The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and the U.S. DOT now face a lawsuit alleging that the Mexican truck demonstration program is being implemented illegally. The Teamsters Union, Public Citizen, Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Assn., along with environmental groups the Sierra Club and the Environmental Law Foundation, have jointly filed a lawsuit in a U.S. District Court in California requesting that the program be stopped until FMCSA provides a public notice and an opportunity for public comments.
The plaintiffs said that the Bush administration violated public notice and comment requirements when Transportation Sec. Mary Peters announced the department will roll out the program in late February. Peters had said in February that DOT would begin the audits necessary to approve Mexican-domiciled carriers “within weeks.”
FMCSA said in a statement emailed to FleetOwner:
“The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has aggressively sought to educate the public about the cross-border demonstration program since it was first proposed in 1994. This program will eliminate unnecessary delays clogging commerce at our borders, bring consumers lower prices and give our economy new energy while maintaining the safety of our roads. We have worked extensively with Congress and the Office of the Inspector General to implement this program and its many safety standards and are prepared to defend the program in court.”
The one-year demonstration program would allow 100 Mexican trucking companies to transport international freight, as long as they do not make domestic deliveries between U.S. cities. The program does not allow the transport of hazmat freight or passengers. The program is part of a NAFTA provision that was originally slated to take effect in 1995, but was delayed due to safety and environmental concerns.
The lawsuit dovetails with Congressional efforts that could delay, or even derail, the program. Teamsters said Congress is considering a provision in the emergency war supplemental bill that would place more restrictions on the program. President Bush has vowed to veto that bill. Teamsters said Congressional measures “may not be enacted quickly enough with the unsafe long-haul Mexican trucks prepared to start crossing into the United States within days.”
In March, Public Citizen filed a lawsuit against FMCSA alleging that the agency failed to produce information on the Mexican truck program in response to a Freedom of Information Act request in October 2006. FMCSA said the information request has elicited a “labor-intensive” process to satisfy it and that it is working in good faith to respond. The purpose of the lawsuit was to compel FMCSA to satisfy the request for information.
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