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U.S. Court of Appeals shoots down truckers,’ union’s petitions to derail Mexico pilot

OOIDA and the Teamsters had argued in petitions before the court that the cross-border program was unlawful on a variety of fronts, including that the pilot doesn’t include a sufficient number of participants “necessary to yield statistically valid findings.”

The Trucker News Services

7/26/2013

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Court today shot down efforts by the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association and the Teamsters Union to derail the federal government’s Mexico cross-border program.

OOIDA and the Teamsters had argued in petitions before the court that the cross-border program was unlawful on a variety of fronts. These included but were not limited to the lack of validity of Mexican CDLs; the alleged inadequacy of participant Mexican drivers’ medical certification; inadequate drug testing of the drivers; exemptions granted to Mexico-domiciled carriers without following statutory procedures; not requiring all Mexico-domiciled carriers to display a safety decal; alleged inadequacy of Mexican truckers’ vision tests; and the argument that the pilot doesn’t include a sufficient number of participants “necessary to yield statistically valid findings.”

Circuit Judges Karen LeCraft Henderson, Judith W. Rogers and Brett M. Kavanaugh denied the groups’ petitions for panel rehearing.

The court found that Mexican CDLs were “permissible,” citing a 2001 statute requiring the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to verify that each Mexican driver had proper qualifications “including a confirmation of the validity of the Licencia de Federal de Conductor” or Mexican CDL, and a 2007 statute that said the Secretary of Transportation “will accept compliance with a corresponding Mexican law or regulation as the equivalent to compliance with the United States law or regulation.”

Concerning OOIDA’s argument that the pilot violates a statute governing medial certificates for truckers and that truck drivers must be examined by doctors on the national medical examiner directory, the court held that the arguments weren’t valid because Mexican CDLs require a physical exam every two years and the registry requirement has yet to take effect.

The court said that nothing in federal regulations prohibits collections of specimens for drug tests in foreign countries as long as they are sent to a certified lab for processing.

They also said federal statute “makes clear that pilot programs such as this one need not go through the separately listed procedures for exemptions.”

In response to OOIDA’s contentions that the pilot doesn’t achieve the same level of safety as that required by “applicable safety laws and regulations” in the U.S., the justices reiterated that the Mexican CDLs and drug testing procedures were such that they comply with applicable U.S. laws and rules.

As to the Teamsters’ argument that the pilot is unlawful because not all Mexico-domiciled trucks are required to display a decal certifying compliance with American safety standards, the court found that the decal requirement only applies if the trucks are “import[ed] into the United States” or are “introduce[d] … in interstate commerce” within the meaning of the Motor Vehicle Safety Act.

“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 added.

And on the validity of Mexican vision tests, the court agreed with FMCSA that “ … Mexican medical standards, some of which are more stringent than the American standards, would provide a level of safety at least equivalent to the American standards as a whole.”

The court also said that the Teamsters’ contention that the pilot doesn’t include a sufficient number of participants to make it valid, fails because an unlimited number of Mexican carriers may participate” and whether “Mexico-domiciled trucking companies ultimately avail themselves of the opportunity is outside the agency’s control.

“The agency [FMCSA] has therefore met its obligation to include a sufficient number of participants so as to yield valid results.”

The court also held invalid the Teamsters’ claims that the pilot violated the National Environmental Policy Act.

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

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