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Truckers call for boycott of foreign-owned road

Posted By -NO AUTHOR- On 11/10/2006 @ 1:00 am In Front Page | Comments Disabled

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Truckers are being called on to boycott a decision by Indiana to lease a highway to foreign investment groups.

Todd Spencer, executive vice president of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, OOIDA, has called for truckers to bypass the Indiana Toll Road, which has been leased to a consortium composed of Cintra Concesiones de Infraestructuras de Transport, S.A., a Spanish investment consortium with ties to Juan Carlos and the ruling family of Spain, and the Australian investment firm Macquarie Infrastructure Group.

In an article on the OOIDA website, Spencer argues, “This is a way to send the message that as more and more roads are converted to toll roads the secondary highways get more and more of the traffic. If that’s the life they want to live, they ought to be willing to embrace it right now.”

Spencer told WND the OOIDA is strongly opposed to converting U.S. freeways to toll roads owned by foreign entities. The group’s opposition includes the Trans-Texas Corridor, the four-football-field-wide NAFTA Superhighway parallel to Interstate-35 which Texas Gov. Rick Perry plans to begin next year.

“The Bush administration is bending over backwards to accommodate Mexican trucks coming into the United States,” Spencer said. “The whole goal is to get the absolute lowest cost of transportation, without worrying about important safety and security issues using Mexican trucks and Mexican truck drivers creates.”

Spencer believes one of those security issues is terrorism.

“Worldwide trucks are the weapons of choice of terrorists,” he emphasized.

The Bush administration, Spencer contends, is not taking seriously enough the risk of opening the U.S. to Mexican trucks.

“Who’s going to check to see what’s really in that truck? Nobody is going to check. That’s the problem,” he said.

Responding to the Kansas City SmartPort plan to establish a Mexican customs office in Kansas City, Spencer said: “We evidently have a lot of people in the U.S. who have lost their minds.”

Spencer stressed that once a Mexican truck crosses the border, there is no real way to control where that truck ultimately goes.

“Just because you have a Trans-Texas Corridor and a Mexican customs office in Kansas City doesn’t mean Mexican trucks have to stay on this route,” he explained. “There won’t be anything meaningful to stop a Mexican truck from going wherever the driver wants, once the truck is across the border.”

When asked about enforcing a 20-mile commercial zone limiting where Mexican trucks can go in the U.S., Spencer was dismissive.

“There’s never been any 20-mile commercial zone in Texas that the Texas Department of Public Safety enforces,” he said. “Once a truck clears the Mexican border with Texas, that truck is free to go wherever the driver wants to go in Texas. The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Inspector General’s office has conducted numerous investigations which show that Mexican trucks go right on from Texas to other states throughout the U.S.

Spencer stressed that U.S. law enforcement will have no way to enforce U.S. law for Mexican trucks or drivers.

“In Mexico, there’s no computer system at all to track commercial drivers,” he noted. “If a Mexican commercial driver’s license is suspended, there’s no way to track it, here or in Mexico.”

Spencer pointed out Mexico does not have the same medical requirements for getting a commercial driver’s license.

“There are no hours-in-service regulations for commercial drivers in Mexico,” he stressed. “There are no drug-testing regulations in Mexico.

The U.S. government says Mexican drivers crossing into the U.S. will have to comply with regulations, but Spencer believes the demand is not practical without a system in place with Mexico to verify enforcement.

“Who is going to do a background check on a Mexican driver?” Spencer asked. “All the Bush administration cares about is working with the international business owners who want the cheapest cost of truck drivers possible.”

Spencer believes the tolls planned for the Trans-Texas Corridor amount to a new tax.

“The toll that the Texas Department of Transportation has been suggesting for a truck is 40 cents a mile,” Spencer notes. “This is the equivalent of about $2.40 in new fuel taxes. What happened to free-ways? That was the whole point of the interstate highway system. Motorists were to get the benefit of freeways, not new toll roads.”

The TTC toll for an automobile will be just over one-quarter of the truck tolls.

“These are tremendous new costs, and the toll revenue will be going to Spain,” Spencer said. “The end result will be a drag on the U.S. economy with further damage done to the middle class.”

Spencer agrees the Texas Department of Transportation will try to entice trucks to use the TTC by establishing high speed limits, maybe as high as 75 or 80 miles per hour. But he cautioned the state’s DOT would force traffic onto the TTC once the highway is built.

He points to the “no compete” clause in the Cintra contract, barring the Texas DOT from making significant upgrades to parallel routes.

“You better believe that highway users will be forced to use the TTC toll roads even if Texas has to close down lanes on existing highways,” Spencer said.

He stressed that the only winners to the TTC would be the “investment bankers who get fees up front, just like the politicians get their campaign contributions first, before any toll road is built.”

Who will be the losers? The U.S. taxpayer, Spencer contends.

“The Mexican truck drivers will not be paying U.S. income or Social Security taxes, and Mexican trucks won’t generally pay U.S. road taxes that U.S. truck drivers pay,” he points out.

Spencer said his union sees the TTC as a one-way street.

“Don’t expect American drivers will ever want to operate south of the border,” he said. “Mexican law still currently prohibits American trucks from entering Mexico. No U.S. trucking company has suggested a desire to send U.S. trucks or drivers into Mexico.”

The OOIDA currently has 145,000 members from all 50 states. Owner-operators in the trucking industry are independent small business people who own, maintain and drive commercial trucks they generally own. OOIDA members are typically small business truckers defined as companies operating six or fewer trucks, a segment that comprises close to 90 percent of the motor carrier industry.



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