Dozens of truckers waved signs and American flags at a border crossing Thursday to protest a program that will allow up to 100 Mexican trucking companies to freely haul their cargo anywhere in the United States.
The U.S. Transportation Department was expected to begin issuing operating permits in the pilot program as early as Thursday, starting with 17. The program is designed to study whether opening the U.S.-Mexico border to all trucks could be done safely.
The Teamsters union and Sierra Club oppose the program and sued to try to stop it, arguing that there wouldn’t be enough oversight of the drivers coming into the U.S. from Mexico and public safety would be endangered.
Government lawyers countered the program was a necessary part of the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement and said trucks enrolled in the program would meet U.S. regulations.
NAFTA requires that all roads in the United States, Mexico and Canada be opened to carriers from all three countries. Since 1982, Mexican trucks have been allowed to operate only within a 25-mile zone along the border. There, they transfer loads to U.S. trucks to go elsewhere in the country.
Dozens of truckers led by the Teamsters mixed with some anti-illegal immigration activists to protest near San Diego’s Otay Mesa border crossing, some flashing signs that read, “NAFTA Kills” and “Save American Highways.”