More than 400 local and short-haul truckers filled an Interstate Commerce Commission hearing room yesterday to protest new ICC deregulation proposals they say could put them out of business.
Several truckers addressed the commission, which has been holding hearings around the country on a task force report recommending deregulation of the trucking industry.
In his opening remarks, ICC chairman Dan O'Neal said "Many who would like to enter the interestate business apparently feel that their paths are blocked by what they conceive to be overly restrictive government regulations."
O'Neal said the ICC receives an average of 1,500 applications a month.
But John E. Wagner, president of the Local and Short-Haul Carriers National Conference, and a Kansas City trucker, told the commission, "Our fears are that the ICC wants to deregulate trucking too much too fast."
Wagner criticized the ICC for rejecting its role of regulator "by widening its areas of non-involvement through administrative deregulation."
Wagner said the small motor carriers were being discriminated against by the ICC by its deregulation of urban and regional trucking.
"Never in memory have we reacted to federal regulatory policy by workstoppages of violence," Wanger said."But what is at stake here is not just the future of many marginally financed trucking companies, we are talking about and defending an ideal, a doctrine of fairness that applies not only to the player but the referee."
Echoing Wagner was Donald Munday, vice president of General Motors Lines, Inc. of Roanoke.
At hearings held across the country by the ICC on the proposed deregulation policies, truckers and union officials have protested the changes.
But consumer representatives have praised the proposals as both desirable and necessary.
"The regulatory process has been turned around to protect a favored few within regulated industries rather than the public interest," said Joseph Garcia, of California's Division of Consumer Services at the San Francisco hearings last month.
ICC chairman O'Neal has said previously that he is trying to open up the ICC to more public comment on regulatory decisions.
The hearings continue today.