The House Public Works and Transportation Committee approved a bill yesterday designed to reduce federal regulation of the intercity bus industry.
The measure, approved by voice vote, follows the passage of regulatory reform laws in the airline, rail and trucking industries over the last four years. But the committee's bus bill appears to retain more federal control over the bus industry than the former transportation laws.
The Reagan administration took no formal position on the bill, reportedly hoping to get a stronger deregulation measure on the Senate side. In particular, sources said the administration will seek a more procompetitive provision on entry to the bus industry and seek to end the ability of bus companies to get together in rate bureaus and fix bus fares. It also is said to want a provision fixing a date when federal regulation of the bus industry would end altogether.
In May, Transportation Secretary Drew Lewis had endorsed extensive deregulation of the intercity bus industry, telling the House that "we see no need to continue any federal economic regulation of the industry."
Rep. Glenn Anderson (D-Calif.), the bill's sponsor, and its other supporters said the measure provides a middle ground between the various interests it would affect. The bill that emerged yesterday would:
Make it easier for bus companies to enter new routes by requiring the Interstate Commerce Commission to grant operating rights to fit carriers unless a protesting firm demonstrates that the proposed service is inconsistent with the public interest. However, the ICC would have to consider such things as the effect of the new service on small communities and commuter bus services, the "cumulative effect of similar pending applications," and whether the existing carrier's regular service would be impaired in a substantial manner by the proposed service if such issues are raised.
Establish a zone of rate freedom allowing a bus firm to raise fares by 10 percent or lower them by 20 percent without ICC interference. After Jan. 1, 1984, bus firms no longer could meet collectively to set rates for individual routes. However, they could continue to vote on general rate increases and decreases.
Give the ICC the authority to preempt state decisions on a case-by-case basis if it determines that a state action was an unreasonable burden on interstate commerce.