Another move toward deregulation of the trucking industry was made yesterday with the introduction of a House bill intended to make trucking licenses easier and cheaper to obtain.
The legislation includes a new declaration of purpose for the Interstate Commerce Commission stressing competition and new standards for awarding trucking certificates. The ICC controls the number of truckers serving any market by issuing licenses designating both the goods which can be carried and the routes followed.
Rep. Millicent Fenwick (R-N.J.), the bill's sponsor, called the ICC's current policies too restrictive and blamed the commission - the nation's oldest federal regulatory agency - for choking off competition in the trucking business and raising the cost of shipped goods.
Fenwick was joined at a press conference by William Coleman, former Secretary of Transportation now in private law practice in Washington, who said the legislation would mean more competition, greater efficiencies and, eventually, lower costs in the trucking business.
he bill stops short of taking away the ICC's price-fixing powers. Coleman said trucking deregulation would have to come gradually, and removing the industry's price floor at this time might be too chaotic and drastic a move.
An ICC spokesman said the commission is taking its own fresh look at existing regulations. Daniel O'Neal, who was appointed chairman of the 11 member board two months ago, said he welcomed Fenwick's concern.
Fenwick herself gave the bill little chance of passage. "If we get this through," she said, "it will be miracle.
She said the legislation is intended to "bring to the attention of Congress, the commission and the public what's going on."
The high price of trucking licenses makes entry difficult, especially for women and members of minority groups who did not own trucks when operating certificates were first distributed in 1935.
Simply applying for a license is expensive. Fenwick estimated the cost of attorney and processing fees could total $15,000;
New licenses are awarded on the basis of "necessity and convenience," not on whether an applicant could provide less expensive service.
Some goods, mostly fresh agricultural produce, can be carried freely in interstate commerce. But under a "backhaul" rule, the ICC prohibits independent owner-operators from picking up regulated goods on the return trip.
Outdated and unnecessary regulations costs the government and public $16 billion in transportation alone, Fenwick said. She also quoted a recent report by the Council on Wage and Price Stability which concluded that trucking regulation led to higher freightrates for consumers and windfall profits for truckers.