2014 US Trucking News – Supreme Court Will Not Review Mexico Cross-Border Program
The Supreme Court will not hear an owner-operator petition to overturn the Obama administration’s pilot program for long-distance trucking across the US-Mexico border.
The court today denied without comment a plea by the Owner-Operator Independent Driver’s Association (OOIDA) to review a lower court’s decision that upheld the program.
In that decision, the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia rejected a petition by the OOIDA and the Teamsters Union to declare the program illegal. The groups had contended that program’s licensing, medical and drug test requirements are inadequate.
In its ruling today, the Supreme Court also denied OOIDA’s plea to combine this matter with another that the association has pending.
The second matter, in which OOIDA contests the program’s medical qualifications of drivers, should get Supreme Court review in the future, said OOIDA Executive Vice President, Todd Spencer.
The current pilot program permits Mexican carriers that have met safety standards set by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to provide long-distance service to and from the US. It is designed to prove that the agency’s standards will ensure safe operation by Mexican carriers.
There are now nine Mexican carriers with permanent authority under the program, and five with provisional authority.
OOIDA and Teamsters have been fighting the border opening since it was included in the North American Free Trade Agreement in 1994.
Spencer says that he wishes the court had agreed to review the matter, but in any event, OOIDA will continue to challenge the program.
The current pilot program permits Mexican carriers that have met safety standards set by the FMCSA to provide long-distance services to and from the United States. It is designed to prove that the agency’s standards will ensure safe operation by Mexican carriers.
The owner-operator’s group challenge revolved around three central points.
It contended that program should not allow Mexican drivers to use Mexican commercial licenses, because that violates the requirement that drivers in the US have a license issued by a state.
The court also found that Congress decided that the Mexican commercial license would be the equivalent of a state CDL.
OOIDA also stated that the program does not require Mexican drivers to meet US medical standards, but the court said that the Mexican CDL system, which requires a medical exam every two years, provides proof that the driver is medically fit.
The group also said that the program violates drug testing requirements, by allowing specimens to be collected in Mexico. The court said that the rule allows the specimens to be collected elsewhere, as long as they are processed at a certified laboratory.
The Teamsters added other arguments, which also failed.
The union said that the program does not require Mexican trucks to display a decal showing that they comply with US safety standards.
The court ruled that this law applies only to trucks that are US imports, or introduced into the United States interstate commerce, and that the agency has decided that these trucks do not fit into the description.
The union also states that Mexican drivers that are given vision tests are required to recognize only the color red, while US drivers should be able to recognize red, green, and yellow.
The court has also discovered that Mexican medical standards do not necessarily have to be the same as the standards set in the US. This is because Mexican standards have the tendency to become more strict, and give a level of safety that Is equal to the US level.
And the Teamsters have also mentioned that the program does not contain enough Mexican carriers to yield a statistically suitable finding regarding safety, but the court disapproved this argument since the agency has not limited the amount of Mexican carriers that can participate.
In another ruling, a different set of judges at the court also disapproved an argument by OOIDA that the safety agency is not able to exempt both Canadian and Mexican carriers from the US’ medical requirements.
It supported the agency’s argument that applying US requirements to foreign carriers would violate executive arguments among the countries.
David Sentelle, one of the judges in the court, opposed this finding. He argued that the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution says the US requirements should stand.
There are a total of 12 Mexican carriers now running around 44 trucks in the cross-border pilot program.