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Author Topic: German truck driving bans  (Read 16211 times)

mtantillo

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Re: German truck driving bans
« Reply #25 on: July 21, 2011, 08:34:53 AM »

While I can sympathize with the Dutch in this case, Germany is a soverign nation and does have the right to set its own labor laws.  Wouldn't be the first time one soverign nation has caused a massive traffic jam in another country; simply look at the northern Mexican border towns and the accomodations needed to allow for the hour plus border waits into the USA. 
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J N Winkler

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Re: German truck driving bans
« Reply #26 on: July 21, 2011, 11:25:00 AM »

Cases of nuisance are very difficult to resolve when an international boundary separates the creator of the nuisance and the sufferer of it.

To give an idea of how much worse the situation could be between the Germans and the Dutch, here is the latest installment in the long-running dispute over giving Mexican trucks long-distance operating authority in the USA:

http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Foreign-Policy/2011/0706/Landmark-US-Mexico-trucking-agreement-resolves-15-year-conflict

Note that this is only a tentative agreement to resume a pilot program which was suspended in 2009, and requires Congressional confirmation which is far from certain.

When Mexico joined NAFTA, we took on a treaty commitment to allow Mexican trucks in the US interior.  Instead of actually making good on our word, we have ceaselessly searched for novel and inventive ways of escaping that obligation.  I think it was in 2001 (ten years ago) that we were required to finish all pilot programs and grant Mexican trucks operating authority without restriction; right now we are massively overdue and that final resolution is nowhere in sight.  The Mexicans have been trying to punish us by imposing retaliatory tariffs on our products, which they are perfectly entitled to do, but since the disparity between US and Mexican per capita GDP is on the order of 5-to-1 and the US does not have an export-dependent economy, it is not like they have a whole lot of leverage.
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mtantillo

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Re: German truck driving bans
« Reply #27 on: July 21, 2011, 11:45:29 AM »

Cases of nuisance are very difficult to resolve when an international boundary separates the creator of the nuisance and the sufferer of it.

To give an idea of how much worse the situation could be between the Germans and the Dutch, here is the latest installment in the long-running dispute over giving Mexican trucks long-distance operating authority in the USA:

http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Foreign-Policy/2011/0706/Landmark-US-Mexico-trucking-agreement-resolves-15-year-conflict

Note that this is only a tentative agreement to resume a pilot program which was suspended in 2009, and requires Congressional confirmation which is far from certain.

When Mexico joined NAFTA, we took on a treaty commitment to allow Mexican trucks in the US interior.  Instead of actually making good on our word, we have ceaselessly searched for novel and inventive ways of escaping that obligation.  I think it was in 2001 (ten years ago) that we were required to finish all pilot programs and grant Mexican trucks operating authority without restriction; right now we are massively overdue and that final resolution is nowhere in sight.  The Mexicans have been trying to punish us by imposing retaliatory tariffs on our products, which they are perfectly entitled to do, but since the disparity between US and Mexican per capita GDP is on the order of 5-to-1 and the US does not have an export-dependent economy, it is not like they have a whole lot of leverage.

Sounds like the Mexicans are attempting to enforce the agreement to the best of their ability by imposing the tariffs.  Otherwise, the agreement has no teeth, or no enforcement provisions.  Just like the MUTCD, there is no police force that goes out and forces states to comply, so exceptions to the rules are found often. 

But really, Congress is elected to serve TODAY's needs of the American people.  A previous Congress agreed to a treaty, which is why I think any treaty that requires something dependant on future action of another government body to not be worth very much. 

Personally, I don't think Mexican trucks should be driven into the interior unless the trucks meet US safety standards, the drivers are subject to all applicable US labor laws (they might be in a mexican truck, but they are not working in Mexico), and the drivers can demonstrate that they understand English (since our road signs are in English, and it is expected that when you are visiting another country, let alone working in it, that you have an understanding of the language in which business is conducted in that country).  If they can do that, then I'm all for it, because that will eliminate needless transfers of goods from one perfectly good truck into another on the US or Mexican side of the border. 
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Truvelo

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Re: German truck driving bans
« Reply #28 on: July 21, 2011, 12:27:42 PM »

Am I right in saying another reason for the reluctance of the US to allow Mexican trucks into the country is because they may be concealing narcotics and illegal immigrants?
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agentsteel53

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Re: German truck driving bans
« Reply #29 on: July 21, 2011, 03:21:17 PM »

Am I right in saying another reason for the reluctance of the US to allow Mexican trucks into the country is because they may be concealing narcotics and illegal immigrants?

well, the reluctance is not to let them over the border, but to let them travel inland.  once they are over the border, they can easily move their cargo (legal or otherwise) into a US-registered vehicle for the duration of its journey. 
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mgk920

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Re: German truck driving bans
« Reply #30 on: July 21, 2011, 03:57:53 PM »

Am I right in saying another reason for the reluctance of the US to allow Mexican trucks into the country is because they may be concealing narcotics and illegal immigrants?

IMHO, it was mainly to protect the jobs of USA Teamsters Union truck/lorry drivers.  Vehicle safety issues can be addressed though thorough inspections.

Mike
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Sykotyk

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Re: German truck driving bans
« Reply #31 on: July 21, 2011, 04:59:09 PM »

Am I right in saying another reason for the reluctance of the US to allow Mexican trucks into the country is because they may be concealing narcotics and illegal immigrants?

IMHO, it was mainly to protect the jobs of USA Teamsters Union truck/lorry drivers.  Vehicle safety issues can be addressed though thorough inspections.

Mike

U.S. trucks fail inspections all the time. The problem lies mostly with licensing. The U.S. requires CDL certification, medical certification, etc. The thought is Mexicans may more easily get faked certification to drive illegally. Another is their vehicles are in much worse shape than the average U.S. truck. What proof is there that the Mexican truck passed an annual inspection? Other than a paper or sticker stating such. Do you really trust that?

The overall issue is safety of the motoring public. The first Mexican driver in the pilot program was making $0.17/mi, far less than the U.S. average and he was driving for years in Mexico. The U.S. companies want Mexican trucks to haul their freight in the U.S. because it will be cheaper. But, cheaper freight means cheaper trucks, drivers taking more chances, more problems. One of the big problems with U.S. trucks is the 'race for the bottom' amongst carriers. Lesser pay, higher costs, heavier loads, etc equal more risk taking to make the same amount of money by a) driving faster b) cutting corners, and c) outright driving illegally.
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J N Winkler

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Re: German truck driving bans
« Reply #32 on: July 21, 2011, 05:44:43 PM »

But really, Congress is elected to serve TODAY's needs of the American people.  A previous Congress agreed to a treaty, which is why I think any treaty that requires something dependant on future action of another government body to not be worth very much.

That is quite a broad generalization.  It can certainly be said that any treaty which is not self-executing (and NAFTA is certainly not self-executing, though it establishes certain deadlines by which binding obligations have to be carried out) and which does not have any credible enforcement mechanisms is almost valueless.

However, NAFTA (which in the US has the same standing as federal law) does require us to open the US interior to Mexican trucks.  For all the huffing, puffing, and footdragging, this provision has never been repealed by federal law, nor have we formally abrogated from this particular provision of the treaty.  So if the Mexicans want to hammer us for failing to follow the law, they are perfectly entitled to do so.  They have already prevailed against us in a NAFTA Chapter 11 tribunal which paved the way for the current round of retaliatory tariffs.

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Personally, I don't think Mexican trucks should be driven into the interior unless the trucks meet US safety standards, the drivers are subject to all applicable US labor laws (they might be in a Mexican truck, but they are not working in Mexico), and the drivers can demonstrate that they understand English (since our road signs are in English, and it is expected that when you are visiting another country, let alone working in it, that you have an understanding of the language in which business is conducted in that country).

No-one has ever suggested that Mexican trucks would be allowed to operate in the US interior without being subjected to such restrictions.  In addition to those enumerated, Mexican trucks would be banned from carrying out cabotage (i.e., moving goods between two US destinations).  It has been argued many times that because Mexican trucks operating in the US would be so far from their operating bases in Mexico, Mexican trucking firms would send only the "cream of the cream" to the US, just to minimize the risk of having assets stranded on the wrong side of the border.  FHWA has also published a trilingual pamphlet (English, French, Spanish) showing common traffic signs not just in the US, but also in Mexico and Canada.

But even so, the US has been dragging its feet for over a decade.  Back in the early noughties, the argument was that Mexican trucks could not be allowed into the US until there were enough border safety inspection facilities (BSIFs) to process them.  BSIFs were treated as a state responsibility with federal cost-sharing, and funding was allocated for them at a glacial pace.  Failure to build BSIFs are, however, not a defense for failing to meet treaty commitments voluntarily undertaken.  In the last few years BSIF construction has picked up--TxDOT has let about three BSIF contracts in the last year alone.  Now we are trying to fob the Mexicans off with resumption of a pilot program which should never have been suspended in the first place, and which moreover should have been timed to start and finish before the deadline for granting Mexican trucks inner-US operating authority.

Bottom line:  the Mexicans have abundant reason to complain of American bad faith.

It is not even like we are saving much in terms of road safety by not allowing direct freight transit between the US and Mexican interiors.  Drayage has to be used instead, which entails distortionary effects on land use at the border and the use of vehicles which (as GAO studies have repeatedly found) are far less safe than long-distance trucks.

IMHO, it was mainly to protect the jobs of USA Teamsters Union truck/lorry drivers.  Vehicle safety issues can be addressed though thorough inspections.

Yes, the Teamsters have consistently opposed cross-border trucking.  But actually organized labor as a whole has been opposed because of the potential for easy transport between the US and Mexico to accelerate transfer of jobs to Mexico.  The owner-operators also don't like cross-border trucking because they see themselves as benefiting from a protected market for trucking in the US.  The American Trucking Associations, however, has taken the high road and welcomed cross-border trucking provided US and Mexican drivers are treated "equitably" in both countries.

Some commentators oppose cross-border trucking because vehicle safety inspection is already under-resourced for American truckers.  They fear that Mexican truckers would be more likely to abuse this lack of official supervision than American ones.  I think this sentiment is at bottom racist, and given that Mexican truckers in the US have more of an incentive to have their vehicles in good running order than Mexican truckers in Mexico, I don't think it is even true.
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J N Winkler

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Re: German truck driving bans
« Reply #33 on: July 21, 2011, 06:08:31 PM »

U.S. trucks fail inspections all the time. The problem lies mostly with licensing. The U.S. requires CDL certification, medical certification, etc. The thought is Mexicans may more easily get faked certification to drive illegally.

It depends.  Some Mexican documentation systems (e.g., issue of matricula consular ID) are considered leaky.  Others are pretty airtight.  Have you ever tried to fake Mexican vehicle importation paperwork?

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Another is their vehicles are in much worse shape than the average U.S. truck.

For Mexican vehicles in Mexico, perhaps.  But American vehicles are nothing to write home about.  A GAO study some years ago compared safety violation rates between American buses driven in Mexico and Mexican buses driven in the US.  The American vehicles actually had the higher violation rates.

Quote
What proof is there that the Mexican truck passed an annual inspection? Other than a paper or sticker stating such. Do you really trust that?

With BSIFs, there is much less of a need to take Mexican documentation (of whatever provenance or potential for forging) on faith.  Even without full inspection or coverage of all ports of entry, the existence of an inspection regime in itself is also a strong deterrence to shady operators, which is part of the reason we run weigh stations in the US with partial staffing.

Quote
The overall issue is safety of the motoring public. The first Mexican driver in the pilot program was making $0.17/mi, far less than the U.S. average and he was driving for years in Mexico. The U.S. companies want Mexican trucks to haul their freight in the U.S. because it will be cheaper. But, cheaper freight means cheaper trucks, drivers taking more chances, more problems. One of the big problems with U.S. trucks is the 'race for the bottom' amongst carriers. Lesser pay, higher costs, heavier loads, etc equal more risk taking to make the same amount of money by a) driving faster b) cutting corners, and c) outright driving illegally.

A couple of points:

*  $0.17/mile paid to the first Mexican trucker in the US, as opposed to the higher mileage rates paid Americans, is almost certainly a Penn effect disparity--not an indication Mexican trucks are necessarily less safe when operating in the US.  In time this disparity will likely get narrower because (1) Mexican trucks will need to be equipped for long-distance foreign operation, and this equipment will have to be paid for out of revenues with some allowance for profit, and (2) Americans may (and eventually will) find themselves searching for Mexican trucking services in a seller's market, which tends to bid up prices.

*  Because Mexicans won't be given cabotage rights in the US, US companies will be able to take advantage of "cheap" Mexican trucking only if they are shipping between the US and Mexico.  A "race to the bottom" between Mexican and US carriers is less likely than expansion of factory production in Mexico, since neither side will be required to support the dead weight of the drayage industry any longer.  (The drayage interests, BTW, are another opponent of long-distance cross-border trucking.)

*  If you are a shady operator running past scale houses in the dead of night, it makes more sense to run from one Mexican point to another, or from one US point to another, than on a cross-border itinerary where you are more likely to face a take-no-prisoners inspection at a BSIF.  (BSIFs are co-located with Customs posts but are separate from them, so an outlaw trucker can't count on being let through by a bought-and-paid-for Customs officer.)
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Scott5114

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Re: German truck driving bans
« Reply #34 on: July 26, 2011, 07:51:56 PM »

Maybe you should get real first and accept that this ban is going to last. Lifting it doesn't solve anything,

Considering the truck backup in the Netherlands is directly caused by the German truck ban on Sundays, yes, lifting the ban would solve the truck backup.
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mtantillo

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Re: German truck driving bans
« Reply #35 on: July 29, 2011, 12:51:24 PM »

But even so, the US has been dragging its feet for over a decade.  Back in the early noughties, the argument was that Mexican trucks could not be allowed into the US until there were enough border safety inspection facilities (BSIFs) to process them.  BSIFs were treated as a state responsibility with federal cost-sharing, and funding was allocated for them at a glacial pace.  Failure to build BSIFs are, however, not a defense for failing to meet treaty commitments voluntarily undertaken.  In the last few years BSIF construction has picked up--TxDOT has let about three BSIF contracts in the last year alone.  Now we are trying to fob the Mexicans off with resumption of a pilot program which should never have been suspended in the first place, and which moreover should have been timed to start and finish before the deadline for granting Mexican trucks inner-US operating authority.

Certainly not arguing that the Mexicans have a right to complain and propose sanctions.  However this brings up an interesting point.  The Feds entered into this agreement, not the states.  The Feds (in theory) should not be able to force a state to spend its money through unfunded mandates.  In other words, the Feds should be paying the cost of these border safety inspection facilities, since their treaty caused the need for them. 
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agentsteel53

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Re: German truck driving bans
« Reply #36 on: July 29, 2011, 02:11:30 PM »


Certainly not arguing that the Mexicans have a right to complain and propose sanctions.  However this brings up an interesting point.  The Feds entered into this agreement, not the states.  The Feds (in theory) should not be able to force a state to spend its money through unfunded mandates.  In other words, the Feds should be paying the cost of these border safety inspection facilities, since their treaty caused the need for them. 

I thought the feds were paying for all that... the fact that it's a TxDOT project implies to me simply that TxDOT is most familiar with the landscape so they know how to devise enough of the specifications to be able to put out an accurate request for bids.
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J N Winkler

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Re: German truck driving bans
« Reply #37 on: July 29, 2011, 02:18:30 PM »

Certainly not arguing that the Mexicans have a right to complain and propose sanctions.  However this brings up an interesting point.  The Feds entered into this agreement, not the states.  The Feds (in theory) should not be able to force a state to spend its money through unfunded mandates.  In other words, the Feds should be paying the cost of these border safety inspection facilities, since their treaty caused the need for them.

AIUI, the issue is more one of priority than of funding because the federal government has supplied the lion's share of the funding for BSIFs.  (It is not unreasonable to expect states to contribute some of the cost for BSIFs because states derive some benefit from trans-border commerce and each BSIF functions as an entry point for the state in which it is located, not just the USA as a whole.)  If the federal government funds BSIFs at a set percentage regardless of whenever they are built, is it federal overreach to instruct states to prioritize BSIFs above other highway investment when this is necessary to meet treaty commitments?  Does it matter whether the annual federal-aid funding cap applies to BSIFs?

The situation is somewhat comparable to Caltrans, in the 1960's, having to prioritize I-5 over SR 99 because, although SR 99 was more important in terms of traffic and was considered a higher priority at the state level, I-5 was the one of the two that had a "drop-dead" deadline attached to it.

From the point of view of a foreign country, however, there are equity considerations.  We cannot equitably have it both ways.  Equity means that we cannot tell foreign countries that we cannot carry out our treaty obligations to the extent that they encroach on the sovereignty of individual states, and then turn around and tell those countries that they can't negotiate directly with those states on matters related to their sovereignty (such as applying the death penalty to foreign nationals who have been denied consular assistance) because such treaties will be considered null and void under our Constitution.  We can attempt to get away with inequitable conduct on the basis of our much greater wealth and influence ("might makes right"), but we cannot then expect to retain a reputation for acting in good faith and have to accept the possibility of the tables being turned on us.

By allowing Mexico to pursue us through the NAFTA dispute-resolution machinery and accepting the adverse judgments against us, we have so to speak "paid our debt to society," but I think we would have been much better off if we had not allowed matters to progress in that direction in the first place.  It is always better to be someone who has never gone to jail than it is to be a convicted felon who has served his sentence, isn't it?
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agentsteel53

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Re: German truck driving bans
« Reply #38 on: July 29, 2011, 02:40:15 PM »

(It is not unreasonable to expect states to contribute some of the cost for BSIFs because states derive some benefit from trans-border commerce and each BSIF functions as an entry point for the state in which it is located, not just the USA as a whole.)

it seems a bit disingenuous to claim that the federal BSIF is providing the states with a benefit.  the feds are saying "we've put a wall around your state.  now, you can pay to build a door."
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J N Winkler

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Re: German truck driving bans
« Reply #39 on: July 29, 2011, 02:52:23 PM »

I thought the feds were paying for all that... the fact that it's a TxDOT project implies to me simply that TxDOT is most familiar with the landscape so they know how to devise enough of the specifications to be able to put out an accurate request for bids.

I think the states do contribute something, but I don't know if it is a set percentage or something that has varied from BSIF to BSIF.  The GAO did a study of BSIF provision in the early noughties, when the policy focus was on lack of BSIFs as a justification or reason for going slow on Mexican trucking in the US.  At that time California had the best-equipped BSIFs because they had been built on state initiative.  (Part of the rationale for California's early involvement might have been heading off Proposition 187.  It was certainly part of the reason Clinton ramped up Border Patrol enforcement in California, the spillover effects of which led to SB 1070 in Arizona.)  Texas had the most border crossings but lagged badly in BSIF provision and TxDOT told the GAO that the pace would pick up if the federal government kicked in more cash.

In practice state DOTs get BSIFs funded by applying for grants.  FMCSA has an interest in BSIFs, but the grant program is administered by FHWA.  According to this memo, the proponent for a grant request must always be a state DOT although other agencies (including, I think, local offices of federal agencies) can support it.

http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/planning/bordmem3.htm

Federal-aid funding for highways and related appurtenances (such as BSIFs) falls into the general category of categorical grant.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Categorical_grant

Unlike other federal-aid highway programs, like NHS, STP, HSIP, etc., which are formally "formula grants," it looks like BSIFs are "project grants" (similar to TIGER, for example).

The general rule of thumb is that if you want to throttle provision of something, you make access to it uncertain.  Formula funding is all but certain because if a given project meets all the criteria that attach to the program, then it is eligible for funding at the designated formula, no ifs, ands, or buts, and you can count on that funding.  (This is not totally true since there can be federal-aid recissions which force postponement of some projects, but this is relatively straightforward to provide for in budgeting.)  In contrast, project grants are layered with uncertainty.  Applying for them in the first place is like applying for an academic scholarship--you never know if the dossier you compile has what it takes to persuade the grant-assigning body.  Even when you are told you have gotten your grant, you don't necessarily know that you have received the percentage you were hoping for when you compiled the application.  It is very difficult to budget a project when (a) you don't know whether you will get federal funding for it or, assuming that you do, (b) in what proportion to the total cost the funding will be provided.
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Re: German truck driving bans
« Reply #40 on: July 29, 2011, 02:55:06 PM »

it seems a bit disingenuous to claim that the federal BSIF is providing the states with a benefit.  the feds are saying "we've put a wall around your state.  now, you can pay to build a door."

Looked at that way, it is indeed disingenuous, but I don't see the border states complaining because, except for money and cheap goods, they generally feel the wall the feds have put up is too low.
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Re: German truck driving bans
« Reply #41 on: July 29, 2011, 03:03:26 PM »

Looked at that way, it is indeed disingenuous, but I don't see the border states complaining because, except for money and cheap goods, they generally feel the wall the feds have put up is too low.

regardless of how high the wall is, or is not - and regardless of how high the states want, or do not want the wall to be: expecting the states to pay for the door is still not a benefit to the states.
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Re: German truck driving bans
« Reply #42 on: July 29, 2011, 03:11:50 PM »

But the states are only paying a portion of the cost and what they want is not so much the door as the ability to control what comes through it.
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Re: German truck driving bans
« Reply #43 on: July 29, 2011, 05:22:09 PM »

If the federal government funds BSIFs at a set percentage regardless of whenever they are built, is it federal overreach to instruct states to prioritize BSIFs above other highway investment when this is necessary to meet treaty commitments?  Does it matter whether the annual federal-aid funding cap applies to BSIFs?

I would have to say, yes, it is certainly Federal overreach to force a state to set priorities based not on what is best for the state, but based on what is best for the USA as a whole.  If it is a project that is a primary benefit for the USA as a whole, the Feds should be paying for it.  They could very easily say that "we are building an expanded customs/immigration post for trucks, and we need to include the BSIF as part of that project", then just combine the projects.  I also believe that the Feds should be the ones conducting the inspections as well.  State officials should be worrying about trucks entering from other states, which they know are up to basic US Standards...they are just checking to ensure that all their texas destination/transit paperwork is in order and that it meets Texas weight limits.  The Feds are the ones who invited Mexican trucks into the USA, which leads to a whole host of other issues (paperwork in Spanish, a lot of other things that have to be checked, higher percentage of trucks that have to be checked because of the greater liklihood of third-world style equipment ending up on our side of the border), so they should be the ones with the burden of ensuring that the truck meets its very first safety inspection upon entry to our country. 

There is some prescedent for this.  Currently US Customs enforces Texas alcohol laws by enforcing a different set of rules at Texas southern border ports of entry than they do in other states.  Supposidly Texas laws are more strict and you have to pay tax to import alcohol, so although Texas sells you the stickers you need to put on the bottle to import it, its ultimately US Customs that checks to ensure the stickers are there and detects if you are carrying any alcohol that needs to be taxed. 

Every entrance to California has an agriculture inspection station...except on the southern border...US Customs takes care of that. 

The State of Hawaii agriculture department inspects people arriving from overseas US States (Alaska and the US Mainland), and presumably from Canada too since those flights are pre-cleared by US Customs in Canada...the US Department of Agriculture inspects people arriving from different countries other than Canada as part of the Customs/Immigration process. 

But back to the original topic.  The US has been getting away from earmarks (i.e. you have to do as we say or you can't have the money) and going towards merit-based transportation funding (TIGER grants, you demonstrate why your project provides benefit to the state/country/etc. and we'll pay for it), so that does come across as earmark-like and heavy handed to force a state to allocate its funding a certain way to make way for a treaty that the state did not directly enter into.  I'm sure if Texas and other southern border states saw significant advantage to their state (i.e. the type advantages that could easily be described in a TIGER grant application), then they would be willing to pony up money for the project.  Otherwise, I'd say if the state doesn't want it, or sees benefit mostly going to other states and not to their state, then they would want the Feds to pay for it all or it won't get built.  That is essentially what happened with I-287 in northern NJ...NJDOT said we don't want it, we won't pay for it, and the Feds said "but its an important missing link in the overall US interstate system"....so NJDOT said to the Feds "you pay for it and we'll do the project, otherwise thanks, but no thanks!"  So the Feds paid 100% of the cost. 

So my point stands, since these inspection facilities are for the overall good of America, and because the southern border states will be stuck with a disproportionate burden of "being the first state responsible for intercepting an unsafe Mexican truck bound for any other US State or Canada", then the US government should pony up the money for the entire project.  Texas might benefit from cheap delivery of goods from Mexico, but so will Virginia, Georgia, Michigan, etc.  An unsafe truck bound for any of those states will be inspected for the first time on entry in....Texas.  Not Georgia, not Virginia, not Michigan.  So it would be unfair for those states to only get benefits without sharing the cost of the inspection facilities. 

Mr. Winkler: you seem to know a lot about this topic.  Do you know what plans are for collection of fuel taxes from Mexican trucks (no Mexican jurisdiction is part of the IFTA)? 

Also, I wonder about DMV-type enforcement and how that would work...seeing as  law enforcement databases for the US and Canada are well linked...i.e. a Virginia State Police Officer can very easily run plates/drivers licenses for someone from Ontario, but I wonder what they would do if they saw a Nuevo Leon license plate? 

I actually think it would be cool to see Mexican license plates on US roads more often...I've only really seen them within 50 miles of the southern border with the exception of one time I saw a Nuevo Leon plated vehicle in Charlottesville, VA. 
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J N Winkler

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Re: German truck driving bans
« Reply #44 on: July 29, 2011, 09:16:55 PM »

I would have to say, yes, it is certainly Federal overreach to force a state to set priorities based not on what is best for the state, but based on what is best for the USA as a whole.  If it is a project that is a primary benefit for the USA as a whole, the Feds should be paying for it.  They could very easily say that "we are building an expanded customs/immigration post for trucks, and we need to include the BSIF as part of that project", then just combine the projects.  I also believe that the Feds should be the ones conducting the inspections as well.  State officials should be worrying about trucks entering from other states, which they know are up to basic US Standards...they are just checking to ensure that all their Texas destination/transit paperwork is in order and that it meets Texas weight limits.  The Feds are the ones who invited Mexican trucks into the USA, which leads to a whole host of other issues (paperwork in Spanish, a lot of other things that have to be checked, higher percentage of trucks that have to be checked because of the greater likelihood of third-world style equipment ending up on our side of the border), so they should be the ones with the burden of ensuring that the truck meets its very first safety inspection upon entry to our country.

In practice I suspect BSIFs will be staffed by a mixture of state and federal personnel.  But the argument outlined above presupposes that the benefits of cross-border trade accrue primarily outside the border states.  Is this necessarily the case?  If a state decides to enter into a more localized trading relationship (e.g. between Arizona and Sonora) and the traffic associated with that is routed through wholly federally owned, funded, and operated BSIFs, isn't that a subsidy from the rest of us to Arizona?  If traffic through BSIFs serves a mixture of local (border region only) and interregional trade relationships, how do you allocate the costs of building and running it?

These joint-cost situations are tricky.  There is the potential for any funding split to wind up "unfair" depending on how actual usage is split.

Consider it also from the state DOT's point of view.  It is not reasonable to give the federal government a mandate to do something without also giving the appropriate federal agency (in this case, the General Services Administration) the powers to carry it out.  Do you really want to work around the GSA as you plan improvements near the border?  The advantage of having state DOTs in charge of planning and building BSIFs (even if they are paid for by some other entity, like the federal government) is that they can assure they don't interfere with their own highway plans.

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There is some precedent for this.  Currently US Customs enforces Texas alcohol laws by enforcing a different set of rules at Texas southern border ports of entry than they do in other states.  Supposedly Texas laws are more strict and you have to pay tax to import alcohol, so although Texas sells you the stickers you need to put on the bottle to import it, its ultimately US Customs that checks to ensure the stickers are there and detects if you are carrying any alcohol that needs to be taxed.

Yes, but that is how Customs operates at all ports of entry to the US--not just on the land borders but also at airports.  Customs collects both state and federal taxes and duties because the port of entry is not just the entry point for the US as a whole, but also for the state in which it is located.

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But back to the original topic.  The US has been getting away from earmarks (i.e. you have to do as we say or you can't have the money) and going towards merit-based transportation funding (TIGER grants, you demonstrate why your project provides benefit to the state/country/etc. and we'll pay for it), so that does come across as earmark-like and heavy handed to force a state to allocate its funding a certain way to make way for a treaty that the state did not directly enter into.

But this gets away from the larger issue:  not allowing Mexican trucks into this country in accord with our treaty commitment.  Regardless of whether it is fair for the border states to be asked to contribute to the cost of BSIFs, or to bear the uncertainties of a grant process in order to obtain federal funding to build them, the lack of inspection capacity has been used as an alibi for not letting Mexican trucks into the US.  The structure of the funding process virtually guarantees the persistence of this alibi.

BTW, by "earmark" I assume you are referring to formula funding, and not the set-asides (normally called "earmarks") in transportation reauthorization bills.  There may be a general trend toward replacing formula funding with program grants along the lines of TIGER, but at this point I think it is too early to tell, not least because the uncertainty associated with program grants dilutes their ability to stimulate states to allocate transportation funding as social-surplus maximizers.

I believe it would eventually come to be seen as a type of federal overreach to make funding allocations contingent on such grant programs because they involve the states in more effort and uncertainty than the existing system of funding according to program eligibility.

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I'm sure if Texas and other southern border states saw significant advantage to their state (i.e. the type advantages that could easily be described in a TIGER grant application), then they would be willing to pony up money for the project.  Otherwise, I'd say if the state doesn't want it, or sees benefit mostly going to other states and not to their state, then they would want the Feds to pay for it all or it won't get built.  That is essentially what happened with I-287 in northern NJ...NJDOT said we don't want it, we won't pay for it, and the Feds said "but its an important missing link in the overall US interstate system"....so NJDOT said to the Feds "you pay for it and we'll do the project, otherwise thanks, but no thanks!"  So the Feds paid 100% of the cost.

Yup, yup, yup.  That is more or less what happened in the early noughties.  Feds pointed at the border states and said:  "They don't have enough inspection capacity."  Border states pointed at the feds and said:  "To inspect out-of-country traffic?  You need to give us more money."  Feds said to border states:  "OK.  You can apply for the money.  We'll allocate a measly amount each year and you can fall on it like a pack of wild dogs on a scrap of bacon."  Delay, delay, delay.  Mexicans say to the US collectively:  "Hombres, you need to get your act together.  You said you'd let our trucks in X years ago, and we're still waiting."  US says to the Mexicans (after much litigation):  "OK, we'll buy you guys off."  (That is essentially what $2 billion in trade forgone because of punitive tariffs means.)

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So my point stands, since these inspection facilities are for the overall good of America, and because the southern border states will be stuck with a disproportionate burden of "being the first state responsible for intercepting an unsafe Mexican truck bound for any other US State or Canada", then the US government should pony up the money for the entire project.  Texas might benefit from cheap delivery of goods from Mexico, but so will Virginia, Georgia, Michigan, etc.  An unsafe truck bound for any of those states will be inspected for the first time on entry in....Texas.  Not Georgia, not Virginia, not Michigan.  So it would be unfair for those states to only get benefits without sharing the cost of the inspection facilities.

Again, this assumes that the majority of the benefits of trade will be dispersed well outside the border states, which is not necessarily the case.  There may very well be wide dispersion of benefits but that can co-exist with strong local effects.

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Mr. Winkler: you seem to know a lot about this topic.  Do you know what plans are for collection of fuel taxes from Mexican trucks (no Mexican jurisdiction is part of the IFTA)?

No, not really.  I understand that there has been consideration of the practicalities of letting Mexican states into the IFTA but I don't know what, if anything, has happened in that direction.

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Also, I wonder about DMV-type enforcement and how that would work...seeing as  law enforcement databases for the US and Canada are well linked...i.e. a Virginia State Police Officer can very easily run plates/drivers licenses for someone from Ontario, but I wonder what they would do if they saw a Nuevo Leon license plate?

I don't think the linkage and availability of data is (yet) all that good.  In principle, any contact with authority--even stepping into the DMV to renew your driver's license--can be integrated into a database linked to your driving license and the full dossier can be sent out to the state trooper who runs your license during a traffic stop.  I have been told, however, that a lot of the information is suppressed, just to prevent the officer on the scene from being unduly influenced by the licenseholder's past driving history.  For example, if I were stopped in New Jersey on my Kansas license, the NJ officer would apparently be able to tell whether my license was still valid (i.e., not suspended), but not whether I had been issued a ticket previously.

There have been attempts to update reporting codes to reflect the existence of Mexican states within the NAFTA area.  For example, at one point FMCSA had a rather bizarre list of two-letter abbreviations for Mexican states, which were intended to correspond to the two-letter abbreviations for American states and Canadian provinces.  These codes would have been almost impossible to remember because they would have been used essentially only for FMCSA purposes--not for mailing, etc.--and they were so different from the usual Mexican state abbreviations (Ags., Qro., Zac., etc.).  Eventually it was decided that the "state" field in the relevant forms could be of variable width (not just two letters) and the FMCSA abbreviations have disappeared from circulation.  (I have tried to find them again through the Web Archive without success.)  In the case of license plate numbers, it is also less important to have the Mexican state than it is to have the US state or Canadian province because the Mexican license plate numbering scheme is nationwide.

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I actually think it would be cool to see Mexican license plates on US roads more often...I've only really seen them within 50 miles of the southern border with the exception of one time I saw a Nuevo Leon plated vehicle in Charlottesville, VA.

It is not too difficult to find Chihuahua plates in New Mexico well north of the border zone.  I found a surprising number in the NMDOT parking lot just off Cerrillos Road in Santa Fe the last time I visited.  It is also fun to play "I spy" American license plates south of the border--the last time I was in Mexico I saw a surprising number of Kansas license plates but I think I may have been the only gringo with them.
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ftballfan

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Re: German truck driving bans
« Reply #45 on: August 09, 2011, 05:07:54 PM »

How big of a penalty would it be if a truck was caught driving in Germany on a Sunday?
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RickD

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Re: German truck driving bans
« Reply #46 on: August 26, 2011, 10:31:20 AM »

How big of a penalty would it be if a truck was caught driving in Germany on a Sunday?

The truck driver has to pay 75 Euro (~110 USD) and gets one point. The person who ordered the driver to drive has to pay 380 Euro (~550 USD) and also gets one point.
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Re: German truck driving bans
« Reply #47 on: August 26, 2011, 10:55:39 AM »

How big of a penalty would it be if a truck was caught driving in Germany on a Sunday?

The truck driver has to pay 75 Euro (~110 USD) and gets one point. The person who ordered the driver to drive has to pay 380 Euro (~550 USD) and also gets one point.

What if the person ordering the driver is in another country and/or doesn't have a license points could be applied to?
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RickD

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Re: German truck driving bans
« Reply #48 on: August 26, 2011, 11:16:31 AM »

Good question. I don't know exactly. But I think within the European Union, fines from another EU state can now be collected by the local authorities.
In most cases the one who is fined for the order is probably the trucking company or the boss of it. Therefor it should be possible for german authorities to confiscate items from the truck when they stop it again and find out there is an unpaid fine.
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J N Winkler

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Re: German truck driving bans
« Reply #49 on: August 26, 2011, 11:56:52 AM »

If you are caught operating a motor vehicle without a valid driver's license, you have bigger problems than the question of where the license points will land.  My own experience in Britain has been that if you commit an offense which would be "endorsable" (i.e., would attract license points) if done in a car, but do it in a bicycle instead, the police will not look for a license to apply points to.

Also, although the format of photocard driving licenses is standardized EU-wide, it is common for police in some EU countries not to interpret intra-EU foreign licenses correctly.  In Ireland the worst driving offender is an entity called "Prawad Jazdy," which is Polish for "driving license."
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