SPECIAL REPORT: OOIDA seeks injunction of cross-border program

| 4/24/2007

Tuesday, April 24, 2007 – The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, along with five other groups, filed a lawsuit seeking an injunction of the Bush administration’s cross-border program – set to kick off within days.

OOIDA, along with the Sierra Club; Public Citizen; the Environmental Law Foundation; the International Brotherhood of Teamsters; and the Brotherhood of Teamsters Auto and Truck Drivers Local 70, filed the suit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, San Francisco-Oakland Division, late Monday, April 23.

The lawsuit challenges the federal government’s adoption and implementation of a pilot program authorizing up to 100 Mexican motor carriers – with an unlimited number of trucks – to perform long-haul operations within the U.S.

The plaintiffs claim in the lawsuit that the program is in violation of public notice and comment requirements federal law imposes on pilot programs.

“We have strongly opposed this program since first introduced, and in particular, the secretive nature in which it has been presented by the DOT,” said OOIDA Executive Vice President Todd Spencer.

“The DOT has still not answered questions about verification of drivers’ records, drug and alcohol testing, hours of service, cabotage, inspections and insurance. They make general statements about audits of Mexican motor carriers, but have shown nothing that should make the American public feel confident that they have fulfilled all the obligations necessary before moving forward.”

The groups are asking the court for an injunction of the program until the Department of Transportation and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration comply with the law by providing public notice of the pilot program and an opportunity for the public to comment. If the departments don’t comply, the plaintiffs want the program to be set aside as unlawful.

The lawsuit runs down the events leading up to the opening of the border to 100 Mexican motor carriers.

Following a Feb. 23 announcement by Transportation Secretary Mary Peters of a “year-long pilot program” that would start in “about 60 days” details have been scarce, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit details statutory requirements federal agencies must follow before putting a pilot program into motion. One critical element is public notification and the opportunity to comment, according to the lawsuit.

The plaintiffs claim this has not happened with the impending cross-border program.

“The Secretary has not provided detailed information about the pilot program to the public,” the lawsuit states. “Indeed, despite numerous requests by Congress and by environmental, public interest, labor and industry organizations to the Secretary and DOT for information about the pilot program, the details of the pilot program have been shrouded in secrecy.”

The lawsuit claims the defendants – the DOT, FMCSA, Secretary Mary Peters and FMCSA Administrator John Hill – have not complied with the requirements governing pilot programs outlined in Title 49.

A hearing for the case had not been set as of Tuesday morning.

Click here to view the entire lawsuit.

– By Jami Jones, senior editor