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Cavalier Coach Corporation v. Foxx

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

June 13, 2014

CAVALIER COACH CORPORATION, Plaintiff,
v.
ANTHONY FOXX, United States Secretary of Transportation; ANNE S. FERRO, Administrator, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration; RICHARD R. BATES, Massachusetts Division Administrator, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration; CURTIS L. THOMAS, Eastern Service Center Regional Field Administrator, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration; and JOSEPH P. DELORENZO, Director, Office of Enforcement and Compliance, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

INDIRA TALWANI, District Judge.

This case came before this court for a hearing on Plaintiff's Motion for Ex Parte Temporary Restraining Order, Preliminary Injunction and Permanent Injunction [#3]. For the reasons set forth below, the motion is treated as one for preliminary injunction and is DENIED.

I. Standard of Review

A plaintiff seeking the issuance of a temporary restraining order or preliminary injunction bears the burden of demonstrating: (1) that it has a substantial likelihood of success on the merits; (2) there is a threat of irreparable harm if an injunction does not issue; (3) the balance of hardships between the parties weighs in the plaintiff's favor; and (4) that granting the injunction would not conflict with the public interest. Nieves-Márquez v. Puerto Rico , 353 F.3d 108, 120 (1st Cir. 2003). "The sine qua non of this four-part inquiry is likelihood of success on the merits: if the moving party cannot demonstrate that he is likely to succeed in his quest, the remaining factors become matters of idle curiosity." New Comm Wireless Servs., Inc. v. SprintCom, Inc. , 287 F.3d 1, 9 (1st Cir 2002). A preliminary injunction or temporary restraining order is an "extraordinary remedy" that may only be entered if the plaintiff makes a clear showing that it is entitled to such relief. Winter v. Natural Res. Def. Council, Inc. , 555 U.S. 7, 22 (2008).

II. The Regulatory Framework

Congress tasked the Secretary of Transportation with determining whether a motor carrier is fit to safely operate commercial motor vehicles. The Secretary has delegated that authority to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration ("FMCSA"). The FMCSA has in turn established fitness determination procedures. Under the framework that the FMCSA has established, a motor carrier is either classified as "unrated" or assigned one of three fitness ratings. The three ratings are: (1) "satisfactory, " (2) "conditional, " or (3) "unsatisfactory." 49 C.F.R. § 385.3.

"Satisfactory" means that the motor carrier "has in place and functioning adequate safety management controls to meet the safety fitness standard prescribed in § 385.5." Id . "Conditional" means that the motor carrier "does not have adequate safety management controls in place to ensure compliance with the safety fitness standard that could result in occurrences listed in § 385.5(a) through (k)." Id . (emphasis added). Finally, "unsatisfactory" means that the motor carrier "does not have adequate safety management controls in place to ensure compliance with the safety fitness standard which has resulted in occurrences listed in § 385.5(a) through (k)." Id . (emphasis added). When a motor carrier is assigned a proposed rating of unsatisfactory, it is generally automatically prohibited from operating motor vehicles in interstate commerce after the rating becomes final. Id . § 385.13(a). Similar restrictions are not imposed on motor carriers when a conditional rating becomes final. Instead, motor carriers receiving a conditional rating are allowed to continue their operations.

Ratings are assigned in large part based on information that is collected during compliance reviews conducted by FMCSA. After the FMCSA conducts a compliance review, it must notify the motor carrier of any resulting rating changes within thirty days. Id . § 385.11(a). If the motor carrier is in the business of transporting passengers, a proposed rating of unsatisfactory or conditional becomes final after forty-five days. Id . § 385.11(c)(1). A motor carrier seeking to dispute or change a rating has two options. A motor carrier can request that the FMCSA conduct an administrative review of the decision. Id . § 385.11(e). Alternatively, the motor carrier can request a change of a final or proposed rating based upon corrective actions. Id . § 385.11(f).

If the motor carrier transports passengers and has been assigned a proposed rating of unsatisfactory, the FMCSA is required to complete administrative review or review of a rating change request within thirty days. Id . §§ 385.15(e)(1) and 385.17(e)(1). If, on the other hand, a motor carrier is assigned a proposed rating of conditional, the regulations do not impose any time within which the FMCSA must complete administrative review or review of a rating change request.

III. Analysis

A. Plaintiff Cavalier Coach Corporation Fails to Show A Likelihood of Success on the Merits

The facts relevant to Cavalier's likelihood of success on the merits are drawn from the complaint and supporting exhibits. On April 25, 2014, the FMCSA conducted a compliance review of Cavalier's operations in order to determine whether Cavalier was in violation of any applicable safety regulations. Prior to the review Cavalier held a rating of satisfactory. On April 30, the FMCSA served a Notice of Proposed Conditional Rating ("Notice") on Cavalier. The Notice identified a number of safety violations. The Notice further stated that the FMCSA was assigning Cavalier a proposed safety rating of conditional. The proposed rating is to become final on June 15, 2014.

On May 15, 2014, Cavalier submitted, in response to the Notice, a comprehensive corrective action plan to the FMCSA. Cavalier asserts that the plan addresses every violation identified in the Notice and includes revised policies and procedures to ensure that violations do not occur again in the future. On May 18, 2014, Cavalier submitted a new substance abuse policy. Cavalier asserts that it has now implemented all of the components of the action plan and substance abuse policy. When Cavalier submitted the plan on May 15, it requested that the agency withdraw its proposed rating change before it becomes final. On June 12, 2014, Cavalier received a letter from the FMCSA's Regional Field Administrator denying Cavalier's request to postpone the date on which the conditional rating will become final.

Cavalier argues that the FMCSA is violating the Administrative Procedure Act and its own regulations by failing to consider Cavalier's request for a rating change in a timely manner or, alternatively, by refusing to grant Cavalier a temporary extension of time before which the rating will become final. Cavalier's argument finds no support anywhere in the regulations governing the FMCSA's safety ratings and review process. With respect to Cavalier's contention that the FMCSA should grant it an extension of time ...


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