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Mexican Truckers Avert Border Program Dustup

(CN) - U.S. trucking groups lost their challenge in the D.C. Circuit to a pilot program that will let Mexican truckers transport goods across the border.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration recently reauthorized a pilot program to allow Mexican trucks to operate through the United States, as long as they comply with U.S. safety standards.

Congress initially authorized the pilot program in 2007, but President Barack Obama defunded the program in 2009. When Mexico retaliated by imposing $2.4 billion in tariffs on 90 U.S. imports, Obama reinstated funds for the program.

Arguing that the pilot program is illegal, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters and Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association petitioned for a federal review.

A three-judge panel of the D.C. Circuit declined Friday to credit these claims.

The groups said the program would unlawfully allow Mexican truck drivers to operate commercial vehicles in the U.S. without fulfilling the same requirements that U.S. truckers face, such as holding a U.S. commercial driver's license, passing a medical fitness exam by a nationally registered examiner, and passing a U.S. drug test.

But "reading all of the relevant statutes together, as we must, we think the more sensible conclusion is that Congress decided that Mexico-domiciled truckers with Mexican commercial drivers' licenses could drive on U.S. roads and that a Mexican commercial driver's license would be considered the essential equivalent of a state commercial driver's license for purposes of this statutory scheme," Judge Brett Kavanaugh wrote for the panel.

The panel likewise dismissed concerns that lower standards in Mexico will affect medical exams and drug tests there.

"The teamsters contend that the vision tests given to Mexican truck drivers require them to recognize only the color red while American truck drivers are required to recognize red, yellow, and green," Kavanaugh wrote. "However, the teamsters' argument is foreclosed by International Brotherhood of Teamsters v. Peña, where this court upheld the determination that Mexican medical standards need not be identical to American standards."

The teamsters also argued that the pilot program failed to analyze the environmental impact of allowing Mexican trucks to cross the border, but "the agency lacks authority to impose the alternatives proposed by the teamsters and those alternatives would go beyond the scope of the pilot program," according to the ruling.

After hearing of the ruling, the teamsters vowed to "continue to fight to uphold safety standards on our highways."

"Our members who drive for a living should not have to put their lives at risk because dangerous trucks are allowed free use of our roads," the group said in a statement.


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