Mexican Truck Drivers' Language Barrier a Safety Hazard, Group Says

Mexican truck drivers involved in the NAFTA cross-border demonstration project should meet stricter standards of English proficiency, a coalition of 15 national organizations led by Arlington, Va.-based ProEnglish argued in a May 5 letter to President George W. Bush.

Drivers who communicate with police and other motorists only in Spanish and who are unable to read or understand traffic warning or hazard signs may create dangerous driving conditions, the coalition said in the letter, as it urged Bush to order the Department of Transportation to reinstate the English proficiency requirement for Mexican truck drivers entering the United States.

According to Secretary of Transportation Mary Peters’ testimony at a May 11 Senate hearing, Mexican truck drivers involved in the NAFTA demonstration project are designated “English proficient” even if they use Spanish to describe the meaning of U.S. traffic signs.

"It is outrageous that the federal government is ignoring its own safety regulations in a program it administers, and is willing to put U.S. motorists at risk of injury or death to let Mexican heavy truck drivers who cannot read highway warning signs into the United States,” said ProEnglish Executive Director KC McAlpin. “The president can stop this and he should."

"To protect the safety of all who use our roads and highways we urge you to order the Department of Transportation to reinstate the English proficiency requirement for Mexican truck drivers entering the U.S. And ... make sure that motor carriers from any country are required to observe the same rules and regulations that American carriers are required to follow, especially those related to safety,” the letter concluded.

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