Mexican trucks could see roadblock lifted

The Obama administration has proposed new rules that would give Mexican truck drivers permission to drive on U.S. roads beyond the current 25-mile limit.

The driving restrictions have been in violation of the North American Free Trade Agreement treaty since 2009 when the United States ended a two-year pilot program that allowed Mexican truck drivers greater access to U.S. roads. In return, Mexico slapped tariffs on more than 100 U.S. products, which primarily hurt Texas farmers who counted on the Mexican market, The Texas Tribune reported Monday.

In a letter to President Obama, Texas Commissioner of Agriculture Todd Staples said, "Texas agriculture should not be penalized because United States broke a 17-year-old agreement."

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The Obama administration now proposes to negotiate a settlement that includes careful vetting of Mexican truck drivers by the Homeland Security Department and the Department of Transportation. The administration also proposes to inspect every Mexican truck that enters the United States for a designated time frame and outfitting trucks with electronic monitors to ensure Mexican drivers are complying with U.S. laws.

But U.S. drivers are concerned lifting mileage restrictions would cost U.S. jobs.

"If the United States doesn't have the capacity to seal our borders now, why should we have confidence that a long-haul trucking program will maintain safety at our borders, on our roads and in the interior of our nation?" Texas AFL-CIO spokesman Ed Sills asked.

"This cheap-labor program comes at too high a risk and at too large a cost to middle-class American workers who work long, hard hours to help maintain a safe commerce system in our nation," Sills said.

Negotiations on the new terms are expected to take several months, the newspaper said.

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