Appeal uncertain on cross-border pilot program ruling

04/30/2013 08:06:00 AM
Tom Karst

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association has not yet decided whether to appeal a U.S. Circuit Court ruling that upheld the Mexico-U.S. cross-border pilot program for Mexican trucks, said Norita Taylor, spokeswoman for the group.

The April 19 opinion, by Circuit Judge Brett Kavanaugh in Washington, denied a petition by the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters that contended the pilot program was unlawful. While agreeing that the Teamster and the OOIDA have the legal standing to challenge the pilot program, the judge said their arguments that the pilot programs did not comply with U.S. safety regulations and other standards were not convincing.

The cross-border program is backed by many fresh produce industry advocates, who fear that the pilot program’s demise could mean a return to tens of millions of dollars worth of tariffs on U.S. fruit and vegetable exports to Mexico. Those retaliatory tariffs, linked to the cross border trucking issue, were slapped on U.S. apples, grapes, and other commodities from 2009 to 2011. At the time, Mexico successfully argued that the U.S. violated the terms of the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement when Congress defunded a previous pilot program for Mexican trucks in the U.S.

Those tariffs on U.S. good were dropped in two stages after the current pilot program won approval from President Obama and his Mexican counterpart Felipe Calderon in July 2011. The first Mexican truck came into the U.S. in October 2011.

An April 29 statement from the Grain Valley, Mo.-based Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association described the judge’s ruling as disappointing.

“The court has apparently read laws passed by Congress intended to establish greater safeguards to ensure Mexican truckers comply with U.S. laws and safety standards and construed to them to give (the) Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration authority to accept less than full compliance with U.S. safety laws by Mexican truckers,” according to the statement.

“OOIDA laid out careful, detailed arguments describing how Mexican laws do not meet U.S. safety standards and how the pilot program permits Mexican truckers not to comply with U.S. laws,” according to the statement.

The pilot program allows Mexico-domiciled motor carriers to operate throughout the U.S. for up to three years, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration website. The agency said on its website that there are now ten Mexican-based carriers with operating authority in the U.S., representing about 20 vehicles.



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