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Mexico Truck Program Upheld by Federal Court

Tuesday, April 23, 2013
By Shawn McCausland
Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg Trade Report

A U.S. appeals court has rejected charges that could have shut down a federal pilot program allowing Mexican trucks to carry cargo throughout the U.S. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration launched the program in 2011 as an interim step toward fulfilling a U.S. commitment under NAFTA to allow long-haul Mexican trucks to operate beyond U.S. border zones. Mexico suspended trade sanctions against $2.4 billion worth of U.S. goods when the pilot was initiated but has warned that the extra tariffs could be reimposed if the program is halted.

The pilot allows Mexico-domiciled motor carriers to operate throughout the U.S. for up to three years. They may transport international cargo in the U.S. but may not provide point-to-point transportation services, including express delivery services, within the U.S. for goods other than international cargo. Participating Mexican carriers and drivers must comply with all applicable U.S. laws and regulations, including those concerned with motor carrier safety, customs, immigration, vehicle registration and taxation, and fuel taxation.

The Teamsters Union and the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association had argued that the pilot program violated U.S. law by allowing the use of Mexican documents and processes that do not provide a level of safety at least the same as that established by U.S. requirements. However, an FMCSA spokesman said the court’s ruling concluded that the agency applies “the same rigorous safety standards under the program that we require of all U.S. carriers.”

The court also reportedly rejected an attempt to terminate the program on the grounds that there has not been sufficient participation to yield statistically valid findings regarding safety. According to the OOIDA, as of last week there were only 22 drivers from ten carriers taking part in the pilot. This is an issue about which the DOT itself has raised concerns and that will likely come up again next year when the agency considers whether to make the program permanent. The court noted, however, that the FMCSA made the pilot available to any Mexican carriers who want to participate and that their choice of whether to do so is out of the agency’s control.

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