659 F.2d 452 (5th Cir. 1981), 81-4026, American Trucking Associations, Inc. v. I. C. C.

Docket Nº:81-4026.
Citation:659 F.2d 452
Party Name:AMERICAN TRUCKING ASSOCIATIONS, INC., et al., Petitioners, v. INTERSTATE COMMERCE COMMISSION and the United States of America, Respondents.
Case Date:October 01, 1981
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit

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659 F.2d 452 (5th Cir. 1981)




America, Respondents.

No. 81-4026.

Unit A [*]

United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit

October 1, 1981

As Corrected on Denial of Rehearing Oct. 23, 1981.

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Robert J. Grady, ICC, Kenneth P. Kolson, Robert B. Nicholson, Appellate Section, Antitrust Div., Dept. of Justice, Richard A. Allen, ICC, Washington, D. C., for respondents.

Serby & Mitchell, P. C., Atlanta, Ga., for Brannan, Owen, Refrigerated.

Brooks & Matthews, Hugh T. Matthews, Dallas, Tex., for Steere.

Perry, Crockett, Morrison & Starling, Donald B. Morrison, Jackson, Miss., for Merchants.

Nelson J. Cooney, Gen. Counsel, Alan J. Thiemann, William H. Shawn, Washington, D. C., for American Trucking, Red Arrow, Merchants and Steere.

Robinson, Felts, Starnes & Latting, P. C., Phillip Robinson, Austin, Tex., for Central, Great Western, Miller and Saia.

Phinney, Hallman, Pulley & Coke, Leroy Hallman, Dallas, Tex., for Frozen and Southwestern.

Alan F. Wohlstetter, Washington, D. C., for Aero Mayflower et al.

Todd A. Peterman, Washington, D. C., for American Movers Conference.

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James M. Doherty, Austin, Tex., for Moss Trucking Co.

Alan E. Serby, Atlanta, Ga., for Brannan, Owen, Refrigerated and Motor Carrier Lawyers Assoc.

Keith G. O'Brien, Edward K. Wheeler, Washington, D. C., for International Broth. of Teamsters, Chauffeurs, Warehousemen and Helpers.

Eugene C. Ewald, Bloomfield Hills, Mich., for National Auto. Transporters.

Petition for Review of Orders of the Interstate Commerce Commission.

Before RUBIN, RANDALL and TATE, Circuit Judges.

ALVIN B. RUBIN, Circuit Judge:

Responding promptly to the enactment of the Motor Carrier Act of 1980, the Interstate Commerce Commission adopted rules and a policy statement dealing with applications to broaden the definition of commodities that could be carried and the territory that could be served by carriers under existing operating authorities. In addition, the Commission issued a policy statement dealing with grants of operating authority to new applicants. These ICC actions are challenged by the trade associations whose members are affected, a union whose members drive the trucks operated by carriers affected by the changes, and by a number of individual firms. 1

The adversarial process leads to the positioning of counsel at extremes. Those who object to the Commission's two pronouncements attack them as total arrogations of legislative authority. The Commission, however, defends every line of its attempt to frame a new transportation policy. Cognizant of the statute's generality, the scope of the two statements, and the importance of the new policy to the industry, its employees, and the national economy, we have not attempted to assess these two statements on the broad all-or-nothing basis urged by advocates doing no more than what they perceive to be their appointed role; instead we have measured the specifics of the statements against the statute, taking always into account the deference due the Commission as a result both of its experience and the congressional delegation of authority to it.

After full review of the Commission's actions, we conclude that its procedural rules conform to the requirements of the Administrative Procedure Act, that its policy statements are rules clad in advisory garb, and that some of these rules lie within the Commission's discretion but others transgress its statutory mandate. We, therefore, remand to permit the Commission to enact rules that do not exceed the statutory bounds. Because of the length of this opinion, we set forth an outline in the footnote to facilitate reference to parts of the opinion. 2

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The Motor Carrier Act of 1980 3 became effective on July 1, 1980. After notice and opportunity for comment the Commission issued a policy statement entitled "Acceptable Forms of Requests for Operating Authority," 4 relating entirely to new applications for authority. Ex Parte No. 55 (Sub-No. 43A). 5 On the same day, the Commission announced rules and guidelines for filing restriction removal applications. "Removal of Restrictions From Authorities of Motor Carriers of Property," Ex Parte No. MC-142 (Sub-No. 1). 6 For convenience we will refer to the policy statement concerning new applications as the New Certificate Statement, and to the rules and guidelines for removing restrictions from existing certificates as the Restriction Removal Statement.

The attacks on these announcements have two major predicates: the ICC exceeded its statutory authority by requiring or permitting carriers to obtain overly broad operating authority, and the Commission's announcements, whether rules or policy statements, were promulgated in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C. § 500, et seq. To understand these challenges, it is necessary to review the legislative background.


Before 1935, the Supreme Court had held that the Commerce Clause barred the states from requiring licenses for interstate motor carriage 7 except for safety purposes. 8 By the time of the depression, the trucking industry was described as anarchic, beset by cut-throat competition, and infested by operators who lacked training, finances, and scruples. The depression accentuated the problem with cheap labor, trucks, and fuel available for new ventures. Many states, carriers, customers, and political observers, therefore, sought federal regulation of interstate motor carriers. 9

The Motor Carrier Act of 1935 10 was designed to bring stability to the industry under the "restraining hand" of the federal government 11 by requiring carriers to obtain licenses certificates of public convenience and necessity for common carriers and permits for contract carriers as conditions precedent to instituting any service. The federal government could thus control the number of competing carriers and would have continuing jurisdiction over them to insure that they provided safe and responsive service. See United States v. Drum, 368 U.S. 370, 374-375, 82 S.Ct. 408, 410-11, 7 L.Ed.2d 360, 363-64 (1962).

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After more than forty years of regulation Congress undertook an intensive study of motor carrier regulation because of the continuing growth of the industry, its development of techniques to deal with regulation, the consequent burgeoning of anticompetitive practices, and the wastefulness of its restrictive operating practices. 12 For more than eighteen months the House Committee on Public Works and Transportation studied what it called "one of the most complex issues" it had ever considered. 13 For more than a year the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation conducted what it described as "one of the most intensive inquiries" it had ever conducted. 14 Both committees recommended the adoption of a new transportation policy. Their recommendations resulted in passage of the Motor Carrier Act.

The Motor Carrier Act was adopted as "part of the continuing effort by Congress to reduce unnecessary regulation by the Federal Government." 15 It declares that the national policy concerning transportation by motor carriers is "to promote competitive and efficient transportation services." 16 The goals of the national transportation policy include "meeting the needs of shippers, receivers, and consumers; allowing price flexibility; encouraging greater efficiency, particularly in the use of fuel; and providing service to small communities." 17 The Act purposely gives the Commission "explicit direction for regulation of the motor carrier industry and well-defined parameters within which it may act pursuant to congressional policy." 18 Furthermore, the statute admonishes the Commission that it "should not attempt to go beyond the powers vested in it by the Interstate Commerce Act and other legislation enacted by Congress." 19 Moreover, "resulting changes should be implemented with the least amount of disruption to the transportation system consistent with the scope of the reforms enacted." 20


All of the issues in this case turn on interpretation of the Motor Carrier Act. The parties impart different meanings to even its clearest terms and buttress the nuances they find by resorting to legislative history. Here, as in every case involving

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statutory construction, the starting point is the language of the statute itself. Greyhound Corp. v. Mt. Hood Stages, Inc., 437 U.S. 322, 330, 98 S.Ct. 2370, 2375, 57 L.Ed.2d 239, 246 (1978). If the statutory words are clear, there is neither need nor warrant to look elsewhere. Packard Motor Car Co. v. NLRB, 330 U.S. 485, 492, 67 S.Ct. 789, 793, 91 L.Ed. 1040, 1050 (1947); Glenn v. United States, 571 F.2d 270, 271 (5th Cir. 1978). Congress adopted and the President signed only the act itself. The reports of committees and the congressional debates did not become law. A court should depart from the official text of the statute and seek extrinsic aids to its meaning only if the language is not clear, United States v. Missouri Pac. R.R. Co., 278 U.S. 269, 278, 49 S.Ct. 133, 136, 73 L.Ed. 322, 376-77 (1929), or if apparent clarity of language leads to absurdity of result when applied, United States v. American Trucking Ass'ns, 310 U.S. 534, 543-544, 60 S.Ct. 1059, 1063-64, 84 L.Ed. 1345, 1350-51 (1940).

The need for caution in relying on legislative commentary is exemplified by the legislative history of this Act. The House...

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