The Senate Commerce Committee moved yesterday to end more than 50 years of regulation over intercity bus travel.
By a 15-to-1 vote, the committee agreed to deregulate the industry to make it easier for new firms to enter the business, for old firms to abandon unprofitable routes and for all firms to raise or lower prices without strict government scrutiny. The legislation also would bar bus companies from meeting privately and fixing prices, as they are now allowed to do under an exemption from the antitrust laws.
The House already has approved a similar measure, and Senate passage is almost assured because the bill is supported by the industry, by the administration and by the Interstate Commerce Commission, which regulates interstate bus lines. The National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners opposes the measure, however, because in many cases it preempts state authority to regulate the bus industry.
The intercity bus industry is the only major regulated transportation industry. Because rural areas are heavily dependent on the intercity bus industry, many congressmen have been reluctant up to now to deregulate the industry, fearful that any government relaxation will lead to a reduction in service in the least profitable rural areas.