Opposition to Long-Haul Pilot Program Lacks Merit, DOT Says

Documents filed yesterday by the U.S. Department of Transportation on behalf of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit states that a union-backed effort to halt a program to give U.S. truck drivers access into Mexico and allow a limited number of Mexican trucks to operate long-haul routes within the United States lacks merit. The documents were filed in response to an emergency stay request filed by the Teamsters and other groups on Aug. 29.

The emergency motion is "notable for the complete absence of any assertion of immediate and irreparable injury," according to the court filing. It argues that the court should not issue a stay "in light of the petitioner's failure to show any irreparable injury."

To support its argument, FMCSA notes in the filing that each year trucks from Mexico make 4.5 million trips across the border into U.S. cities like San Diego and El Paso and have a safety record that meets, and in some cases exceeds, the safety record of U.S. trucks.

The filing adds that the department's cross border truck demonstration program will have no impact on safety, given the thorough pre-screening and safety inspections that every truck from Mexico will have to endure before being allowed to travel into the United States and beyond the existing commercial border zones.

The filing also states that 44 trucks from Mexico are expected to participate in the program during its first 30 days, and that during the year-long program no more than 100 carriers will be authorized to participate.

Overall, the filing concludes, the groups arguing for the stay "have made absolutely no showing that they will be irreparably harmed by commencement of the Demonstration Project."

In response, Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa released a statement on the Teamsters Web site saying, "This is just more deceit from the Bush administration. They've been trying to sneak this program into existence for years and we can't even force them to tell the truth by going to court. Their court filing says the truck safety agency will satisfy all the safety requirements that Congress ordered, and we know that would be impossible.

"For example, they claim that all Mexican motor carriers can comply with drug and alcohol testing requirements. How can that be when there are no drug testing labs in Mexico? We are confident the court will side with the American traveling public."

Congressman Walter B. Jones (R-N.C.) in a recent news release added his voice to the opposition, saying, "This program not only poses a serious threat to our national security and the safety of American drivers, it also endangers American jobs and our economy. Before the passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), our nation ran a trade surplus with Mexico. Now, the U.S. runs a $64 billion annual trade deficit with Mexico. This program will only expand that deficit."

In the court filing, DOT relinquished is original start date, which was tomorrow, and announced that it will start the pilot program no earlier than Thursday, Sept. 6, 2007.

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