Thursday, February 23, 2012

Hoffa: Carnage and Crime In Mexico Offer More Reasons to Keep Unsafe Trucks Off U.S. Roads

The State Department recently warned Americans against taking unnecessary trips to vast, dangerous sections of Mexico. Nearly all the states along the border are awash in violence, and there is no safe road to Mexico City.

Mexico's 5-year-old narco-war is only getting worse. More than 12,000 people were killed in drug-related violence last year, a 6 percent increase over the previous year. Reports of torture, beheadings and killing of women are up as well.

Just two weeks ago, Mexican troops announced that they seized 15 tons of methamphetamine near Guadalajara -- an amount equal to half the meth seized in 2009 in the entire world.

That's why U.S. truck drivers don't haul freight south of the border.

NAFTA was supposed to eliminate trade barriers among Canada, Mexico and the U.S. But Mexico has clearly failed to do what the deal requires it to -- provide the same fair access to its markets that the U.S. offers to Mexico.

If a violent drug war isn't an impediment to trade, I don't know what is.

Mexico's failure is especially egregious in the case of cross-border trucking. U.S. trucks and truckers have to meet much more rigorous safety standards than their Mexican counterparts. Carnage and crime prevent them from using Mexican highways. But Mexican trucks that don't meet U.S. safety standards are allowed to drive on violence-free U.S. highways as part of the U.S. Transportation Department's latest pilot program.

That isn't fair and it isn't right.

The Teamsters have long warned against opening the border to dangerous trucks. Last summer, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration allowed itself to be intimidated by Mexico into starting a pilot program to allow certain trucks to freely travel our highways.

We predicted the program would fail, based on our experience with FMCSA's previous pilot program. Six months after the program started, we believe we are right.

FMCSA allowed a company with a terrible safety record, Grupo Behr, to be the first participant in the pilot program. We were incredulous that FMCSA could be so sloppy about something that's been in the limelight for years -- something the public strongly opposes and Congress has voted against.

The Teamsters objected to Grupo Behr because it has a poor safety record -- according to FMCSA's own statistics. So FMCSA investigated and found the company had broken U.S. law by leasing trucks to companies allowed beyond the border zone. But rather than banning Grupo Behr from the pilot program, as the law says it must, FMCSA will reconsider Grupo Behr's application in six months.

Further proof that FMCSA is indifferent to highway safety came with the second company allowed into the pilot program. Transportes Olympic has one truck with a 33 percent out-of-service rate.

There's one other trucking company, Moises Alvarez Perez, that's been allowed into the pilot program. It also has one truck.

So after six months, the cross-border trucking pilot program has two trucks and three drivers who've made a total of nine trips beyond the border zone.

Now the law requires FMCSA to include enough trucks and enough trips in its pilot program to draw statistically valid conclusions about the safety of Mexican trucks. But FMCSA has consistently turned a blind eye to safety issues. The Teamsters, however, have not. We challenged the legality of the pilot program in court. Our arguments are due in three weeks.

We're confident we'll prevail. But it will take big changes at FMCSA to restore the American public's faith in its ability to safeguard our highways.

UPS Drivers Establish "Remarkable" Safety Record

5,842 Now Included in "Circle of Honor" For Driving 25 Years or More Without Accident

UPS announced the induction of 1,235 drivers into its elite "Circle of Honor," raising to 5,842 the number of drivers who have steered clear of accidents for 25 years or more.

The number of new inductees is the largest for any single year in the company's history and includes 31 new members from Canada and Germany.

Collectively, the 5,842 drivers have logged more than 5.3 billion miles and more than 161,746 years of safe driving through their careers. That's enough miles to circle the earth 212,000 times.

"UPS and these remarkable drivers are setting a great example for everyone on our roadways by making public safety and safe driving a priority," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. "I commend these drivers for achieving the milestone of 25 or more crash-free years of driving - and for helping create safer roads for all of us."

Of the Circle of Honor members, 322 have been accident-free for 35 or more years, with 33 of those having driven more than 40 years without an accident. UPS's top safe driver in 2011 is Ohio Valley District tractor-trailer driver Ron "Big Dog" Sowder, who has achieved 50 years and over 4 million miles of driving without an accident.

"It's an honor to lead this remarkable group of seasoned safe drivers," said Sowder. "I'm proud of what I've accomplished but I'm also proud of all UPS drivers for what they do every day. If I could give only one tip to motorists, it would be to leave a space cushion between you and the car ahead. Tailgating is a major cause of crashes and I see it more every day."

This year, 36 new inductees are females and 16 women have joined the ranks of those with more than 30 years of safe driving. This latter group is led by Orlando tractor-trailer driver Ginny Odom, who is credited with 37 years and more than 3 million miles without an accident. There are a total of 115 women in the Circle of Honor.

UPS's 102,000 drivers worldwide are among the safest on the roads, logging more than 3 billion miles per year with less than one accident per million miles driven.
All UPS drivers are taught safe driving methods beginning on the first day of classroom training through the company's defensive driving platform. The training continues throughout their careers. In 2010, UPS implemented a ban within its organization on text and e-mail messaging while behind the wheel, distractions that are a proven cause of traffic crashes.

"Our training and our drivers' attention to details such as avoiding distractions while driving all play a part in their remarkable record," noted John McDevitt, UPS senior vice president of human resources and labor relations. "The annual expansion of the Circle of Honor is proof that our training works."

UPS extends its safe driving expertise to the communities it serves through Road Code, a teen safe driving program available in the United States and now expanding globally. Taught by UPS volunteers, the program is available to teens between the ages of 13 and 18 and more than 5,200 teenagers have participated to date. The program is being extended to the UK, Canada and Germany and further international expansion is planned. The four-session training effort is based on UPS's safe driving methods. Road Code is offered in the U.S. in conjunction with Boys & Girls Clubs of America thanks to $6.1 million in contributions by The UPS Foundation.