Due to a typographical error in yesterday's Business & Finance section the Senate Commerce Committee vote on trucking deregulation was incorrectly reported. The vote was 13 to 4.
The Senate Commerce Committee passed a trucking deregulation packing 13 to 14 yesterday, increasing the prospects of full Senate consideration of the controversial legislation this spring.
The vote was hailed immediately as a victory by trucking deregulation advocates, a coalition that includes the Carter administration; Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), a long-time critic of the trucking regulatory apparatus; and consumer group leaders.
The bill, if enacted into law, would make entry into the trucking business easier, lift the antitrust immunity that permits trucks to set single-line rates jointly, end rate regulation for a number of food cargoes, and provide ratemaking freedom for the industry.
But the final vote tally, which came during the second day of the bill's mark-up, does not reflect the intense debate and accompanying lobbying on the issue, nor yesterday's four-hour session.
The trucking industry and some shippers' groups lobbied strenuously against the bill. But the only committee members to vote against the bill were Sens. Warren Magnuson (D-Wash.), Ernest Hollings (D-S.C.), Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), and Howell Heflin (D-Ala.)
The bill which was introduced by committee Chairman Howard Cannon (D-Nev.) and Sen. Robert Packwood (R-Ore.), was less sweeping than an earlier deregulation bill assembled by administration officials and Kennedy.
In particular, the the Carter-Kennedy bill would have lifed all antitrust immunity, which includes single-time and joint rates.
The antitrust provisions, even in their less controversial form in the Cannon-Packwood bill, provided the measure's toughest test with attempts to gut that provision stymied by 9-to-8 votes yesterday and last Thursday.
Qualifying the limited lifting of the antitrust immunity is the fact that the legislation calls for establishment of a commission made up of members of Congress, industry officials, shippers, government officials and others. The commission will be charged with studying the effects of lifting the antitrust immunity and will report in Congress before that provision goes into effect in 1983.
Two important amendments were added to the bill. One introduced by Sen. Adlai Stevenson (D-ill.), restored the administration's broader provision exempting almost all food items from rate regulations.
The second, introduced by Sen. John Danforth (R-Mo.), expanded the rate flexibility the legislation gives to carriers and would factor into rate increases inflation as measured by the producer price index.
That provision would allow trucking firms to raise their rates within a 10 percent zone of reasonablness and by the inflation rate.
Transportation Secretary Neil Goldschmidt called the bill "exceptional," but said the department would have to study the Danforth pricing proposal.
Kennedy, on the other hand, while calling the bill a "very substantial reduction" in trucking regulation, said he hopes Congress goes farther and lifts the antitrust immunity for all truck ratemaking. The trucking industry should be treated no differently under the law than other American businesses," Kennedy said.
Cannon, while pleased with the measure's passage, said he was concerned about the Danforth proposal "taking the lid off" truck prices. "That's what we're really doing." Cannon also said he hoped the bill would be taken up by the Senate next month.
A House committee is expected to take up later this month a trucking bill that the administration has criticized harshly clouding the future of trucking deregulation.