Court's ruling allows cross-border program to continue

By Jami Jones, Land Line managing editor | 7/26/2013

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled on Friday against a pair of lawsuits that were seeking to halt the long-haul, cross-border trucking pilot program with Mexico.

The opinions issued on Friday denied petitions for review of the program filed by the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.

In a unanimous decision, the court ruled against a total of 13 different legal challenges brought by the two groups.

“U.S. motor carriers and drivers face significant regulatory hoops and hurdles on a daily basis. Compliance is the name of the game. Giving motor carriers and drivers from Mexico a free pass from these stifling regulations poses not only a significant threat to highway safety, but creates an unfair competitive advantage over their U.S. counterparts,” said OOIDA Chief Operating Officer Rod Nofziger.

“While this is clearly a disappointing ruling, the Association’s legal counsel is analyzing the court’s ruling and we are in the process of evaluating options going forward.”

The court also ruled on a second legal challenge filed by OOIDA targeting FMCSA’s exemption of the medical certification requirements on Canada- and Mexico-domiciled drivers.

The court’s decision was not unanimous in this case.

While FMCSA’s case relied heavily on international trade agreements, OOIDA contended that new laws passed by Congress should have required the agency to require that Canada- and Mexico-domiciled drivers meet the same medical certification requirements as U.S.-based drivers.

The court ruled in favor of FMCSA with one judge, David B. Sentelle, dissenting.

He countered the majority opinion stating that it’s not the court’s place to determine the intent of Congress when passing a law.

“Courts must presume that a legislature says in a statute what it means and means in a statute what it says there,” Sentelle wrote.

By ignoring the statutory language passed by Congress, Sentelle pointed out that it is not harder for Congress to overrule two letters exchanged between mid-level administrative functionaries.

“Nothing in the Constitution justifies transferring the people’s right to govern themselves,” Sentelle wrote. “Ours is a government of laws not bureaucrats.”

OOIDA found Sentelle’s dissent refreshing.

“Again, while we must look closely at this decision and evaluate our options, Judge Sentelle spoke some very harsh truth,” Nofziger said. “No court opinion should ever side with bureaucratic bargains struck behind closed doors, when Congress has passed laws that clearly dictate the will of the people.”

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