The FMCSA put the controversial Mexican Pilot Program into effect last year, to the general displeasure of American truck drivers, unionized workers, small carriers and to the tepid reception of carrier companies from south of the border. Mexican carriers remain cautious due to extra high safety standards and uneven regulatory processes. Many American carriers choose to avoid road travel in Mexico and the notion that this program steals jobs from qualified truckers.
General President Jim Hoffa said the federal government’s claim that Mexican trucks won’t affect Teamster truck drivers is “bizarre.”
The Teamsters filed the motion in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit Court late yesterday. Afterwards, Hoffa made a statement to the press that minced very few words, and put lawmakers and FMCSA officials on the immediate defensive.
“The FMCSA makes the bizarre argument that our members aren’t harmed by a program that opens the border to low-paid truck drivers and dangerous, dirty trucks,” Hoffa said. “Try telling that to our members.
“U.S. commercial truck drivers must follow all U.S. safety regulations while Mexican drivers only need to follow selected Mexican regulations. The government is flat-out wrong to say Mexican trucks and drivers meet equivalent standards.”
FMCSA argues that the pilot program “is designed to include a representative sample of the population of Mexico-domiciled trucks.”
The government’s brief claims that “FMCSA will closely track the safety performance of participating carriers.” Hoffa pointed out that the first trucking company that FMCSA allowed into the program – Grupo Behr de Baja California – withdrew because of its poor safety record.
“How are we to believe that FMCSA will closely track safety when it admitted a carrier into the program that had a poor safety record according to FMCSA’s own records?” Hoffa said.
“The last time we checked, three drivers and two trucks made nine trips beyond the border zone in six months,” Hoffa said. “That sure isn’t a representative sample. We predicted at the beginning that this program would be a dismal failure and it looks like we were right. FMCSA should just pull the plug on this program and save the taxpayers some money.”
Hoffa further said that Mexico has clearly failed to provide the same access to its markets that the U.S. offers to Mexico. The U.S. State Department last month warned against taking unnecessary trips to vast areas of Mexico, and yesterday the Texas Department of Public Safety cautioned against going to Mexico for spring break.
“Mexico can’t guarantee the safety of U.S. truckers because it can’t control the drug cartels that killed 12,000 people last year,” Hoffa said. “U.S. drivers are scared to death to drive down there. How is this a reciprocal trade deal?”
The suit claims the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration breaks the following laws:
It waives a law that trucks must display certain proof that they meet federal safety standards.
It breaks the law requiring the pilot program to achieve an equivalent level of safety because Mexican drivers don’t have to meet the same physical requirements as U.S. drivers.
It breaks the law that Mexico must provide simultaneous and comparable access to U.S. trucks. Mexico cannot do so because of the limited availability of ultra-low sulfur diesel fuel in Mexico.
It breaks the law that the pilot program must include enough participants to be statistically valid. The FMCSA’s proposal ensures that only the best Mexican trucks participate, which would allow it to justify letting any Mexican truck over the border in the future.