The federal government does not allow any trucks and buses from Central and South America to travel on our highways. Does this have to remain to be the case?
Anyone who has ever driven in the U.S. will notice very quickly from glancing at license plates that almost all of the vehicles traveling on the roads in this country are registered in either the U.S. or in Canada, and there are now also a handful of commercial freight trucks from Mexico. You’ll almost never see license plates from any countries that are located south of Mexico on the roads in the U.S.
The reasons that the Federal government does not allow trucks or buses from any countries in Central America and South America to travel on our highways is that the governments in the countries which are located in Central and South America do not enact the same safety standards for vehicles that we do, and the vehicle emissions standards in those countries do not conform to our air quality standards.
However, does this have to remain to be the case?
Our Federal government has been sending administrators from the FAA to countries throughout Central and South America to assist them in designing and modernizing their airports for many years. Our Federal government has been sending DEA agents to countries throughout the Caribbean, Central America and South America to assist in drug eradication programs. Our Federal government has been sending our military into countries throughout Central and South America for many years to assist their militaries with weapons training.
For obvious reasons, the FBI, the CIA, the ATF, the Secret Service and Homeland Security don’t reveal any details of most of their operations to the public, but it is widely assumed that those agencies also work with law enforcement agencies throughout Central and South America to assist in attempting to curb international human trafficking, narcotics smuggling, arms smuggling, as well as the production and trafficking of counterfeit merchandise and counterfeit currencies.
However, our Federal government has never proposed offering to send administrators from our Federal Highway Administration, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the Department Of Transportation, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration as well as the Environmental Protection Agency to work with the comparable agencies in some of the countries throughout Central and South America to assist in improving their vehicle safety standards and their vehicle emissions standards so that people could begin to drive cars and trucks from those countries into the U.S.
Commercial freight companies have been sending cargo from Central and South America into the U.S. via ships since the colonial era, they’ve been sending cargo into the U.S. via freight trains since the latter decades of the 19th century, and they’ve been sending cargo into the U.S. via commercial freight planes since the 1920’s. This has all worked well so far. However, the populations of almost every country in the world are continuing to expand every year, so it is quite reasonable to predict that throughout the 21st century, the 22nd century and into the 23rd century, there will likely be more commercial freight moving between North America, Central America, and South America.
This would give commercial freight companies the option to consider using trucks to send cargo from Central and South America into North America in addition to train, ships or cargo planes. This is an issue which would benefit people in the U.S. and Canada as well as in many of the countries throughout Central and South America.
This would actually be relatively easy to accomplish because many of the same companies which manufacture vehicles for distribution throughout the U.S. are also the same companies which manufacture vehicles which are sold throughout Central and South America. The major vehicle manufacturers have numerous designs for the cars and trucks that they produce, they modify the designs of cars and trucks to conform to the emissions standards and the safety standards of the various countries which they intend to sell their cars and trucks in.
People tend to think of the Panama Canal mostly in terms of its role in international commercial cargo ships traveling east-west between the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans, but there are in fact two north-south bridges from which people driving cars and trucks can cross the Panama Canal, the Bridge Of The Americas, the Centennial Bridge and there will soon be a third north-south bridge spanning the canal, the Atlantic Bridge is scheduled to open in 2018.
If people are ever permitted to drive trucks from Central and South America into the U.S., there will no doubt be people who will attempt to use this as an additional opportunity to smuggle narcotics, weapons, counterfeit merchandise, counterfeit currencies or engage in human trafficking. We would probably need to add additional lanes to our border crossings with Mexico and hire more Customs And Border Protection agents to accommodate more traffic. This would also be beneficial in numerous ways, for if we build additional lanes at our border crossings and hire more CBP agents, then we’re creating new jobs.
Trucks And Buses From Central And South America Have Never Been Permitted To Travel On American Roads
Prior to the construction of our interstate highways, freight trains, commercial air cargo, and commercial freight ships would have been the only viable options for companies that were involved in shipping cargo from Central and South America into the U.S. Prior to the construction of our interstate highway system, it would not have been cost effective for any commercial freight trucking company anywhere south of the U.S. to attempt to send trucks directly into the U.S., or for any bus companies to attempt to send passengers directly into the U.S. via buses, so commercial vehicles from Central and South America was not an issue that any politicians in the U.S. would have been thinking about prior to 1956.
In June of 1956, Congress approved the Federal-Aid Highway Act (which is also often referred to as “the National Interstate and Defense Highways Act of 1956”), which approved funding for constructing and maintaining our Interstate highway system, and construction of the first modern interstate highways began shortly thereafter. In 1956, Congress, the administrators within the Department Of Commerce and the Interstate Commerce Commission all thoroughly understood that the governments of many of the countries in Central and South America weren’t enacting regulations regarding vehicle safety and emissions which were comparable to ours (the Department of Commerce was responsible for transportation issues prior to the creation of the Department Of Transportation in 1966, and the Interstate Commerce Commission was the predecessor to the Surface Transportation Board). So, commercial vehicles from countries in Central and South America were never permitted to drive into the U.S., and the decision was made to allow trucks from Mexico to travel up to 20 miles within the 100 miles commercial border zone, which includes the first 100 miles to the north of the Mexican border in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California. This commercial border zone had been established in 1953, all commercial trucks traveling from Mexico were required to drop off their cargo containers at warehouses that were located within the first 20 miles of this zone, and then turn around and drive south back to Mexico.
NAFTA And Trucks From Mexico
When former President Bush I, the former Mexican President Carlos Salinas de Gortari, and the former Canadian Prime Minister Mulroney had initially begun to discuss the terms for the NAFTA agreement back in October of 1992, one of the issues that all three leaders agreed upon was that commercial trucks from all three countries should be able to drive freely throughout all three countries. In order for the U.S. government to accept this provision of the agreement, former President Bush I had required that the Mexican government enact stringent vehicle emissions standards and vehicle safety standards.
The initial terms of the NAFTA agreement had stated that trucks from Mexico would be permitted to drive freely throughout all of Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California by 1995 and that they’d be able to drive throughout the entire U.S. by 2000.
Former President Bush II had attempted to enact this provision of the agreement in 2000, though Congress blocked his proposal. In 2002, former President Bush II succeeded in beginning the process of allowing commercial freight trucks from Mexico to travel into the U.S., and the small handful of commercial freight trucking companies had demonstrated that all of the vehicles within their fleets met U.S. safety and emissions standards. Seven years later in 2007, the Bush II administration began to allow trucks from Mexico to drive freely throughout the U.S. in a pilot program, though this 2007 program was only a temporary experimental program.
In 2011, the Obama administration enacted legislation which established a pilot program similar to the one that former President Bush II had enacted in 2007, which permitted trucks from Mexico to drive freely throughout the U.S., provided that the cargo companies which operate the trucks can provide documentation which verifies that their vehicles meet our safety and emissions requirements. This 2011 legislation included a provision that the Obama administration reserved the right to withdraw permission which allows Mexican trucks to drive freely throughout the U.S., and restrict them back to the 100-mile commercial border zone if vehicles from Mexico were creating a disproportionate number of accidents on our roads. The 2011 pilot program was intended to be a temporary program, though since 2011, truck traffic from Mexico has not contributed to a disproportionate increase in accidents since 2011, the allowing of cargo trucks from Mexico into the U.S. has been a success, and the permission continues into the present.
More recently, President Trump has been stating since 2016 that he intends to renegotiate the terms of the NAFTA agreement. The Trump administration will have to write up terms which are acceptable to both the Mexican government as well as to the Canadian government, and it is not yet known if the Trump administration will be able to write up a series of new terms which both the Mexican and the Canadian governments will agree upon. It is also not yet known when President Trump intends to meet with both Mexico’s President Nieto and Canada’s Prime Minister Trudeau to discuss renegotiations of this trade agreement, and it is not yet known whether commercial freight trucks from Mexico will continue to be permitted to drive freely on our roads once this trade agreement has been rewritten.
Commercial Freight And Produce Into The Second Half Of The 21st Century And Beyond
Since 2011, the allowing of trucks from Mexico in the U.S. has been successful. Why stop with trucks? Why not allow passenger buses from Mexico to drive freely on our roads too?
And, why stop with Mexico? If our Federal government were to opt to send representatives from the EPA, the Federal Highway Administration, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Department Of Transportation to work with the governments of the countries in Central America and South America, they could work with the comparable agencies within those governments to ensure that they can enact vehicle emissions standards and vehicle safety standards that would meet American requirements, and thus our government would be able to allow vehicles from those countries who opt to enact stricter vehicle emissions and safety standards to travel on our roads.
Do Similar Restrictions Exist In Other Countries?
There is no database which includes a comprehensive list of which governments prohibit vehicles from which countries from entering into through their borders. As I researched this article, from what I could find, when governments opt to prohibit vehicles from some countries from entering into their borders, it is almost always due to political reasons or security concerns, not because of emissions or safety standards. For example, most countries bar vehicles which are traveling from countries which they’re presently at war with from entering into their borders (except when prisoner exchanges occur or when peace negotiations begin), but the restrictions are for very obvious political reasons and security concerns, not because of safety or emissions standards.
Will Commercial Freight Companies in Central and South America Be Interested In This?
As I’ve mentioned, as far as I could find while I was researching this article, this has never been proposed. Because this has never been proposed, this has never been studied, and therefore it is not known whether trucks could become as cost effective as freight trains, commercial container ships and air cargo for sending freight and commercial goods from Central and South America into the U.S. It is widely assumed that there will likely be more freight than ever being shipped from Central and South America into the U.S. in the upcoming decades of the 21st century, continuing into the 22nd century, and so if we were to allow trucks from all of the countries which are situated south of Mexico in the U.S., then we’d at least be giving commercial freight companies which operate in those countries the option to consider using trucks as a fourth option for shipping cargo which could be available to them.
Construction of our Interstate highway system began in 1956, and as far as I could find while I was researching this article, this has never been proposed, so I am well aware that it is unlikely that anyone within our Federal government will be likely to propose this anytime in the near future. However, if this is ever proposed and approved, and our government does opt to allow trucks, buses and possibly even automobiles from Central and South America to travel on our roads, this obviously will lead to a lot more vehicles on our roads. Our highways can accommodate the increased traffic. When the interstate system was designed, most of the interstate highways were designed with very wide medians, so that highway designers in future years could easily add new lanes and widen the highways to accommodate anticipated increases in traffic in future decades. This would also benefit everyone, for widening the highways would also create more jobs.
This is also an issue which the Canadian government has never been able to even think about yet because it is impossible for trucks to drive directly into Canada without first driving through the U.S. If our Federal government ever does opt to consider allowing commercial trucks and passenger buses from South America and Central America to travel into the U.S., this would also give the Canadian government the option to consider doing the same.