Teamsters challenges Mexican trucker safety

Jill Dunn | March 12, 2012

The Teamsters union submitted counterarguments March 7 in litigation to halt the cross-border trucking program with Mexico, which was preceded by Mexico filing a friend-of-the-court brief.

The union’s response brief was the most recent action in the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals consolidated case. The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association and Public Citizen and Sierra Club also are petitioners in the case.

Mexico’s counsel disputed their arguments, including that Mexican carriers do not meet equivalent safety standards, in a Feb. 22 amicus brief supporting the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s program.

Mexico’s positive trucking safety record in the United States dates to before the U.S. adoption of the 1982 moratorium mostly limiting Mexican carriers to the border zone. Some Mexican carriers have retained authority issued before that time and operate beyond the border zone. Drivers employed with carriers participating in the pilot programs are required to meet U.S. standards.

Mexico has provided reciprocity for U.S. carriers, the attorney asserted. For example, Texas-based Stagecoach Cartage and Distribution is one of three U.S. carriers operating in Mexico today of the 10 that received authority in the previous pilot program.

Mexico’s counsel noted the program does not limit participation, in response to the charge that the pilot program lacks a representative sample of Mexican carriers. However, the program has been postponed or halted several times in previous years, which likely has contributed to discouraging carriers from seeking involvement in the current program, he wrote.

Finally, in reply to concerns over Mexico’s supply of ultra-low sulfur diesel, FMCSA has noted the fuel is available in the border region and in major population centers and no issues have occurred over its supply.

The union disputed FMCSA’s stand that the pilot program is designed to include a representative sample of Mexico-domiciled trucks. In a March 9 statement, Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa said that of the Mexican participants, three drivers and two trucks made nine trips beyond the border zone since the agency began the program six months ago.

FMCSA has approved two Mexican carriers for participation. Operating authority is pending for an additional 16 carriers, of which two have completed the Pre-Authorization Safety Audit required for participation. However, one of the two withdrew after OOIDA raised issues over its safety record.

Hoffa said Mexico’s ongoing narcotics-related violence makes it unsafe for truckers, citing a Feb. 8 U.S. state department warning concerning travel in large portions of the nation. The report strongly urged Americans to travel between cities only in daylight, to avoid isolated roads and to use toll roads when possible.

The number of Americans reported to the department as murdered in Mexico increased from 35 in 2007 to 120 last year, when Mexico reported a total of 12,903 narcotics-related homicides during the first nine months.

The court has granted OOIDA’s request to extend deadlines and the association’s final brief is due April 4. The California Agricultural Issues Forum also has filed an amicus brief.

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