WASHINGTON (July 31, 2013) — After being rebuffed by a federal court, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters is still questioning the safety of Mexican trucks on U.S. roadways.
The Teamsters in June had asked for a rehearing of its challenge of the decision in May by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit that upheld the legality of the U.S. Department of Transportation's (DOT) cross-border truck pilot program. The union argued a rehearing is necessary "because the panel's dismissal of petitioners' claims…conflicts with decisions of this court and the U.S. Supreme Court."
The court on July 26 issued an amended decision that used an alternative basis for its ruling that Mexico-domiciled trucks do not have to comply with certain federal safety certification requirements. Nothing in the amended decision suggests Mexican trucks are safe, the Teamsters contends.
The union said it will consider its legal options and continue to monitor the progress of the DOT's program. In May, the Teamsters joined highway safety advocates in expressing concern about the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration's (FMCSA) oversight of the Mexican trucks allowed to travel freely on U.S. highways. Their concerns, according to the union, included:
• Two Mexican carriers created a new affiliate "to disguise an abysmal safety record; that (action) was not disclosed to FMCSA, but the agency nevertheless allowed the affiliate to participate in the pilot program;"
• The FMCSA allowed two Mexican carriers to continue in the pilot program "even though they received a less-than-satisfactory rating in their safety compliance review;" and
• The FMCSA "promised two years ago that it would conduct a peer review to evaluate the design of the pilot program. It has yet to do so."
Among its contentions are whether there are enough carriers in the pilot program to reach a reliable conclusion about the likely impact of Mexican trucks on U.S. highway safety. According to the DOT's inspector general in September 2012, the FMCSA estimated that it needed at least 46 carriers to be inspected 4,100 times within three years to provide a statistically valid analysis, the Teamsters said. The inspector general's report was written when only four carriers had been granted long-haul operating authority, the union said, and only 52 inspections had been performed beyond the commercial zone.
According to the Teamsters, with a little over a year to go, the three-year pilot program now has only 12 carriers with 44 trucks. More carriers have dropped out or were dismissed from the program—a total of 13—than are currently participating, the union added.