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Michael Leizerman
Michael Leizerman
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Mexican Trucks in the U.S. Could Be More Problematic than Most Think

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Mexican Port of Entry in Calexico.

A legal battle over allowing Mexico-based Carriers to operate in the U.S. might be drawing to a close, as The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit stated recently that it would be unable to reverse a recent decision by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA)—a regulatory agency of the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) that was established in 2000 to improve safety within the trucking industry. The decision, to allow Mexican trucks to operate in the U.S. as long as they apply and are approved for a permit, has faced other potential roadblocks as well—traces back to March of this year, when various teamster councils, the Truck Safety Coalition and Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety all petitioned the federal court to reverse the regulation as they believed that the FMCSA’s actions had violated the Administrative Procedure Act.

 

If this moves forward, it will be the first time in over 35 years that Mexican trucks have had full access to the contiguous United States (some Mexican trucking companies were allowed to transport to certain commercial zones in southern border states after the enactment of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in 1994. Historically, both sides have argued about unfair restrictions and high tariffs on transported goods among other affected aspects of commerce. Yet, little has been discussed about some of the simple, yet important, aspects involved with operating a motor vehicle on our roads. For example, federal regulations require (49 C.F.R. 391.11(b)(2)) that truck drivers “Can read and speak the English language sufficiently to converse with the general public, to understand highway traffic signs and signals in the English language, to respond to official inquiries, and to make entries on reports and records.” It’s a requirement that rarely causes controversy with U.S.-based carriers, but, often in cases involving Mexican motor carriers, the truck driver cannot respond to the police in order to communicate what happened.

 

And, most of all, few have voiced the very real threat of eroded levels of safety and accountability that might exist once Mexican drivers are permitted to operate large semi-trucks on our nation’s roads.I have handled cases in which Mexican motor carriers were operating in the United States and caused crashes that severely injured or killed people. These cases often have hurdles that aren’t faced in lawsuits against U.S. motor carriers. And that’s if you’re even able to serve a lawsuit on the driver of the truck. While the motor carrier must register a U.S. agent for service of process, many states also require the injured person to sue the driver of the truck, which can be next to impossible. To serve a lawsuit on the driver, it is often necessary to hire a Mexican lawyer to translate documents and follow the complex Mexican service process in order to satisfy the Hague Convention, a treaty that governs international service of process between signing countries.

All in all, it should suffice to say that the FMCSA’s decision has more than just political implications. There are numerous safety concerns and potential impedances to justice in the event of a lawsuit that should not be overlooked.

 

Michael Leizerman is a truck accident attorney specializing in catastrophic multi-axle collisions. He understands all facets of truck accident litigation; including federal regulations, drug and alcohol testing and hours of service requirements. He has authored a treatise entitled Litigating Truck Accident Cases and often educates other attorneys on trucking laws and regulations. You can learn more about Leizerman & Associates by visiting their website, www.truckaccidents.com.

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