiotic trade barriers like this one helps you to afford the computer on which you're reading this rant.  It's how you got the clothes that I hope you are now wearing. 

Opponents say the fight isn't over.

Hunter has co-authored a bill sponsored by U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., that would require the pilot program to be ceased in three years and Congress to vote on the issue again.

"There's absolutely no upside to the program," said Joe Kasper, a spokesman for Hunter's office.

Yes there is an upside, you flak-catching hack.  If I want to hire these people to haul a load, then I get to have my way. 
That's always an upside. 
Plus, I won't have to hire Hoffa goons.  (Remember Jimmy Hoffa?  The guy who said "let's take out those sons-of-bitches", in reference to The Tea Party?)  
And I get to save money, which means that in the long run, you get to save money.

 "It's a good example of foreign interests overtaking American interests, at the expense of jobs, security and safety. The program was a bad idea when it was created under NAFTA and it's a bad idea now. It should be stopped right away."

At the expense of jobs?  If it's about saving jobs or creating more jobs, let's just mandate that loads can only cross The Rio Grande on wheelbarrows and that they can only move up Interstate 35 on hand carts pulled by the less fortunate of our society. 
If it's about security, let's end the idiotic drug war.  Safety will increase 100-fold on both sides of the river that we  currently use as a boundary, just like safety increased when we ended our alcohol war with Canada at the end of Prohibition. 
If it's about safety, take a look at one of the trucks that Transportes Olympic will use on these loads and then compare them to the rigs that haul the U.S. Mail.  Case dismissed.  There will be no comparison. 

Criminal activity has been a problem for years even within the U.S. government's strictest trusted carrier programs. Drug trafficking organizations have smuggled tons of drugs inside trucks driven by approved truckers coming from inspected and certified facilities inside Mexico.

And they do this because there is a fortune to be made in doing so.  End the monopolies that we've granted to the Mexican Drug Lords and their U.S. Enablers, and the smuggling will end.  No one ever got rich by smuggling coals into Newcastle.  Or by smuggling more bullshit into a political protectionist argument. 

"The beneficiaries of opening borders will be few and the casualties will be plenty," Spencer told The Associated Press on Wednesday. His organization represents small independent trucking businesses.

He doesn't represent all of the small independent trucking businesses, as the article implies.  He doesn't represent mine.  (I'm the General Manager of one.)
Trade runs both ways.  The outfit that I work for sells stuff in the U.S., and we sell stuff outside of Jimmy Hoffa's boundaries.  We also purchase stuff from overseas and sell it inside the Hoffa enclosure in which most of you folks live.  I don't need Hoffa and his Washington puppets in the way.  
Anything is good as long as it helps weaken the cage so jealously guarded by  U.S. Reps. Duncan Hunter and Bob Filner and union boss Jimmy Hoffa.   

Proponents say especially strict safeguards are in place: The U.S. government is paying for electronic monitoring devices to be installed in all Mexican trucks used in the program.

Mexican trucking companies had to fill out an application, pay a fee and then submit the names of any drivers who will participate so they can undergo national security and criminal background checks by the Justice Department and Department of Homeland Security.

Inspectors will check out the trucks for safety violations, verify the drivers' qualifications and administer oral English-proficiency exams.

The program's long delay has cost companies in both countries millions and hurt bilateral relations, proponents say.

"We certainly hoped that it cannot be stopped," said James Clark, director of the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce's Mexico Business Center. "The U.S. has been in violation of the NAFTA agreement ever since the beginning of the trucking issue. Mexican trucks have every right to come into the U.S. under NAFTA as long as the trucks are fully inspected to U.S. standards and the drivers speak English."

About 70 percent of goods from the $4 billion trade between the two nations is transported by land to its destinations according to the Mexican government.

And all of that stuff is currently being unloaded at the border and reloaded onto another trailer.  That's a total waste. 
End of rant. 
Thanks for listening. 


CenTexTim said...

Please allow me to offer an alternative perspective.

I work several days a week in Laredo TX, the busiest US inland port of entry. Two points:

One: at a macroeconomic level, you are correct. Free trade in general, and NAFTA in particular, will facilitate the flow of goods from Mexico to various destinations in the US. And I have no love for the teamsters or any other union. But...

Currently Mexican trucks can venture up to 25 miles inside the US border, but no farther. On a local level, that results in a huge cartage industry in the Laredo area. There are literally acres of warehouses where Mexican trucks deliver freight, it is off-loaded, and loaded onto US trucks (some union, some Mom & Pop operators). Granted, this is an inefficient process. But it supports a healthy local economy that provides thousands of skilled (managers - well, grant me a little leeway here), semi-skilled (truckers, forklift operators, office personnel, etc.), and unskilled (manual labor) jobs. A reduction or elimination of this cartage industry will have a significant negative impact on the local economy.

Point two: on a personal level, I commute up and down IH 35 between San Antonio and Laredo. Most of the truckers are well-behaved. They stay in the right lane, don't speed or tailgate, and generally are a pleasure to share the road with. However, there are a few that ignore the unwritten rules of the road, clog up the left hand lane, and generally make pains of themselves. Invariably, these trucks have Mexican license plates. I don't know if it's cultural, a lack of training, a lack of insurance-mandated GPS units, or what, but I dread the day when IH 35 is flooded with Mexican trucks and drivers. And please don't give me that nonsense about how they must pass a DOT exam and English proficiency test. That's like saying the TxDOT driver's license exam only allows good drivers to pass.

This is a good example of where theoretical ideology meets the real world. I support the concept of free trade. I understand how it is beneficial at the macro level. But when I see the pain it will cause at the local level, and how it will negatively impact ME (which, let's face it, is the most important aspect), then my theoretical support crumbles.

I'm not sure how to resolve this macro-micro conflict. Any thoughts?

The Whited Sepulchre said...

As always, thanks for your contribution.
Regarding point number one....It depends on whether you're looking at the general interest of the consumers or the producers.
My hero, Fred Bastiat, had a parable about this exact same situation.
I have said that as long as one has regard, as unfortunately happens, only to the interest of the producer, it is impossible to avoid running counter to the general interest, since the producer, as such, demands nothing but the multiplication of obstacles, wants, and efforts.

I find a remarkable illustration of this in a Bordeaux newspaper. M. Simiot raises the following question:

Should there be a break in the tracks at Bordeaux on the railroad from Paris to Spain?

He answers the question in the affirmative and offers a number of reasons, of which I propose to examine only this:

There should be a break in the railroad from Paris to Bayonne at Bordeaux; for, if goods and passengers are forced to stop at that city, this will be profitable for boatmen, porters, owners of hotels, etc.

Here again we see clearly how the interests of those who perform services are given priority over the interests of the consumers.

But if Bordeaux has a right to profit from a break in the tracks, and if this profit is consistent with the public interest, then Angoulême, Poitiers, Tours, Orléans, and, in fact, all the intermediate points, including Ruffec, Châtellerault, etc., etc., ought also to demand breaks in the tracks, on the ground of the general interest—in the interest, that is, of domestic industry—for the more there are of these breaks in the line, the greater will be the amount paid for storage, porters, and cartage at every point along the way. By this means, we shall end by having a railroad composed of a whole series of breaks in the tracks, i.e., a negative railroad.

Whatever the protectionists may say, it is no less certain that the basic principle of restriction is the same as the basic principle of breaks in the tracks: the sacrifice of the consumer to the producer, of the end to the means.

Change the names to Laredo, San Antone, Austin, Waco, and Fort Worth. Imagine that government required an equally unnecessary "Cartage Area" in all of those cities, just to support the local economies. Would you want to pay for that?

Regarding your second point....yes there are bad drivers. And yes, some of them don't speak English. Most of these, in my area anyway, are called "Yugoslavians". We've had a massive influx of them ever since the Serbia/Bosnia/Etc. war, and having watched them try to back up to docks for about 10 years, I often wonder how long it takes them to back up to a toilet.
Eventually, they will blend into the melting pot, and they won't have such a horrible reputation. It happened with the Irish, the Italians, the Poles, and dozens of other ethnic groups, even back when Teamsters drove teams of mules.
I bet dollars to donuts the same thing will happen along the Rio Grande once we start erasing that border. Just a theory.
Also, when you get a chance, look at a highway map of where the river crossings are. The drug war requires a smaller number than the market would ordinarily dictate. Not a theory. Guaranteed.
Once again, great hearing from you !

Dr Ralph said...

I await the day those Mexican semis pound the interstates heading north filled with produce display racks.

Nick said...

The inefficiency supporting those local people come at the expense of other people, slightly farther away. It comes out of their wallets a few bucks at a time.

I was nearly killed by a semi driver in New Jersey who thought it would be fun to tailgate cars at high speed. The plates I reported to the State Troopers were not Mexican.

The Whited Sepulchre said...

As always, good to hear from you.

Believe it or not, I-35 is already seeing the occasional semi that is heavy laden with display racks. But they're headed south from Fort Worth to Chile, Colombia, and Mexico.

CenTexTim said...

Allen, thanks for the response. I understand and agree with the theoretical arguments in favor of free trade. What I'm struggling with is the clash between theory and reality.

To use Bastiat's railroad analogy, we are not talking about creating a new break in the tracks. We are talking about an existing break. To eliminate that break will, as you and Nick point out, benefit the consumer population at large. But it will cause concentrated harm locally.

In other words, millions of consumers nationwide will each save a few bucks on imported goods, while thousands of workers locally will suffer significant financial hardship.

If I understand you and Nick correctly, you are framing the question as "should the few profit at the expense of the many?" But another way to look at it is "should the few be harmed for the benefit of the many?" Or, more specifically to this case, "should the few be significantly harmed for the marginal benefit of the many?"

I know the theoretical answer. But that's cold comfort to the real people who will lose their jobs.

As for the Mexican truck driver issue, yes, eventually they will (hopefully) drive in the same manner as the other truckers. But that doesn't help me on my drive home tonight. Again, it's theory meets reality. And again, it's all about how it affects me :-)

Nick, I agree that there are lousy drivers of all types. But based on my admittedly unscientific (but still valid to me) personal experience driving up and down IH 35 weekly, the percentage of trucks with Mexico plates being driven poorly is higher than the percentage of poorly driven trucks with non-Mexico plates. This is not a condemnation of Mexican truck drivers, just an observation.

Thanks for your input.

The Whited Sepulchre said...

Somewhere in the middle of Kentucky is an abandoned factory. It's almost 1 million square feet.
It was set up to produce IBM Selectric typewriters. They were only able to run the place for about a year.
Damn Bill Gates. And I hope Steve Jobs is burning in hell.