SPECIAL REPORT: DOT presses forward with cross-border program

By Jami Jones, senior editor | 6/8/2007

Friday, June 8, 2007 – With the ink barely dry on President Bush’s signature on supplemental war funding legislation that included restrictions on a Mexican cross-border trucking program, the U.S. DOT published a Federal Register notice that largely blows off the issues and directives outlined by Congress, OOIDA officials said.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration published a notice in the Federal Register Friday, June 8, that outlines responses to a laundry list of directives Congress included as part of the supplemental war spending legislation.

Section 6901 directed the agency, among other things, to publish Federal Register notices on a variety of regulatory and safety concerns. Rather than publish individual, detailed notices on each issue, FMCSA rolled the information into one notice.

And, it’s only giving the public 20 days to comment on the information.

“It’s apparent the Bush administration is thumbing its nose at the will of the American people and Congress,” said Todd Spencer, executive vice president of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association.

“Lawmakers crafted a very well-thought-out piece of legislation that – had the DOT took it to heart and followed it – would have injected some sanity into a program that still has too many safety and security issues that have yet to be resolved.”

Although the Department of Transportation, through the FMCSA’s notice, tackled many of the issues raised by Congress in Section 6901, the Federal Register notice falls short, Spencer said.

“That DOT would even consider starting the cross-border program now is brazen and outlandish,” he said. “This half-baked effort at complying with the important safety requirements put in place by the supplemental funding bill is a slap in the face of every American concerned about highway safety.”

OOIDA officials are in the process of analyzing the Federal Register notice and considering all options available to curtail the DOT’s continued rush to open the border.

“This administration is not above the law,” Spencer said.

The Association already has a lawsuit seeking an injunction of the program pending in U.S. District Court in the Californian Northern District.

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’s San Francisco-Oakland Division April 23.

The lawsuit challenges the federal government’s adoption and implementation of a pilot program that would authorize 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 that existing federal law imposes on pilot programs.

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.

In the meantime, the public has until June 28 to comment on the current Federal Register notice. To read the notice, click here.

Where to send comments
Comments can be signed or submitted anonymously. All submissions must include the agency name and docket ID number. For the cross-border program comment period, that number is FMCSA-2007-28055. 
To submit your completed comments, you can:

  • Visit dms.dot.gov/submit/dspSubmission.cfm, include the docket number in the “Docket ID” field and follow the instructions;
  • Fax to: (202) 493-2251; or
  • Mail to:
    U.S. Department of Transportation
    Docket Operations
    West Building Ground Floor Room W12-140
    1200 New Jersey Ave., SE.
    Washington, DC 20590

The Web site to submit comments electronically will not be available for use from June 13-17 because the DOT will be relocating the computers that host the electronic dockets.

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