Mexican truck presence may be slow

The desire to avoid competitive pressure at the border and the uncertainties of entering the United States market are expected to keep most Mexican truckers off U.S. roadways for the foreseeable future, Mexican transportation representatives said. President George W. Bush on Wednesday cleared the way for Mexican trucks to travel freely on U.S. highways, so long as they comply with the same safety standards as U.S. trucks. So far, only 130 Mexico-based trucking companies have applied for permits since the U.S. began accepting them for consideration earlier this year. "I don't see in the near future Mexican carriers going into the United States," Felix Canales, a representative of the customs brokers' association of Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas, told Reuters. "You don't make money by taking a load of glass to Detroit and going back to Mexico empty." Instead, Canales said Mexican truckers will probably wait until they have forged enough business relationships with U.S. companies to make the northward excursions profitable. Produce transporter Said Mohamed Tamez predicted Mexican truckers will also be slow to enter the United States because they do not want U.S. trucks venturing into Mexico. "The truth is, Mexican companies don't want U.S. trucks in Mexico" any more than U.S. transporters want their Mexican competitors in the United States, Mohamed said. Mexican companies are alarmed they will lose business to U.S.-based trucking firms, but drivers in the U.S. fear they will lose jobs to Mexican truckers. Lane Kidd, president of the Arkansas Trucking Assn., said the U.S. trucking industry wants Mexican carriers to pay the same taxes and fees as their American counterparts. Kidd also said U.S. truck drivers fear the new policy will prompt their employers to replace them with Mexican drivers. U.S. truckers on average earn about 32 cents a mile while their Mexican counterparts make about half that. Canales said the safety of Mexican trucks should not be a concern. "They're made by the same companies. The engine is the same. The transmission is the same. They meet the same safety and air standards," Canales said.

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