CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The Teamsters Union filed a legal reply brief last week in its lawsuit against the United States Department of Transportation's pilot program that is opening the Mexican border to potentially dangerous trucks, something a local Teamster president said will adversely affect states truckers.
"Obviously, this program wouldn't have the immediate impact on West Virginia that it would have on border states," Teamsters International Vice President Ken Hall, also president of Local 175 in South Charleston, said Friday.
"But once the government allows those trucks to start rolling freely across the United States, it will undermine national security, no matter what state you are in. There are legitimate concerns about terrorist groups smuggling terrorists across the Mexican border.
"Mexican drug cartels are also likely to use Mexican trucks to increase the circulation of drugs in the U.S., which will affect all of us."
Opening the border to Mexican trucks, Hall added, is also likely to also lower wages for truck drivers across the country, including West Virginia.
"American truck drivers will be competing with their lower-paid counterparts in Mexico, which would have a real impact at a time when the biggest issue in this country is jobs."
Teamster President Jim Hoffa called the claim by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration that Mexican trucks won't affect Teamster truck drivers "bizarre."
"U.S. commercial truck drivers must follow all U.S. safety regulations while Mexican drivers only need to follow selected Mexican regulations," Hoffa said. "The government is flat-out wrong to say Mexican trucks and drivers meet equivalent standards."
If the "pilot program" is deemed successful, DOT is likely to allow more Mexican trucks to cross the border and deliver products to markets across the country.
The reply brief countered arguments made by DOT lawyers in defense of the "pilot program" in the case before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit Court.
The Teamsters' suit was consolidated with a similar suit filed by the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association -- which represents individual truck owners who typically are not members of the Teamsters.
Hall said he watched Mexican trucks cross the border in San Diego, Calif. Currently, they are allowed to travel only a few miles north of the border.