Teamsters Can’t Block Mexico-Based Truckers in U.S.

The Teamsters Union lost the latest round in a 35-year-long dispute between long-haul truckers from Mexico and the U.S., over whether the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration had authority to grant permits for U.S. operations to Mexico-based truckers.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday side-stepped a resolution of the dispute saying instead that the claims were not properly before the court.

U.S. truckers, mostly through the Teamsters Union, have long opposed entry of Mexico-based truckers entry into the U.S. market. While the U.S. objections come under the banner of highway safety concerns, the real concern appears to be preventing increased competition to American truckers, the court said.

The American truckers also fought the expanded trucking through negotiations NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement in 1994. NAFTA announced that Mexico-based trucking firms would gradually be allowed to operate in the U.S., but limited to specific commercial zones near the southern border.

A NAFTA arbitration panel ruled the limits were unfair and ruled Mexico would be allowed to impose retaliatory tariffs. In response, Congress and President George W. Bush signed a law allowing FMCSA to issue permits to Mexican trucking firms so long as they complied with American safety regulations.

This was the Teamsters second legal challenge to the FMCSA permit program. The District of Columbia Appeals Court has previously refused to enjoin the program, the panel said.

The current Teamster challenge stems from the FMCSA decision to grant permits to Mexican firms after the completion of the pilot program.  The Teamsters contended that the pilot program results were based on an insufficient sample of carriers.

Because the Teamster challenge came after an FMCSA report on the pilot program, rather than the issuance of any permit, there was no actual agency action to be challenged. And in addition, the Drivers Association had made a similar challenge and has been rejected, so the Teamsters may not bring an identical challenge that has previously been rejected.

Case: International Brotherhood of Teamsters v. US. Dept. of Transportation, No. 15-70754


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