The Carter administration's regulatory streamlining efforts will concentrate on the transportation industry this year, according to a spokesman, with primary emphasis on airline and trucking deregulation.
Although an airline deregulation bill is already before Congress, Harrison Wellford, the Office of Management and Budget official who is heading up the administration reorganization efforts, said yesterday that trucking "will benext."
He added, however; that trucking deregulation will be harder to achieve than airlines, because there is no direct fare issue that the public can relate to.
Calling the Interstate Commerce Commission a "graveyard of reform ever since the Kennedy administration," Wellford said his staff will be sending the president a decision memo within two weeks recommending three possible courses of action in trucking regulation reform:
Administrative changes within the ICC, with no legislative efforts.
Some legislative revisions, in areas such as entry into the industry, rate bureaus, and back-hauling problems, coupled with internal ICC administrative changes.
A comprehensive rewriting of the ICC statute to eliminate anti-competitive clauses and practices.
Wellford said the third possibility is probably not practical this year, because of the makeup of congressional committees. Although he would not elaborate, it is generally known that the administration anticipates problems from, among others, Sen. Howard Cannon (D-Nev.).
The second option is the mostly likely to be adopted by President Carter, said Wellford. He added that there is a possibility that Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), who chairs the Antitrust and Monopoly Subcommittee of the Senate judiciary Committee, may hold hearings on trucking deregulation this year.
But, Wellford added, Kennedy does not want to jeopardize passage of the airline deregulation bill. "Some say that the war on airlines is about all you can expect from the Hill is one year," Wellford said.
He said that the industry entry problem, the rate bureau situation, and back-hauling are three areas of concern for the administration.
"It now takes $50,000 in attorney's fees and two years of appearances before the ICC to get into the household goods moving business," he said, "and even then you are not sure you are going to make it."
He said rate bureaus, which set the freight rates for trucking by regions, are "designed to protect the weakest members in every area."
And, back-hauling present tremendous problems as well. The term refers to the situation that leaves many truckers with loads to take in one direction unable - due to regulation - to take any load back, and thus must return to their base with empty trucks.
ICC Chairman Dan O'Neal, who already has taken steps toward implementing some procedural changes at the commission," he said last night. "I've been happy with the general support shown for the agency's efforts for the White House."
O'Neal said, "The motor carrier area is ripe for reform, and I think if any entity in town, and I think if any entity in town should know what changes should be made, it's this agency."