Small towns and communities would benefit, not suffer, if federal regulation of the trucking industry were relaxed, Secretary of Transportation Neil A. Goldschmidt told Congress yesterday.

"We believe that the current state of small community service is a reason for proposing change, not resisting it," Goldschmidt said in testimony before the Senate Commerce Committee. Contrary to claims of the regulated trucking industry, regulation by the Interstate Commerce Commission "does not ensure small town service now," he said.

Although the ICC - regulated carriers have a "common carrier obligation" to serve all points on their operating certificates, Goldschmidt said, there is not evidence that the ICC bars carriers from dropping small town service that is unprofitable, and carriers often abandon small community service without notifying the ICC at all.

Goldschmidt said a recent study examining the performance of 15 major ICC - regulated trucking companies in five western states found that 90 of the 127 communities of over 2,500 population supposedly served by at least one of the carriers studied weren't getting all the certificated service they were entitled to. The smaller the community, the less likely that an ICC -authorized carrier would provide the required service, he added.

Goldschmidt said a Department of Agriculture study estimated that non-ICC-regulated carriers really supply about 80 percent of the service small communities are getting.

Goldschmidt said legislation sponsored by the Administration along with Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) would make it legal for trucking companies to make intermediate stops in small communities to pick up or deliver goods even though they don't have specific ICC authority for those stops. Entry would also be eased for firms wanting to provide service to communities no longer being served by an authorized carrier or a railroad.

Offering a vigorous endorsement of the measure, Goldschmidt said it would end practices in the trucking industry that "run counter to our national energy conservation and anti-inflation goals."