Idaho Public Utilities Commission v. V-1 Oil Co.

Decision Date28 March 1966
Docket NumberNo. 9678,V-1,9678
Citation412 P.2d 581,90 Idaho 415
PartiesIDAHO PUBLIC UTILITIES COMMISSION, Plaintiff-Respondent, v.OIL COMPANY, Defendant-Appellant.
CourtIdaho Supreme Court

Albaugh, Bloem, Smith & Pike, Idaho Falls, for appellant.

Allan G. Shepard, Atty. Gen., and Larry D. Ripley, Asst. Atty. Gen., Boise, for respondent.

SMITH, Justice.

This is an appeal from an order of the Idaho Public Utilities Commission revoking the motor carrier operating rights of appellant, V-1 Oil Company, and from the Commission's order denying a rehearing.

On or about January 15, 1964, appellant submitted to Idaho Public Utilities Commission (hereafter sometimes referred to as the Idaho Commission), an instrument in the form of an affidavit of appellant's secretary-treasurer stating the conclusion that appellant, 'is not subject to the operating authority granted by the Interstate Commerce Commission.' On May 8, 1964, the Idaho Commission filed a complaint with itself, alleging that appellant had failed to file its operating authority as an interstate carrier granted by the Interstate Commerce Commission, or an affidavit of exemption therefrom, as required by I.C. § 61-802B, 1 and set the matter for hearing.

On June 4, 1964, appellant's counsel wrote to the Interstate Commerce Commission, requesting (1) whether the Interstate Commerce Commission issued affidavits of exemption from Commission operating authority, and (2) whether it had given its Boise, Idaho, district director authority to issue such affidavits of exemption. The federal Commission, through its Bureau of Motor Carriers, replied:

'It has become rather common for Bureau representatives in the field to provide information of this nature for the use of those States that require carriers operating therein to provide evidence of operating authority granted by this Commission or that operations are performed under an exemption provision for which operating authority is not required. Where requests for such information are received field supervisors of this Bureau or other responsible Bureau representatives are authorized to inform the inquirers or those concerned that the carrier has indicated that it is engaged in transportation either as a private carrier or within an exemption provided in the Interstate Commerce Act, if that be the case. Advice is further given that motor carriers in either of these categories are subject to regulation by the Commission only as to safety and hours of service of drivers. * * *'

The parties stipulated that the Idaho Commission will accept a form letter addressed to it signed by the federal Commission's district director or by a representative of the Commission's Bureau of Motor Carriers, as compliance with I.C. § 61-802B, which letter the Idaho Commission 'construes to be an affidavit of exemption as required by * * * the Idaho Code,' the body of such letter, reading as follows:

'The motor carrier listed above has certified to this office that it is engaged in transportation in interstate commerce under the following classification

Section 203(a) (17) Private Carrier _ _

Section 203(b) Exempt Carrier _ _

'Carriers in this classification are subject only to the Motor Carrier Safety Regulations.'

The Idaho Commission thereupon found that the requirement of an 'affidavit of exemption', as required by I.C. § 61-802B, 'is interpreted to mean a letter of exemption (set forth above) from the Interstate Commerce Commission;' also, that appellant had refused to apply to the federal Commission for such a letter, which the Commission will supply to a qualified carrier requesting such letter. The Idaho Commission thereupon entered its Order No. 7624, dated January 5, 1965, revoking appellant's operating rights in Idaho.

On February 24, 1965, the Idaho Commission, upon entering its Order No. 7666, denying appellants' petition for a rehearing, found that appellant had offered no new evidence; also, under the Commission's interpretation of I.C. § 61-802B, appellant had continued in its refusal to supply the 'letter of exemption' from the Interstate Commerce Commission and was in violation of I.C. § 61-802B.

Appellant assigns as error the Idaho Commission's interpretation of 'affidavit of exemption,' required by I.C. § 61-802B, to mean a letter, as aforesaid, from the Interstate Commerce Commission.

Appellant contends that the legislature knew that the Interstate Commerce Commission did not issue affidavits of exemption and that therefore the legislature must have intended that the carrier would furnish and file such an affidavit, thus to comply with the statutory requirement. We do not determine whether a proper affidavit filed by the carrier would constitute compliance with the statute.

A construction given a statute by executive or administrative officers of the state is entitled to great weight and will be followed by the court unless there are cogent reasons for holding otherwise. Services, Inc. v. Neill, 73 Idaho 330, 252 P.2d 190 (1953); McCall v. Potlatch Forests, 69 Idaho 410, 208 P.2d 799 (1949); Breckenridge v. Johnston, 62 Idaho 121, 108 P.2d 833 (1940); Ada County v. Bottolfsen, 61 Idaho 363, 102 P.2d 287 (1940).

The primary function of the appellate court in construing a statute is to ascertain the legislative intent and give effect thereto. Knight v. Employment Security Agency, 88 Idaho 262, 398 P.2d 643 (1965); Messenger v. Burns, 86 Idaho 26, 382 P.2d 913 (1963); Lebrecht v. Union Indemnity Co., 53 Idaho 228, 22 P.2d 1066, 89 A.L.R. 640 (1933).

An examination of I.C. § 61-802B shows that the legislature intended that an interstate carrier, operating upon public highways in this state, must register with the Idaho Public Utilities Commission its operating authority granted by the Interstate Commerce Commission, or acceptable evidence, in the form of an affidavit, if exempted from regulation by the federal Commission. However, that section of the statute must be construed in pari materia with I.C. § 9-315 which inter alia, provides that acts of the United States may be proved 'by the records of the departments of the United States, certified by the heads of those departments respectively,' and the documents in the departments of the United States government may be proven 'by the certificate of the legal custodian thereof.'

We are not here concerned with the method of registration with the Idaho Commission of an interstate carrier's operating authority granted by the Interstate Commerce Commission; but rather with a method, other than by an affidavit, acceptable to the Idaho Commission, whereby the carrier may show that it is exempted from the requirement of operating authority granted by the federal Commission. Hence the issue is whether the Interstate Commerce Commission, through its district director, or its Bureau of Motor Carriers, may certify, by a method acceptable to the Idaho Commission, the absence of an interstate carrier's operating authority granted by the federal Commission or, stated another way, that the carrier is exempted therefrom.

We are constrained to the view that the showing which the Idaho Commission would accept of appellant's exemption from regulation by the Interstate Commerce Commission, to be furnished by its district director or its Bureau of Motor Carriers, is authorized by I.C. § 9-315, and is acceptable as a prima facie showing of appellant's exempt status. That showing is from the federal agency empowered to regulate appellant as an interstate carrier and to exempt it from regulation so long as it carries on in an exempt status.

Appellant assigns as error the finding of the Idaho Commission to the effect that it has authority to regulate and issue operating right and authority to an interstate private carrier (appellant being a private carrier).

Appellant asserts that inasmuch as the Constitution of the United States gives to the Congress exclusive control over interstate commerce, U.S.Constitution, Art. I, § 8, a state may only interfere with the free flow of commerce when such interference or regulation is reasonably and primarily adopted to promote the health, safety and morals of the public; and that the only purpose of I.C. § 61-802B, requiring an interstate carrier to file its operating authority of the Interstate Commerce Commission with the State of Idaho or to file an 'affidavit of exemption' therefrom, is so that the Idaho Commission 'may investigate and determine whether or not an interstate carrier is operating in accordance with the laws and regulations of the United States of America,' appellant contending that by authority of U.S.C.A., Tit. 49, § 304(c), the United States has preempted that area.

The Idaho Commission, in the enforcement of I.C. § 61-802B, is merely carrying out the directive of the legislature that interstate carriers who use the highways of this state must register with the Commission their operating authority granted by the federal Commission, or exemption therefrom. The law does not cast upon the Idaho Commission the duty to determine whether the carrier is operating in accordance with the laws and regulations of the United States.

While the legislative purpose of I.C. § 61-802B is not therein defined, nevertheless the purpose of such a statute rests in the police power of the state. That view is supported by Lloyd A. Fry Roofing Co. v. Wood, 344 U.S. 157, 73 S.Ct. 204, 97 L.Ed. 168 (1952); that case involved the construction of § 11 of the Arkansas...

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