Members of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association say they have documented hundreds of safety violations by Mexican trucks rolling on U.S. roads under the Department of Transportation’s Mexican truck demonstration project.
“The Department of Transportation is allowing Mexican long-haul rigs to operate in the United States without requiring U.S. rules and regulations to be enforced,” Rick Craig, the director of regulatory affairs for the group, told WND in a telephone interview yesterday.
“The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is providing exemptions from U.S. safety rules that the FMCSA claim are covered in a Memorandum of Understanding between the United States and Mexico,” Craig continued.
“It’s a clear double standard,” he said. “Mexican truck safety regulations are being accepted by the FMCSA as equivalent to U.S. rules, even though the FMCSA refuses to provide any real detail about how or why the decision was made.”
The association has filed a lawsuit against the DOT and FMCSA in San Francisco, challenging that the Mexican trucks the government is allowing into the U.S. under the DOT demonstration project are unsafe when tested by U.S. safety rules and regulations.
Catherine O’Mara, a paralegal at the Cullen Law Firm which is representing OOIDA, has provided the court with documentation of her research on safety violations by the Mexican trucks.
She searched the FMCSA database looking for all safety violations cited for four of the Mexican trucking companies currently in the DOT test for the year preceding the start of the demonstration project on Sept. 21, 2007.
The largest number of safety violations, 1,123 in total, was found for Trinity Industries De Mexico S de R L de CV.
Second on the list was GCC Transporte SA de CV, with 372 violations, followed by Avomex Internacional SA DE CV with 206 violations and Fidepal S de RL de IP y CV with 11 violations.
WND examined the FMCSA violation records O’Mara provided the court.
Among the safety violations listed on the FMCSA database for the four carriers were multiple infractions for inoperative or defective brakes, faulty suspension, defective systems to secure loads, defective lighting devices, tension bars cracked and/or broken, axle positioning parts defective or missing, tires with less than adequate tread depth, various parts and accessories needing repair, inoperable required lamps including headlights and tail lights, wheel fasteners loose and/or missing, and defective power steering systems.
Other violations in the OOIDA database included drivers who were not licensed for the type of vehicle being operated.
Each violation in the database was identified by the vehicle description and license plate number, as well as the time, date, report number and inspection facility location where the infraction was documented.
“Our search of the FMCSA records indicates the FMCSA should know the Mexican trucking companies in their test have unsafe safety inspection records according to U.S. standards,” Craig told WND.
The FMCSA is also accepting the Mexican commercial driver’s license, or CDL, as equivalent to the U.S. CDL,” he added, “even though Mexico has no CDL database that is reliable. There is no way, for instance, to track driving violations in Mexico that Mexican drivers are cited for.”
Craig also pointed out that the FMCSA is operating under a 1991 MOU with Mexico regarding commercial driver’s licenses.
“This is a problem,” Craig told WND, “because U.S. CDL regulations have changed a lot since 1991. Now, U.S. drivers who are cited for violations in non-commercial vehicles, for instance DUI or driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs violations, that can go toward disqualifying a CDL, even if the driver is driving the family car on their own time when they are cited for the DUI.”
The legal brief filed by the Cullen Law Firm objects to the FMCSA argument that Mexican regulations will provide the same level of safety as compliance that corresponds with U.S. safety regulations.
Under the current terms of the DOT Mexican truck demonstration project, the Cullen Law Firm argues, the FMCSA has decided to substitute compliance with Mexican regulations with compliance of FMCSA regulations.
Under FMCSA’s own admission there is no drug or alcohol testing facility in the entire country that is certified,” Craig pointed out. “The current FMCSA plan is for Mexican drivers to send drug and alcohol testing specimens to a U.S. certified testing facility, even though there is no reliable way to determine who the specimen came from in Mexico.”
“In light of the empirical data set forth in Mr. Craig’s declaration”” the brief argues, “there is no question that the harm faced by American truckers is concrete, particularized, and imminent.”
The brief contends the safety violations noted for the Mexican truck should have prompted out-of-service orders.
“In examining the records of violations for these Mexican operators, we found many cases where the same truck comes back over the border and is cited again for the same types of violation,” Craig told WND.
The brief also points out that the terms of NAFTA had specified the border would be open to the extent that Mexico-domiciled carriers are willing and able to abide by the same laws and regulations as are applicable to U.S.-domiciled motor carriers.
The OOIDA lawsuit seeks an order from the federal court to halt the DOT Mexican trucking demonstration project until the FMCSA is able to demonstrate its ability to enforce the standards of U.S. safety rules and regulation upon the Mexican trucks given access to U.S. roads.
On Nov. 14, the House of Representatives passed the DOT Fiscal Year 2008 appropriations bill by an overwhelming bi-paritsan 270-147 vote.
WND reported at the time Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., offered an amendment to the DOT Fiscal Year 2008 appropriations bill to block DOT funding for the Mexican trucks, which passed by a voice vote.
WND also reported Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-North Dakota, successfully offered in the Senate an amendment comparable to DeFazio’s.
The House bill emerging from the conference committee included language to de-fund the DOT Mexican trucking demonstration project.
The Senate version of the DOT Fiscal Year 2008 appropriations bill also contains the language which emerged from the conference committee to de-fund the DOT Mexican trucking project.
President Bush has threatened to veto the bill if it reaches his desk with these provisions in place.
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