The Justice Department has called for ending antitrust exemptions for eight regional organizations that set freight rates for barge, bus and truck transportation.
In a filing with the Interstate Commerce Commission, which regulates rates charged for freight shipped by surface transportation, Justice called for elimination of the 30-year practice of allowing this form of legalized price fixing.
The ICC is reviewing motor carrier and rail rate-making organizations, called rate bureaus, which set uniform industrywide rates that must be approved by the ICC.
Acting Assistant Attorney General William Swope of Justice's Antitrust Division, said the rate bureaus do not serve the public interest and actually hinder price competition.
Swope said the benefits of the rate-making agreement "do not outweigh the harm it causes to the public interests protected under the antitrust laws."
The Antitrust Division has opposed each of 18 different applications of rate bureaus before the ICC since July 12.
In another development yesterday, ICC Commissioner George Stafford called for another form of deregulation in the trucking industry.
In a speech before the Transportation Law Institute at Vail, Colo., Stafford called for eliminating all controls on entry into the trucking industry.
The Interstate Commerce Act requires bus and trucking companies to prove a public need for their service before they are allowed to engage in interstate operation.
A long-time supporter of continued economic regulation, Stafford falls short of calling for wide-open free entry into the market.
"Last month," we granted 98 percent of the applications," he said. "In my opinion, no good purpose is served by maintaining some mythical standard when only 2 percent of all applications are denied."