Knoxville (WVLT) The feds call it the next step in free trade.
Critics claim it'll be the first step in harboring illegal immigrants, and weakening our borders.
Tomorrow, a test group of Mexican trucks, and truckers will have free run of our country's roadways for a year.
Volunteer TV's Gordon Boyd has more on what it could mean for this
cross-roads of the mid-south.
We may be too far north to see very many of these trucks.
A lot depends on the hauler, and the load.
But critics claim that language may be the least of the barriers this border battle may test.
Typically, the Watt Road scales weigh in 25 hundred truckers a day.
But when Scotty Johnson weighs in on Mexican truckers joining
"I don't think it's a good idea myself. It's just hard for them to understand English, and if they don't understand English, it's hard for them to go by our rules."
Captain J.R. Bridgeman with the Tennessee Highway Patrol says, "they have to meet the same standards that Americans have to meet."
Bridgeman says the feds have pre-screened which trucks and truckers can cross the border.
Pre-certified means proving you can read, write and speak English.
And meet our country's safety and inspection standards.
Capt. Bridgeman continues, "as far as log book, medical cards license, alcohol use and drug use and all of that."
Todd Spencer says, "there's no drug or alcohol testing in Mexico, no system to to it. You can inspect a truck, but we have no faith, there is no credibility in the licensing system in Mexico."
The Independent Drivers Association, the Teamsters, even some
trucking companies, insist the battle's about more than undercutting
them on wages and costs, it compromises safety.
Spencer continues, "they have no hours of service regulations that U.S. drivers have to comply with. The administration has they'll comply with them while they're here, but a driver could be seven days straight when he got to the border, we wouldn't know the difference."
Captain Bridgeman says federal regulators have gone to Mexico, to prep trucking companies and drivers on our rules and regs.
The Highway Patrol can, and will, he says, do full inspections
if the Security cams or scales spot something suspicious.
"It is incumbent upon us troopers, part of our duties, to make sure that truck is safe, and operated in a safe manner no matter what nationality is operating it."
NAFTA had guaranteed open trucking.
But both presidents Clinton and Bush had exempted Mexico over pressures that its trucks and trucking regs weren't up to standard.
The test group covers 100 companies and 1,000 truckers, small enough, the feds insist, not to overload inspectors.
But critics again, insist this could open us up to greater security threats.