MEXICO CITY – Eleven Mexican trucking companies hope to join a pilot program that could see more than 150,000 vehicles delivering products to destinations deep inside the United States by year’s end, the vice president of the Canacar transport association said.
Eight of the 11 firms have already submitted applications and are awaiting a response from the U.S. Transportation Department, Luis Moreno said.
It was only last Friday that a Mexican long-haul truck became the first to deliver a shipment to the U.S. interior under the revived pilot program.
Nearly two decades after the North American Free Trade Agreement linking the United States, Mexico and Canada came into force in 1994, a Mexican trucking company began shipping cargo beyond a buffer zone near the border.
“There are eight or nine companies enrolled (in the program), more don’t yet have permission from the United States to enter,” Moreno told reporters.
Each firm accepted into the pilot program must undergo an 18-month probationary period to become eligible for a permanent U.S. operating license, he said.
By the end of 2011, Moreno expects that some 150,000 Mexican trucks will be authorized to travel beyond the narrow border strip.
Around 70 percent of the $400 billion in goods that pass between Mexico and the United States every year are transported by truck.
Before the renewal of the pilot program, Mexican trucks were not allowed beyond a 25-mile buffer zone where their cargo was typically transferred to U.S. tractor trailers, a process criticized as inefficient and expensive.
The pilot program was launched in 2007, but later canceled due to opposition from Democratic lawmakers in Congress.
The Mexican government retaliated by imposing $2.3 billion in tariffs on U.S. imported goods.
The tariffs were lifted last Friday, but the Mexican government said they could be reinstated if the program’s U.S. critics succeed in blocking it again.
Under NAFTA, Mexican trucks were to have had access to U.S. border states by 1995 and all U.S. highways by 2000, but opposition from the Teamsters union stymied the implementation of that provision.
Canadian trucks operate in the United States without restriction. EFE