WASHINGTON – The Teamsters filed a
lawsuit yesterday to block what the union said is an
unannounced government plan to open the southern border to
long-haul Mexican truck traffic as early as Saturday.
transportation officials are not saying publicly when they
expect to begin a long-delayed pilot program to test the
safety of Mexican trucks on U.S. highways.
But in a lawsuit filed in the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of
Appeals in San Francisco, Jonathan Weissglass, an attorney
representing the Teamsters, said he was told by a Justice
Department official that the program will start Saturday.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, which is
in charge of the pilot program, did not return phone calls
seeking reaction to claims that the agency will begin the
The Teamsters and other opponents, including other
trucking and safety organizations, say Mexican truckers
would pose a danger on U.S. highways. They argue that
Mexican truckers are not subject to the same driving
standards, drug and alcohol testing and law enforcement as
“What a slap in the face to American workers – opening
the highways to dangerous trucks on Labor Day weekend, one
of the busiest driving weekends of the year,” Teamsters
General President Jim Hoffa said in a statement.
U.S. Transportation Department officials said they have
developed a “rigorous safety inspection plan” requiring
Mexican truck drivers in the program to meet the same
standards as U.S. truckers.
Officials say Mexican drivers who have been allowed to
travel in a limited, 25-mile zone in the United States have
compiled a safety record superior to that of U.S. truck
Under the program, up to 100 Mexican carriers that pass
inspections conducted by U.S. officials would be allowed to
send trucks into the United States in a one-year
demonstration. The plan also allows for U.S. truck drivers
to cross into Mexico.
The Teamsters and several co-plaintiffs, including the
Sierra Club, Public Citizen and the Environmental Law
Foundation, are seeking an injunction to block the program.
The court asked the administration to file a response today.
In the lawsuit, they claim the administration has failed
to comply with safety-related requirements that Congress
mandated this year, including a requirement to demonstrate
that the program will “yield statistically valid findings.”
The lawsuit contends that officials have failed to show
that U.S. truck drivers would be given simultaneous access
to Mexican roads when the program begins. It says officials
have failed to publish required information about
U.S.-conducted safety checks of Mexican carriers. The
Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration blasted the
lawsuit as being “without merit.”
“Our program will benefit consumers by reducing the
costly practice of requiring all cross-border shipments to
be hauled by three separate trucks operated by three
different drivers and provide U.S. trucking companies the
opportunity to expand their business into our nation's
third-largest trading partner,” the agency said.
The administration argues that opening the border, as
required in the North American Free Trade Agreement, will
remove barriers to trade and reduce costs to consumers.
Congress passed a law this year barring the program until
the Transportation Department's inspector general certifies
that it complies with congressional requirements.
The inspector general's office has declined to say when
it will issue its evaluation.
But in a court filing yesterday, Weissglass said he was
told by Justice Department attorney Irene Solet that the
Transportation Department expects to get the certification
by tomorrow. Weissglass said Solet told him the agency
intends to kick off the program Saturday.