by The Other Katherine Harris
Sept. 5, 2007
Off and running simultaneously, Mexican truckers and Fred “Rented Red Truck” Thompson will invade our geopolitical landscape — starting tomorrow!
It’s one of those flukes of comically perfect timing, but no laughing matter. Both phenomena underscore the unprecedented power that corporations hold over us now and the urgency of overturning it. We’re in dire straits, indeed, when the latest Republican presidential candidate is an actual lobbyist and the Democratic frontrunner is a corporatist married to the man who gave us NAFTA.
NAFTA, a cruel stroke to workers on both sides of our southern border, was meant also to admit swarms of Mexican cargo trucks back in 1994, but a dozen years of resistance ensued, based on economic, road safety and environmental concerns. Shrub’s Thugs managed to quash the opposition in a San Francisco courtroom last Friday, allowing commencement of a year-long “pilot program” involving about a hundred Mexican trucking companies (many of them formed by transnational American businesses).
The impact on jobs will be massive. Last year 4.5 million commercial trucks from Mexico crossed into the U.S. — a number certain to rise tremendously, when the freight no longer has to be moved into American vehicles after entry. Our truckers are supposed to be satisfied by gaining tit-for-tat access to Mexico, but they don’t want the risks of driving there, besides which our manufacturing sector is so moribund that we have almost nothing to carry.
In addition to crippling our trucking industry, free U.S. access for Mexican trucks will exacerbate the Asian importation trend favoring Mexican ports, with their lower-paid dockworkers. Hardly anybody ever mentions this, even in passing — or the additional wear and tear on our highways that will result, often without any of the alleged low-price rewards to American consumers, because the goods went to Canada.
There’s a lot to worry about on the safety side, too. Compared to cars and light trucks, large trucks are involved in far more crashes, many more of which are fatal — usually to others, not the truckers — and these occur despite their traveling generally on interstates, the safest roads. About 5,000 Americans die each year in large truck smashups and, when one collides with a passenger vehicle, 97 percent of deaths occur in the latter. This is no surprise, based on the Sancho Panza principle. (“Whether the stone hits the pitcher, or the pitcher hits the stone … it’s going to be bad for the pitcher.”) Statistics further show that tractor-trailers with defective equipment are twice as likely to be in crashes as trucks without defects and likewise that truckers on the road for more than 8 hours double their risk of a crash. Even if — and these are huge “ifs” — the Mexican trucks are as well-maintained as ours and the drivers don’t push on beyond the point of fatigue, they’ll be on unfamiliar roads, among those whose driving customs they may not fully understand and impaired by problems that are simply inherent to large trucks: extremely poor visibility, for instance. I was once sideswiped by a tractor-trailer — thankfully, at low speed on a city street — and, although the right side of my car was crushed, the trucker never knew he hit me!
Pollution is another issue, strenuously raised by the Sierra Club in its litigation against the ruling. No doubt the cherry-picked “pilot program” trucks will be exemplary in their emissions control and other equipment, but what about the horde of others that will follow them in a year’s time, if this isn’t stopped?
Do you think Hillary “Lobbyists Are Real Americans” Clinton would knock herself out, trying to stop it? We’d have as much chance of that with Fred Thompson of the lax-lipped dirty uncle leer, Barbie-doll-from-hell wife and stage prop pickup.