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Mexican Truck Pilot Program Not in Conflict With Federal Law

By Brett Snider, Esq. on July 26, 2013 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

A federal pilot program to allow Mexican trucks to operate on U.S. highways was upheld in the D.C. Circuit on Friday, denying appeals by both the International Brotherhood of Teamsters and the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association.

In two consolidated cases, the D.C. Circuit Court found that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) pilot program which allowed Mexican trucks to operate in the U.S. was not in violation of parallel federal laws, but did find that the two petitioning organizations had standing to challenge it.

Standing, Sweet Standing

The increasingly sticky wicket of Article III standing was actually not a problem for the Teamsters or Independent Drivers, unlike other recent Article III petitioners, because the organizations actually had three different claims of standing:

The Merits (Condensed)

So the truckers and teamsters have standing, but they then proceed to spew nearly a baker's dozen-worth of ways in which the pilot program to allow Mexican truckers is in violation of federal law, most of which could be dismissed based on reading the factual record.

Here are three of the juicier challenges:

1) Mexican Driver's Licenses

Under federal law, you cannot operate a commercial motor vehicle without a compliant commercial driver's license.

The Independent Drivers assert that the pilot program would allow Mexican truckers to operate on U.S. highways with only a Mexican license, which they claim is not within the ambit of the law.

The D.C. Circuit Court disagreed, citing two examples of laws where commercial trucking licenses from Mexico were considered compliant for federal law, including Section 6901 (b)(2)(B)(V) of the U.S. Troop Readiness, Veterans' Care, Katrina Recovery, and Iraq Accountability Appropriations Act of 2007.

2) No Import Decal Required

The Teamsters asserted that Mexican trucks entering the U.S. would not be required under the pilot program to have an import decal sticker, as required by federal law for trucks entering into "interstate commerce."

While it's an interesting argument about what entering into interstate commerce means, the D.C. Circuit Court defers to the FMCSA and DOT because the federal statute isn't clear.

3) Mexican Eye Tests

Although it sounds like the setup for a joke, Teamsters allege that Mexican eye testing procedures only test if their truckers can see red as opposed to the more comprehensive U.S. color test, so the Mexican truckers would not comply with U.S. safety standards.

However, the D.C. Circuit decided this issue with the Teamsters before and determined that Mexican standards don't have to be identical to American standards.

Bottom Line

The U.S. trucking interest groups failed to convince the court that allowing Mexican truckers would upset a whole bucket full of related federal laws, but they had standing, and that's something.

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