Recycled truck parts just one cog in complex border beef

Mike

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Staff member
When Darlene Johnson's trucks wear out beyond repair, the heavy rigs of Woodland Truck Line find new life in retooled tractors or "tractocamiones" in Mexico, thanks to Hector Perez.

Perez, 41, picks up used, hard-to-sell trucks and parts in Woodland and Toledo and ships them the California border town of Calexico. There, they're sold and disassembled, and the parts get shipped to Mexico to help truckers there upgrade their big rigs.

What Perez does is part of an old tradition of recycling U.S. parts in Mexico -- where bus systems in many cities use repainted, retooled American yellow school buses.

But the nature of his business gives Perez an insider's perspective on the intense and growing battle over a provision of the 1993 North American Free Trade Agreement, which promised Mexican long-haul truckers access to U.S. roadways as long as they meet U.S. laws. A coalition of labor, safety and environmental groups wants Mexican truckers kept out.

The Mexican trucking industry has become much more modern in recent years, after the nation largely abandoned its rail system. It's generally acknowledged, though, that many Mexican trucks couldn't meet U.S. safety or emissions standards.

According to Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways, a safety group that has advocated for tougher U.S. trucking legislation, U.S. trucks average 4.5 years of age. Mexican rigs, CRASH says, average 15 years old, despite rapid growth in that country's own truck manufacturing.

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