The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration said that a court decision could delay the opening of the U.S. border to Mexico-based trucks for up to two years.
According to a follow-up audit by the Office of the Inspector General on the implementation of commercial vehicle safety requirements at the border, the border will not open until a court-ordered environmental impact statement (EIS) and a Clean Air Act analysis is completed.
A ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit effectively prevents FMCSA personnel from conducting safety audits and compliance reviews of Mexican trucks until the completion of the EIS and the Clean Air Act analysis.
Department officials said the delay could extend up to 24 months or longer if environmental measures are required. The court ruling requires DOT to study the impact of increased air pollution on border-state communities and, where necessary, develop plans to lessen the anticipated harm, before it can process applications for cross-border trucking.
FMCSA spokesman David Longo told FLEET OWNER that the agency will begin environmental reviews required by the court. At the same time, FMCSA is pursuing other legal avenues, he said, and is consulting with the Justice Department about seeking review by the U.S Supreme Court.
President George W. Bush signed off on allowing Mexican trucks outside the border zone and required them to meet all U.S. safety standards last November. However, the court ruled that the Bush administration violated environmental law when it announced the border opening.
A NAFTA provision allows truck companies in the United States, Mexico and Canada equal access to each other's roadways. But under pressure from the Teamsters union and various interest groups, the U.S. had barred access to Mexican carriers, citing a variety of concerns ranging from safety and security to lower wage standards.