SPECIAL REPORT: DOT response on cross-border program no surprise

| 11/21/2007

Wednesday, Nov. 21, 2007 – In the on-going legal battle about the cross-border trucking program, the latest filing by the U.S. DOT attempting to defend the program falls short, according to officials at the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association.

In it’s response to arguments filed by OOIDA and the Sierra Club, the DOT claims that OOIDA’s petition in the legal challenge has no standing.

In addition to claiming the Association should be able to bring the suit, the DOT claims that arguments by OOIDA that the cross-border program will have a negative impact on highway safety is merely “speculation.”

In its defense of the program, the DOT repeatedly leaned on statistics from inspections on Mexican trucks that had previously crossed the border only to deliver and pick up within border zones. Yet, the numbers were not presented in the legal argument.

“It’s pretty much what we expected,” said Rick Craig, OOIDA director of regulatory affairs. “Despite significant issues raised by Congress, ourselves and other credible organizations, they seem to have a ‘We are the government so we are right’ mentality.”

The Association contends that DOT officials still have not shown how they will effectively deal with several significant safety and security issues. These include thorough background checks and drug testing, as well as enforcement of regulatory issues such as hours of service and cabotage, not just at the border, but especially as Mexico-domiciled trucks operate throughout the United States.

“The government disputes and denies our arguments without any solid claims of their own. Their responses simply don’t hold water,” Craig said.

OOIDA’s attorneys in Washington, DC, filed a petition for review of the cross-border pilot program and a petition for stay pending review on Sept. 7 in the U. S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.

In an order issued late in the day Sept. 21 by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, the request made by OOIDA for an emergency stay of the program was denied. The court, however, did not rule whatsoever on the merits of the case.

Shortly after that ruling, OOIDA’s legal challenge was moved to the U.S. District Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit.

OOIDA’s legal challenge was combined with a similar lawsuit contesting the program filed by the Sierra Club. The case was put on an expedited court schedule, which essentially means the case will move much faster than a typical legal challenge.

The next step in the case following DOT’s response is for OOIDA to file a response to that response. That filing is due Dec. 3. After that, attorneys for all the parties will present oral arguments. Those arguments have not been scheduled by the court.