The U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington upheld a federal cross-border trucking program allowing certain Mexican trucks to operate in the U.S., rejecting challenges to the program from the Teamsters union and owner-operators.
The court gave a green light to a Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration program under which 12 Mexican motor carriers have made more than 4,000 border crossings since 2011, including 225 crossings in the first week of July.
The July 26 decision followed an earlier ruling from the appellate court in April upholding the program. The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association and the Teamsters had asked for a rehearing by the court panel or the full court. A three-judge panel denied the request.
The appellate court rejected seven arguments challenging the legality of the cross-border trucking program advanced by OOIDA and six additional arguments from the Teamsters union.
The appellate court rejected challenges to the validity of Mexican commercial drivers licenses, medical requirements and drug testing programs under U.S. law, as well as claims the FMCSA program is too small to be “scientifically valid.”
“An unlimited number of trucking companies may participate in the program,” the court said in its ruling. “Whether Mexico-domiciled trucking companies ultimately avail themselves of the opportunity is outside the agency’s control.”
In answer to a Teamsters complaint, the court also noted that Mexico does offer reciprocal legal authority under the program to U.S. carriers that want to deliver or pick up goods south of the border. There have been few takers.
In a statement, the Teamsters said they would "consider their legal options," continue to monitor the program and question the safety of Mexican trucks.
Both the union and independent truck driver organization have fought for years to kill first a Bush administration cross-border trucking pilot project with Mexico introduced in 2007 and, since 2011, the Obama administration’s successor program.
Both pilot projects were established to comply with cross-border trucking provisions of the 1993 North American Free Trade Agreement. The latest pilot, launched in 2011, ended a $2.4 billion tariff dispute between Mexico and the U.S.
The pilot project allows Mexican carriers to operate in the U.S. beyond the border commercial zone for up to three years. To date, the program has had little impact on actual cross-border trade and truck traffic.
More than 5.1 million trucks crossed the U.S.-Mexican border in 2012, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics. By the end of 2012, only 1,046 border crossings had been completed under the the pilot project.
By July 7, the FMCSA program gained an additional 3,274 border crossings. On average, however, about 425,000 trucks crossed the U.S.-Mexican border each month last year, according to BTS data.