Mexican Trucks Safer Yet We Still Have 18-Wheeler Protectionism in Action

Over on Supply Excellence, Rachel Rutkoski has the scoop from a recent DOT safety report that found Mexican trucks crossing into the US were actually safer than US trucks (and drivers) operating within the country. Why does this matter? US protectionists have increasingly been attempting to build a case around restricting the movement of Mexican trucks to drive traffic to US companies. But hopefully this will put the kibosh on any safety arguments they can make.

According to the study and Rachel's write-up, "in 2008, 21.2% of inspections of Mexican trucks resulted in taking trucks out of service, while 21.8% of inspections of US trucks resulted in trucks being taken out of service. During those inspections, 1.2% of Mexican drivers were taken out of service, while 6.9% of US drivers were taken out of service." Of course this flies in the face of a Congressional move earlier this year "to end a Bush Administration sponsored test of long haul trucking between Mexico and the US" based on "safety concerns" of Mexican drivers and trucks.

Whenever protectionism like this rears its ugly head, everyone loses except a couple of parties -- the organizations whose jobs are being protected and the actual workers. The rest of us end up paying in higher prices for lesser quality products (e.g., in this case, Mexican fresh produce degrades by the hour the longer it sits). Such actions also fly in the face of lean and related JIT and VMI programs, as the added transfer time in certain cases requires companies to inventory additional materials state-side, further cutting into profit margins and driving up ultimate consumer costs. In fact, one could argue, protectionism in such lower-value activities such as trucking ultimately end up costing more US jobs as consumers will ultimately spend less, resulting in lower factory throughput, and as manufacturers discover the economics of the near-shore Mexican option with on-shore assembly no longer makes financial sense.

I suppose if they could, Congress would probably make the case that since Mexican trucks are no longer unsafe, the real impetus behind their move to end the Bush program was never safety but rather Mexico's currency manipulation, and this was just a move to level the playing field. Wait a minute, that's a playback from our Cliff Notes on China trade policy. Better find a different excuse ...

Jason Busch

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