Another reason there will be no NAFTA Superhighway

Nancy Anderson
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National NetworkA few weeks back, one of my fellow contributors to this blog, Jeffrey Ruzicka, wrote a post arguing that American federalism - specifically, a national environmental law that requires state and Federal officials to include the concerns of local communities when designing public works projects - killed the long-rumored "NAFTA Corridor" - a super-express highway that would have run from the Mexican to the Canadian border with only one offramp in between, for a customs processing facility in Kansas City from which shipments could then go to other U.S. destinations.


Leaving aside for a minute some clear impracticalities of such a highway, if a recent article in DC Velocity magazine is any guide, there was another good reason to kill the highway, if it indeed had gotten past the talking stage: Few truckers would want to use it.



The article noted that the U.S. and Mexico are on the verge of settling a long-running dispute over cross-border access to each other's highway networks. The agreement means that one of the key provisions of the North American Free Trade Agreement - open access to U.S. highways for Mexican truckers, and vice versa - will finally be implemented. Opponents of the provision in the United States argue that allowing Mexican truckers to run long haul service on U.S. roads would impair highway safety and destroy thousands of U.S. trucking jobs.



Well, guess what? Mexican truck drivers are not going to rush in to take advantage of their new freedom to roll.



The article notes that interline agreements between U.S. and Mexican trucking companies whereby trailers are transferred from one to the other within the 25-mile "commercial zone" remain in effect and that drivers on both sides of the border remain reluctant to venture beyond it. For the Americans, concerns about their safety keep them from driving further into Mexico; for the Mexicans, fear of lawsuits in the U.S. makes them gun-shy.



There are some other reasons why a "NAFTA superhighway" likely would not have met supporters' expectations and opponents' fears if it had been built according to the rumored design. One of them is the decentralized nature of long-haul trucking. Trucks carry relatively small volumes of cargo compared to planes, trains or ships, and operating them on a centralized hub-and-spoke model makes little sense, especially when a lattice of freeways connects cities large and small with one another. In an industry where time and distance are of the essence, why send a shipment from Monterrey to Miami via Kansas City? Or, for that matter, anything headed anywhere in Texas, through which the route would pass without a single exit? About the only shipments for which this route would have been the most efficient option would have been those headed for the Northeast or Midwest, leaving half the country out of the picture.



But, it appears, a simpler reason makes the route a nonstarter: If they had built it, no one would have come.


By Sandy Smith


Sandy Smith is a veteran freelance writer, editor and public relations professional who lives in Philadelphia. Besides blogging for LogisticsJobSite.com, he has written for numerous publications and websites, would be happy to do your resume, and is himself actively seeking career opportunities on Nexxt. Check out his LinkedIn profile and read his other posts on LogisticsJobSiteBlog.com.
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