Driving while Spanish nets trucker $500 fine

Dennis Baron debaron at illinois.edu
Sat Jul 19 06:14:31 UTC 2008

There's a new post on the Web of Language:

Driving while Spanish nets trucker $500 fine

Manuel Castillo, a California trucker with twenty years experience,  
was stopped and ticketed by an Alabama state trooper for failure to  
speak English well enough.

Castillo, shown in the AP photo above with his truck, was on his way  
from Georgia back to California with a load of onions when he was  
stopped in Alabama for a “routine inspection.”  Castillo has a Spanish  
accent, but he readily answered the trooper’s questions in English.  
However the officer, who could find no other violations to charge  
Castillo with, judged the driver’s English to be insufficient – a  
violation of federal trucking regulations – and wrote Castillo a $500  
ticket, the maximum fine for this particular offense. Castillo paid  
the ticket – tickets are part of the cost of doing business for a  
trucker – and drove on home.

U. S. Department of Transportation regulations require commercial  
truck drivers “to be able to read and speak the English language  
sufficiently to” speak with the public, understand road signs, respond  
to “official inquiries,” and keep records. The states are charged with  
enforcing these requirements.

... [Last year} resolution noted, “there may be rare circumstances in  
which an English-only employment rule is a pretext for intentional  
national origin discrimination, but in most cases such an employment  
rule has little or nothing to do with a person’s national origin.”

But it seems that national origin may be just what the Alabama state  
trooper and his fellow officers have been targeting. 17% of the  
nation’s truck drivers, and 11% of its bus drivers, are Hispanic, and  
authorities gave them 25,230 tickets for insufficient English last  
year. While government officials insist that they’re not waging a  
campaign against Mexican truck drivers, these numbers suggest a  
concerted effort by the Department of Transportation to criminalize  
driving while Spanish....

Find out the whole story. Read the entire post on the Web of Language


Dennis Baron
Professor of English and Linguistics
Department of English
University of Illinois
608 S. Wright St.
Urbana, IL 61801

office: 217-244-0568
fax: 217-333-4321


read the Web of Language:

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