WASHINGTON – The
Teamsters union and other opponents of a Bush
administration plan to allow Mexican trucks to travel
throughout the United States filed suit in federal court
in California this week to stop the plan from going
The litigation marks the latest effort to block the
one-year program, which opponents say would pose a danger
to American motorists and a risk to national security.
The lawsuit, filed late Monday in the San
Francisco/Oakland division of U.S. District Court, names
U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary Peters as a defendant.
In addition to the Teamsters, other plaintiffs include
the Sierra Club, Public Citizen, the Owner-Operator
Independent Drivers Association and two smaller groups.
The lawsuit contends that the one-year Mexican trucking
program, which the administration calls a “demonstration
project,” is a pilot program.
The plaintiffs say the government has failed to comply
with the rules for a pilot program – including publishing
details of the program in the Federal Register and seeking
public comment – and asks the court to prevent the
government from going forward until those requirements are
Federal officials said last week they plan to certify
the first Mexican companies to send trucks into the United
States by early May. The administration says adequate
safeguards are in place to protect the public.
Mexican trucks have only been allowed to travel about
25 miles beyond the border since 1982, requiring their
cargo to be offloaded into American trucks for further
A provision in the North American Free Trade Agreement
allowed for the entire United States to be opened to
Mexican trucks starting in 1995. Access has been delayed
over the years by congressional opposition and litigation.
U.S. Transportation Department officials argue the
project is not a pilot program and does not have to comply
with pilot program rules.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration
responded to the lawsuit in a statement yesterday.
“We have worked extensively with Congress and the
Office of the Inspector General to implement this program
and its many safety standards and are prepared to defend
the program in court,” the agency said.
The statement also said the program “will eliminate
unnecessary delays clogging commerce at our borders, bring
consumers lower prices and give our economy new energy
while maintaining the safety of our roads.”
Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Alpine, who has sponsored
legislation to block the program, said yesterday he
expected to file a brief in support of the lawsuit.
Hunter “believes the lawsuit has merit, especially when
taking into consideration the risks involved in the pilot
program,” spokesman Joe Kasper said.
Jonathan Weissglass, an attorney for the plaintiffs,
said one reason for believing the project is a pilot
program is that Transportation Secretary Peters referred
to it that way when she announced it on Feb. 23. Peters
also referred to it as a “demonstration program” in the
Similar litigation to block the program was filed in
the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit in San
Francisco. Weissglass said the lawsuit was filed in both
courts because of uncertainty over which court has