The Interstate Commerce Commission has fired the latest volley in the administration's anti-inflation battle, warning railroads and trucking companies that they can no longer expect to automatically pass on the costs of wage and price increases to their customers.
In a "Policy Statement on Inflation" last week, the ICC said that "requests by carriers for rate or fare increases . . . will be scrutinized with particular care, and the pass-through of increased costs will not be permitted in the absence of a compelling revenue need."
"This is our effort to fully and completely cooperate with the administration's anti-inflation efforts," said ICC spokesman Douglas Baldwin.
He said that the ICC had coordinated its policy with Carter administration economic adviser Charles Schultze and White House aide Stuart Eizenstat.
"We looked at these pass-through increases which had been virtually automatic," Baldwin said. "and felt they were the most obviously inflationary actions we could could stop."
From now on, the ICC said, carriers submitting requests for rate increases should be prepared to show that "the increase is fully justified by cost increases" beyond the carriers' control.
In addition, the ICC said, the increases will have to be shown to be the minimum required to assure adequate, safe service and to attract capital at a reasonable cost.
And any increases, particularly those that exceed wage and price guidelines, must be fully justified on the basis of rising costs and work practices or other changes in the efficiency of operations, the ICC statement said.
The commission said it would be looking at all increase requests for their "impact on inflation," and it would also watch to see what actions might increase or decrease competition.
Previously, Baldwin said, rate increase involving reported pass-through of wage and price costs were practically rubber-stamped.