OOIDA hits courtroom to argue against Mexican pilot program

by Canadian Shipper

GRAIN VALLEY, Mo. — Attorneys for the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) were at the 9th Circuit Federal Court of Appeals yesterday to argue that the US Department of Transportation’s cross-border trucking pilot program with Mexico is in violation of federal laws and regulations.

OOIDA’s arguments were supported in part by a legal brief filed Dec. 3, whereby the association and its attorneys provided the court with safety statistics and inspection reports on four of the seven Mexico-domiciled carriers participating in the cross-border program at that time.

“It makes no sense that while safety and security laws are continually being ratcheted up on US-based drivers and companies, the DOT wants to allow their Mexico-based counterparts to get by with lower standards,” said Todd Spencer, executive vice-president of OOIDA. “Ever since we filed our original legal challenge last September, our attorneys have been chomping at the bit for this day. We are confident that the law is on our side.”

OOIDA is challenging the DOT’s assertion that drug and alcohol testing programs, medical qualification standards, and commercial driver’s license requirements for truck drivers in Mexico are equivalent to those for US drivers. The association also challenges the DOT’s assertion that Mexico-based trucks and drivers are actually safer than their US counterparts.

Rick Craig, OOIDA’s director of regulatory affairs, testified in that brief stating, “I observe that these motor carriers also received many violations for which an out-of-service order should have been issued, but was not.”

In a declaration filed with the brief, Catherine O’Mara, a paralegal from the Cullen Law Firm of Washington, D.C., compiled the safety inspection reports on the Mexico-based motor carriers and a summary of selected SafeStat Data.

O’Mara provided a table summarizing total inspections with violations, total violations, driver out-of-service orders, vehicle out-of-service orders, number of power units and the number of violations per vehicle. In the span of one year, Sept. 21, 2006, through Sept. 21, 2007, the four Mexico-based motor carriers amassed more than 1,700 violations, according to OOIDA.

O’Mara’s research showed one of those companies, Trinity Industries de Mexico, was cited for 1,123 safety violations and averaged more than 112 violations per truck for the 10 power units in its fleet during that timeframe.

Arguments on a separate lawsuit related to the program will also be heard from the Sierra Club, International Brotherhood of Teamsters and Public Citizen.

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