– Inspectors from the Texas Department of Public Safety have found a million violations in trucks coming from Mexico into El Paso, Texas between 2007 and 2011, according to a report by the El Paso Times. The report comes just weeks before Mexican trucks will be allowed to begin shipping long-haul freight into U.S. territory.
The statistics, obtained by Fox News Latino, show that between the fiscal years of 2007 and the first six months of 2011 the state completed 1.2 million inspections at the El Paso state facilities by the Bridge of Americas and the Zaragoza International Bridge. Inspections led to 1,004,213 violations including brake problems, defective lights, and flat tires.
According to the El Paso Times, the violations found by U.S. officials, many of them repeat offenses, caused 31,519 trucks and 625 drivers to be placed out of service during this time period.
The data comes months after a bilateral agreement was signed earlier this month which will allow Mexican trucks to begin shipping long-haul freight far into U.S. territory. Up to now, Mexican trucks could enter the United States but were restricted to a narrow border zone.
Critics, led by U.S. labor groups like the Teamsters union, say the statistics only reinforce their stance that the new cross-border trucking program will put lives in danger on America's highways.
“This report confirms what we have been saying for years – Mexican trucking companies and their fleets are not held to the same stringent safety standards as American carriers," said Jim Hoffa, general president of Teamsters, to Fox News Latino. "Until they meet every safety, training and environmental standard that our trucking companies meet, we should not allow these unsafe Mexican trucks to drive freely through our country.”
State Rep. Joe Pickett, D-El Paso, told the El Paso Times that the number of violations for the trucks from Mexico is in line with U.S. industry standards. He also assured that the trucks undergo inspections in Mexico and the United States.
"They are either no worse than U.S. trucks or better in some cases," he said.
Regarding the amount of violations among Mexican trucks a spokeswoman for the Texas Department of Public Safety said, "It’s a big number but it’s not out of line when compared to our inspection of American vehicles."
The U.S. Transportation Department has assured that the new deal will put safety first and lift tariffs on more than $2 billion in U.S. manufactured goods and agricultural products while "providing opportunities to increase U.S. exports to Mexico and expanding job creation."
In an attempt to assure the safety of the program, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration released the requirements that Mexican trucks and their drivers will have to specifically follow. Under the program, all trucks entering the United States will be equipped with electronic onboard recorders which track how many hours the trucks are in service. The recorders will be paid for by the Department of Transportation at a cost of $2.5 million from the federal Highway Trust Fund. All drivers will have to pass safety reviews, drug tests, and be required to read and speak the English language sufficiently to understand highway traffic signs and signals.
Mexico can demand the same requirements of US drivers entering their territory as well.
Some like Bill Graves, the President and chief executive officer of the American Trucking Associations, believe the new requirements are enough to ensure the safety of Mexican trucks on the road.
“American Trucking Associations welcomes this latest step in improving the efficiency of trucking and trade at our southern border," Graves said in a July press release. "We also note that Mexican fleets participating in the program will be bound by the same rules and regulations applicable to American carriers, and we are pleased that the agreement allows for U.S. carriers to compete in Mexico."
Trucks transport roughly $275 billion worth of goods - 70 percent of the total - that pass between the two countries annually, according to a report by the wire service EFE. The prospective accord is expected to create savings of up to $675 million on cross-border shipping costs.