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U.S. Court sides with FMCSA over Mexico program

By Aprille Hanson
The Trucker Staff

4/19/2013

The United States Court of Appeals sided with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration on April 19 and shot down the International Brotherhood of Teamsters and the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association’s desires to shut down the Mexico Cross Border Pilot program.

The pilot program has allowed Mexico-domiciled trucking companies to operate in the United States, as long as they are compliant with U.S. federal safety standards.

The circuit court judge reiterated that the Teamsters and OOIDA considered the pilot program “unlawful.”

“We disagree and deny their petitions for review,” the court ruled.

OOIDA argued seven main points, including that the pilot program unlawfully allows Mexican carriers to use their Mexican commercial drivers’ licenses and that the program “is not designed to achieve a level of safety that is equivalent to, or greater than, the level of safety that would otherwise be achieved through compliance with applicable safety laws and regulations. Those two points go hand-in-hand, as OOIDA explained that those licenses are the proof provided that a driver is medically fit to be on the road along with less stringent drug tests.

The court said in part: “Federal statutes, not the pilot program, enable Mexico-domiciled truckers to use their commercial drivers’ licenses and the pilot program complies with applicable U.S. drug-testing regulations and the agency reasonably concluded that those requirements are designed to achieve an equivalent level of safety. Hence, the Drivers Association’s arguments fail.”

The Teamsters presented six arguments in their lawsuit, including that the program does not require the Mexico carriers to display a decal certifying the truck is in compliance with U.S. safety standards.

However, the court said the FMCSA’s interpretation of the word “import” was correct as defined in Webster’s New International Dictionary – “to bring (wares or merchandise) into a place or country from a foreign country in the transactions of commerce.”

 “That definition would apply to Mexico-domiciled trucks only if the trucks – not the items they carry – were brought into the country as commercial goods,” the court continued. “… Because the trucks themselves are the instrumentalities of commerce and not wares or merchandise, it was reasonable for the agency to conclude that the trucks are not imported within the meaning of this statute.” 

The Teamsters also said the program does not include a reasonable amount of participants to yield valid statistical findings.

According to an August 2012 report by the Department of Transportation Inspector General, only 17 trucks and 20 drivers were approved to operate on American roads in the first 14 months of the program.

A previous article in The Trucker cited that FMCSA would require 46 carriers and 4,100 inspections to gauge the project’s success and through Jan. 27 of this year, only 553 inspections were performed.

However, the court said an unlimited number of trucking companies can participate, making the argument moot.

“Whether the Mexico-domiciled trucking companies ultimately avail themselves of the opportunity is outside the agency’s control,” court documents said. “The agency has therefore met its obligation to include a sufficient number of participants as to yield valid results.”

For a more in-depth look at the court’s decision and the two trucker advocacy groups’ arguments, click the link below.

http://www.cadc.uscourts.gov/internet/opinions.nsf/0/3F099F137263064F85257B52004EB99C/$file/11-1251-1431609.pdf

 

The Trucker staff can be reached to comment on this article at editor@thetrucker.com.

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