Deregulation of the trucking industry may actually prove beneficial to small communities, according to an independent study to be released today by Sen. Howard Cannon (D-Nev.), chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee.

The report challenges as industry contention that under deregulation many small communities would lose trucking business because the service would be too costly to provide.

"The impact of total deregulation of motor carriage on small communities is surprisingly undramatic," the study states. "Effects are not specific to small communities but are largely those which would be felt throughout the country. On balance, they are positive effects - including a decline in general rate levels and an increase in the variety of price/service options available to shippers."

Conducted for the committee by Policy and Management Associates, Inc., a Boston Consulting firm, the study sampled 205 small communities with populations between 1,000 and 25,000 persons in all eight motor carrier regions.

Cannon said the study did not represent the committee's position on deregulation, but offered "better understanding of the industry itself and specifically to address a number of issues raised during the public debate over trucking deregulation."

The report found that a large percentage of shippers in small communities - are generally pleased with current levels of service.

The report also countered the findings of another recent study by Harvard University Prof. Daryl Wyckoff, which found that economic deregulation of the trucking industry could have a negative effect on safety regulation.

While admitting that the larger, regulated carriers can afford to give more attention to safety-related matters Cannon's report concluded, "Overall, however, it seems unlikely that current economic regulation is a cost-effective means of promoting highway safety."