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Judge Rules Intrastate Trucking Deregulation is Constitutional

December 30, 1994

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ A new law that bars states from regulating trucking within their borders is constitutional and will be allowed to take effect Sunday, a federal judge ruled Friday.

U.S. District Judge David L. Russell ruled against the Oklahoma Corporation Commission in its attempt to stop the law. Kansas, Montana and Michigan had joined in the lawsuit.

Under the law, states will no longer control haulers’ rates, routes and services within their borders. Companies cannot be limited to certain market areas, and haulers can set their own rates rather than follow state-imposed standards.

The law’s opponents claim it violates states rights to govern themselves and will hurt safety.

A U.S. Justice Department spokesman in Washington, D.C., said officials there are pleased with the decision.

A plaintiff’s attorney said he expects the case or another like it will eventually be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

″It’s pretty clear that this case is going to get appealed either way,″ said attorney Richard Labarthe.

Labarthe argued Tuesday before Russell that the law was ″a classic case of know-it-all federal government against states’ rights and state sovereignty.″

He and others argued safety could be a casualty of deregulation as companies look for ways to trim costs.

Companies would run their equipment longer and require less training for drivers in an attempt to widen their profit margins, plaintiffs told the judge. Some routes will probably be abandoned and weaker companies might be forced out of business, opponents have also argued.

The International Brotherhood of Teamsters, which joined the four states in the lawsuit, argued that companies like United Parcel Service, the union’s biggest employer, will hire fewer union workers.

Russell said the new law does not violate the 10th Amendment and other sections of the U.S. Constitution which outline the power of Congress over the states.

Oklahoma Corporation Commissioner Cody Graves said he plans to spend the holiday weekend reading the decision to decide whether to appeal the ruling.

″We are prepared to enforce either set of laws,″ Graves said. ″The trucking industry and consumers will not be left in a state of limbo because of this judicial decision.″

Similar lawsuits have been filed in Illinois and Nevada.

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