Groups sue to halt cross-border program

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Five groups have sued to block what they say are plans to allow Mexican trucks to do business in the United States as early as Saturday, Sept. 1.

The organizations filed an emergency motion Wednesday, Aug. 29, in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit to ask the court to delay the program before that time. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has not announced a start date, but the Teamsters — one of the suit’s plaintiffs — has said the agency told the union the controversial program would begin then.

The other groups in the suit are Public Citizen, the Sierra Club, the Environmental Law Foundation and Local 70 of the Auto and Truck Drivers union. The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association also said it would request an injunction to halt the program.

The plaintiffs argue that the program violates a law Congress passed in May that has requirements FMCSA has not met, including:

  • That federal officials publish information on inspections of Mexican carriers planning to operate beyond the border zone and provide for public comment; and
  • That the program have sufficient participants to produce statistically valid findings for an informed decision on whether to allow Mexican trucks to operate freely in the United States.
  • In response to reports of the suit, FMCSA issued a statement Wednesday, Aug. 29: “We are working closely with the [U.S. Transportation] Department’s inspector general as his office completes an additional assessment of the program and we prepare a detailed response to that report. Congress has required that both of these steps be completed before the agency moves forward with the cross-border trucking demonstration project.”

    The Bush administration has been careful to call the cross-border program a “demonstration project.” Its opponents maintain that it is, instead, a “pilot program” subject to all the requirements of federal pilot programs, including extended periods of public comment.

    “Congress responded to concerns about the safety and security implications of this pilot program,” says Todd Spencer, OOIDA executive vice president. “It is truly amazing that the administration is choosing to ignore Congress and the people they were elected to represent.”

    “The administration has thumbed its nose at Congress by its clear failure to comply with lawmakers’ requirements,” says Bonnie Robin-Vergeer, a Public Citizen lawyer. “There is no harm in delaying the program for a short time to make sure it is done right.”