Saturday, March 19, 2011

Mexican trucks: EOBR $ tip of iceberg

Truck drivers are rightfully furious that U.S. taxpayers are asked to pay for EOBRs (electronic on-board recorders) on Mexican trucks to be allowed onto our highways. They don't think Americans should pay for Mexican trucking companies to take our jobs and our freight lanes.

Anne Ferro, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration chief, said last week that the EOBRs would cost between $500,000 to $700,000. But that's just for the cost of the devices. Taxpayers will have to pay for the database that stores the information and for people to monitor the data. There'll be a cost to maintain the technology.

And that's nothing compared with the cost of taxpayer-funded government staff to review trucking companies' records, inspect their trucks and assess their drivers' understanding of English and criminal backgrounds -- even before a pilot program gets started. There will be a cost to state and local safety officials, who will have to make sure their databases are up-to-date with Mexican drivers' safety records. And we certainly hope there would be costs for more border officials and equipment to inspect trucks for drugs, weapons and smuggled human beings.

But the sad reality is that U.S. taxpayers have already coughed up hundreds of millions of dollars so Mexican trucking companies could destroy American workers' jobs.

Over the past 19 years, untold millions have already been squandered on government staff working (unsuccessfully) to open our border to unsafe Mexican trucks: in the Department of Transportation, the DOT's Office of Inspector General, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, U.S. Trade Representative and Government Accountability Office, to name a few. Just think of the cost of lawyers and travel expenses alone. U.S. taxpayers even gave border states $1 million a year starting in 1995 so they could improve their safety oversight of Mexican trucks.

U.S. taxpayers have also had to pay to add inspection facilities, equipment and inspectors to the border crossings. A few years ago, DOT said the cost of that effort was $500 million.

It's just obscene that U.S. taxpayers are paying hundreds of millions of dollars to have their jobs taken away, border security undermined and highway safety compromised.