Feds to Allow Mexican Truck Drivers on U.S. Roads - 8 News NOW

Jonathan Humbert, Reporter

Feds to Allow Mexican Truck Drivers on U.S. Roads

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Starting this weekend, the U.S. Department of Transportation will allow Mexican trucks and truck drivers to cross the border and haul anywhere in the country. American drivers aren't just concerned about safety; they're also concerned about their bottom line.

Eyewitness News talked with some truckers who share their reaction.

Hundreds of trucks pass through from California each and every day. At the first place Mexican drivers would stop once they cross into Nevada, drivers there say this political promise could end up being a disaster.

The lonely life on the open road could be coming to a screeching halt for truck driver Eric Oliver. "It's like a free pass."

Oliver is upset at new rules allowing Mexican truck drivers to carry heavy loads anywhere in the U.S. His main concern is safety. "If you've worked down there, you know, you've seen those trucks that are running down there by the border. Pieces falling off of them and stuff like that. That's just creating hazards for us out here on the road."

It's been seven years on the road for Oliver. He has to get medical check-ups, health screenings and he faces a strict cap on how long he can work.

"We have to get medical done every two years. I don't know what they do down there," said Oliver.

The federal government promises a 37-point inspection for the Mexican trucks, and personal interviews with drivers, but only for the pilot program. After that, it's back to random checks. Oliver is sure questionable trucks and sketchy wheelmen will slip through the cracks.

"You get one of these things rolling around at 80,000 pounds doing 70 miles-an-hour on the freeways here in Nevada, or California at 55 miles-per-hour, one of them has a heart attack and crashes, you're going to have a big mess," said Oliver.

The new rules are a promise made under NAFTA in the early 1990s. That trade agreement was supposed to open the borders to commerce, but now it may cut off Oliver from his future on the road.

"All that's doing to us is cutting us, because the Mexican trucking companies will do it for dollars less. Not pennies less, we're talking dollars less," he said.

Oliver says right now the industry pays $1.35 per mile -- a paycheck that will slip away with more Mexican competition.

"A $1.35 is bare minimum to make a living. That's still -- keep your truck on the road, keep food in your gut and hopefully pay some bills at home."

Mexican drivers will have to understand English and follow all rules for documentation and safety. But inspectors will have to take the driver at his word nearly each and every time. 

Eyewitness News did contact the NHP to ask them what they do to keep highways safe, but they had no comment.

Email your comments to Reporter Jonathan Humbert.

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