UPCOMING: MOTOR CARRIER & FMCSA / Do Mexico-domiciled motor carriers under the 1991 NAFTA U.S.-Mexico memorandum of understanding have to comply with 2005 Safety-LU federal statute by having their truck drivers medically certified in accordance with that 2005 statute’s upgraded standards?

Before the U.S. Court of Appeals, District of Columbia Circuit

OWNER-OPERATOR INDEPENDENT DRIVERS ASSOCIATION, INC., Petitioner, v. UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION; Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, et al.

12-1264

Pending Appeal:

Petition for Review of an Order of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration

Petitioner’s Reply Brief at 2012 WL 6018779 (December 3, 2012).

How Appellant-U.S. Competitor Describes the Case:

The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)-related international agreement executed between Mexico and the United States in 1991 pursuant to which Mexico-domiciled motor carriers are to be allowed to operate within the United States, required drivers to “meet established medical standards.” And that 1991 international agreement did not address how one certifies that an individual driver has in fact satisfied “established medical standards” as referred to in the 1991 text.

In 2005 Congress enacted and the President signed SAFETEA-LU, a statute providing that no individual may operate a commercial motor vehicle without a valid medical certificate (49 U.S.C. § 31149(c)(1)(B)) issued by a person listed on the National Registry of Medical Examiners. 49 U.S.C. § 31149(d)(3).

The FMCSA order appealed from here would allow operations within the United States by Mexico-domiciled motor carriers whose truck drivers would not have received a medical certificate pursuant to 2005’s Safety-LU statute (49 U.S.C. § 31149).

Petitioner asks the D.C. Circuit to set aside this FMCSA order granting Mexico-domiciled motor carriers authority to operate within the United States unless and until the truck drivers employed by such Mexico-domiciled motor carriers have received “valid medical certificates” issued pursuant to 49 U.S.C. § 31149 (i.e., the Safety LU statute enacted in 2005).

Core of Appellants’ Argument

The 2005 Safety-LU statute (49 U.S.C. § 31149) abrogated the prior international agreement.

When Congress enacted and the President signed the statute spelling out requirements for motor carriers operating within the United States – including that their drivers be medically certified in accordance with 49 U.S.C. § 31149 that abrogates the prior international agreement:

“SAFETEA-LU unequivocally mandated that all drivers must possess a medical certificate that is the product of a new and more reliable certification process. That statutory mandate and the new Final Rule being challenged did not exist in 1991 when the [international agreement with Mexico] was created. Therefore, it is impossible for the United States and Mexico to have considered or to have formed an agreement concerning these requirements in the 1991 [international agreement with Mexico].

Comment:

Of course the operation of Mexico-domiciled motor carriers within the United States has generated significant litigation testing the outlines of the international agreement with Mexico from 1991.

This litigation tests the question of whether or not Congress intended to supersede any medical certification process for drivers that the signatories may have had in mind when the United States and Mexico executed the 1991 international agreement.

Inasmuch as the 2005 Safety-LU statute is claimed to have mandated “a new and more reliable [medical] certification process” for truck drivers operating in the United States, this presents a vital question of statutory interpretation as applied to the possible abrogation of a prior international agreement.