The International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT)is seeking an emergency injunction to stop the U.S. government from opening the border to approved Mexican carriers on Sept. 1. The union filed its lawsuit with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco.
“What a slap in the face to American workers, opening the highways to [Mexican] trucks on Labor Day weekend, one of the busiest driving weekends of the year,” said Teamsters general president Jim Hoffa.
The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) is joining the Teamster’s injunction effort as well. “I am honestly stunned by the Administration’s contempt toward the American public, Congress and the rule of law,” said Todd Spencer, OOIDA executive vp. “They [the federal government] are determined to open our highways to Mexico-domiciled trucking companies regardless of the public’s concerns and what’s in the law books.”
Hoffa added that Congress has repeatedly and overwhelmingly set stringent safety conditions that must be met for the cross-border trucking program before the border could be opened– and said the Transportation Department Inspector General’s report released Aug. 21 made it clear that those conditions have not been met.
However, Secretary of Transportation Mary Peterssaid the demonstration program closely followed the requirements established by Congress in 2002. She stressed that the Inspector General certified that the program substantially meets eight criteria addressing inspector training, inspection facilities, and the development of safety procedures.
According to Peters, DOT has invested $500 million since 1995 to modernize border safety facilities and hire and train the more than 500 federal and state inspectors who inspect trucks crossing the border every day.
“Fourteen years ago, the U.S. pledged to allow the free flow of commerce across the North American continent. Three U.S. presidents and the Congress have considered and ultimately supported NAFTA’s trucking provisions, while the Supreme Court rejected unanimously a challenge to the Department’s implementation of those provisions,” she said in testimony before Congress earlier this year.
Peters stressed that the border is not being “thrown open” to any and all Mexican carriers. Only 100 pre-certified carriers are participating in this program, which have undergone in-person safety audits to ensure they comply with U.S. safety regulations. DOT is also requiring all Mexican truck drivers participating in the program to hold a valid commercial driver's license, comply with U.S. medical requirements, comply with all U.S. hours-of-service rules and be able to understand questions and directions in English.
Mexican truck companies that are allowed to participate in the program must have insurance with a U.S.-licensed firm and meet all U.S. safety standards, including drug and alcohol testing and – if they meet these stringent standards – are only allowed to make international pickups and deliveries.