Town of Delafield v. Cent. Transp. Kriewaldt

Decision Date26 June 2020
Docket NumberNo. 2017AP2525,2017AP2525
Citation2020 WI 61,392 Wis.2d 427,944 N.W.2d 819
Parties TOWN OF DELAFIELD, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. CENTRAL TRANSPORT KRIEWALDT, Defendant-Respondent-Petitioner.
CourtWisconsin Supreme Court

For the defendant-respondent-petitioner, there were briefs filed by Pamela M. Schmidt, Michael K. Roberts, and Scopelitis, Garvin, Light, Hanson & Feary, P.C., Milwaukee.

For the plaintiff-appellant, there was a brief filed by Kimberly M. Kershek and Law Office of Kimberly Kershek, Delafield.

HAGEDORN, J., delivered the majority opinion of the Court, in which ROGGENSACK, C.J., ANN WALSH BRADLEY, ZIEGLER, and DALLET, JJ., joined. KELLY, J., filed a concurring opinion, in which REBECCA GRASSL BRADLEY, J., joined.

BRIAN HAGEDORN, J.

¶1 When spring finally arrives in Wisconsin, and roadways begin to thaw from the long winter, many municipalities impose weight limitations on certain roads especially vulnerable to deterioration during this time. The Town of Delafield did just that in March 2016. However, the federal Surface Transport and Assistance Act (STAA), along with related federal regulations, limits how states may restrict road access between interstate highways and certain destinations. This case arose when Central Transport Kriewaldt received a citation for operating a tractor-trailer in violation of the Town's seasonal weight limitation authorized by its ordinance. Central Transport contested the citation on the grounds that the limitation was preempted, and therefore disallowed, by the STAA.

¶2 We conclude that the STAA's reach in this case mandates only reasonable access. The Town's limitation did not need to be grounded solely in safety considerations, as Central Transport maintains, so long as reasonable access was provided. The record in this case reflects that a seasonal weight limitation is a normal restriction transport companies would be aware of, that adequate notice of the restriction was provided, and that a permit to travel the road was readily available. Put together, these facts show reasonable access was provided, and the Town's seasonal weight limitation was not preempted by the STAA.

I. LEGAL PRINCIPLES

¶3 In order to understand Central Transport's arguments, we need to lay some groundwork regarding preemption generally, followed by an examination of what the STAA and related federal regulations command. Once we establish what federal law requires, we compare that to the Town's implementation and enforcement of its ordinance here.

¶4 Preemption presents a question of law we review de novo. Partenfelder v. Rohde, 2014 WI 80, ¶25, 356 Wis. 2d 492, 850 N.W.2d 896. We conduct this analysis accepting the circuit court's factual findings unless they are clearly erroneous. Wis. Stat. § 805.17(2) (2017-18).1

A. Preemption Generally

¶5 The Supremacy Clause of the United States Constitution provides: "This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof ... shall be the supreme Law of the Land." U.S. Const. art. VI, cl. 2. Therefore, "state law that conflicts with federal law is ‘without effect’ "; it is preempted. Cipollone v. Liggett Grp., Inc., 505 U.S. 504, 516, 112 S.Ct. 2608, 120 L.Ed.2d 407 (1992) (quoted source omitted).

¶6 Preemption, however, is disfavored "in the absence of persuasive reasons—either that the nature of the regulated subject matter permits no other conclusion, or that the Congress has unmistakably so ordained." Chi. & N.W. Transp. Co. v. Kalo Brick & Tile Co., 450 U.S. 311, 317, 101 S.Ct. 1124, 67 L.Ed.2d 258 (1981) (quoted source omitted). This presumption against preemption is particularly strong when dealing with the historic police powers of the state. Altria Grp., Inc. v. Good, 555 U.S. 70, 77, 129 S.Ct. 538, 172 L.Ed.2d 398 (2008). Unless it is the "clear and manifest purpose of Congress," we assume these traditional areas of state regulation are not superseded by federal law. Id. Laws purporting to preempt state police power regulations are therefore given a "narrow reading." Cipollone, 505 U.S. at 518, 112 S.Ct. 2608.

¶7 The preemptive effect of any given federal law is guided by Congress's purpose. Altria Grp., Inc., 555 U.S. at 76, 129 S.Ct. 538. And that purpose is discerned through the text, aims, and structure of the federal enactment. Id. Sometimes Congress sets forth its preemptive purpose in the text of a law itself (express preemption). Id. Preemptive intent may also be implied when the federal legislation occupies the legislative field (field preemption) or results in an actual conflict with state law (conflict preemption). Id. at 76-77, 129 S.Ct. 538.

¶8 Central Transport argues that express preemption applies here. And in fact, § 31114(a) of the STAA expressly provides: "A State may not enact or enforce a law denying ... reasonable access between" certain roads and destinations. 49 U.S.C. § 31114(a) (2012) (emphasis added). This is an express preemption clause. But even when Congress expressly preempts state law, "it does not immediately end the inquiry because the question of the substance and scope of Congress' displacement of state law still remains."

Altria Grp., Inc., 555 U.S. at 76, 129 S.Ct. 538. The relevant question here is what exactly this "reasonable access" prohibition means and what it applies to. As discussed more fully below, Central Transport argues that any restriction on access must be based on safety considerations, and that the Town's seasonal weight limitation is expressly preempted because protecting the roads during the spring thaw is not a safety-based regulation.

¶9 Central Transport argues in the alternative that the STAA and related regulations indirectly preempt the Town's enforcement of a seasonal weight limitation because they actually conflict. That is, even if a seasonal weight limitation is not expressly preempted, the Town's implementation and enforcement of that limitation runs contrary to the reasonable access federal law demands. Conflict preemption occurs "when compliance with both the federal and state laws is a physical impossibility or when a state law is a barrier to the accomplishment and execution of Congress['s] objectives and purposes." Hazelton v. State Pers. Comm'n, 178 Wis. 2d 776, 787, 505 N.W.2d 793 (Ct. App. 1993).

B. The STAA and Accompanying Federal Regulations

¶10 The portion of the STAA that requires states to provide reasonable access to commercial motor vehicles is found in 49 U.S.C. § 31114. Subsection (a) provides that a state "may not enact or enforce a law denying to a commercial motor vehicle subject to this subchapter or subchapter I of this chapter reasonable access between" the interstate highway system as described in § 31114(a)(1)2 and certain locations described in § 31114(a)(2) (and discussed further below). § 31114(a). This requires some unpacking.

¶11 Section 31114(a) sets the general legal standard by prohibiting states from denying what the law calls "reasonable access." The prohibition applies "to a commercial motor vehicle subject to this subchapter or subchapter I of this chapter." Id. And subchapter I defines a "commercial motor vehicle" in part as "a self-propelled or towed vehicle used on the highways in commerce principally to transport passengers or cargo, if the vehicle—(A) has a gross vehicle weight rating or gross vehicle weight of at least 10,001 pounds, whichever is greater." 49 U.S.C. § 31101(1).3 The tractor-trailer in this case fits this definition; it was used in commerce to transport cargo and met the weight requirement.

¶12 Section 31114(a)(2) details the potential destinations from the highway for which states must maintain reasonable access:

terminals, facilities for food, fuel, repairs, and rest, and points of loading and unloading for household goods carriers, motor carriers of passengers, any towaway trailer transporter combination (as defined in section 31111(a)), or any truck tractor-semitrailer combination in which the semitrailer has a length of not more than 28.5 feet and that generally operates as part of a vehicle combination described in section 31111(c) of this title.

49 U.S.C. § 31114(a)(2). Although its grammatical clarity will not win any awards, the sentence structure and punctuation4 suggest three separate categories of destinations:

• terminals;
• facilities for food, fuel, repairs, and rest; and
• points of loading and unloading for four specific types of carriers:
• household goods carriers,
• motor carriers of passengers,
• any towaway trailer transporter combination (as defined in § 31111(a)), or
• any truck tractor-semitrailer combination in which the semitrailer has a length of not more than 28.5 feet and that generally operates as part of a vehicle combination described in § 31111(c).

¶13 This reading is confirmed by the federal regulation tied to this provision, which stands as a near word-for-word copy of the statutory language. The regulation begins, "No State may enact or enforce any law denying reasonable access to vehicles with dimensions authorized by the STAA between the [national highway network] and terminals and facilities for food, fuel, repairs, and rest." 23 C.F.R. § 658.19(a) (2018). The conjunction "and" separates and therefore categorizes terminals on the one hand, and facilities for food, fuel, repairs, and rest on the other hand.5 Notably, a period follows, and a new sentence begins:

In addition, no State may enact or enforce any law denying reasonable access between the [national highway network] and points of loading and unloading to household goods carriers, motor carriers of passengers, and any truck tractor-semitrailer combination in which the semitrailer has a length not to exceed 28 feet (28.5 feet where allowed pursuant to § 658.13(b)(5) of this part) and which generally operates as part of a vehicle combination described in §§ 658.13(b)(5) and 658.15(a) of this part.

Id. This confirms that the last category of destinations,...

To continue reading

Request your trial
3 cases
  • Teigen v. Wis. Elections Comm'n
    • United States
    • Wisconsin Supreme Court
    • July 8, 2022
    ...¶18, 951 N.W.2d 819 ). ¶13 Lastly, DRW raises a federal preemption argument. Preemption presents a question of law. Town of Delafield v. Cent. Transp. Kriewaldt, 2020 WI 61, ¶4, 392 Wis. 2d 427, 944 N.W.2d 819 (citing Partenfelder v. Rohde, 2014 WI 80, ¶25, 356 Wis. 2d 492, 850 N.W.2d 896 )......
  • Trump v. Biden
    • United States
    • Wisconsin Supreme Court
    • December 14, 2020
    ...word or phrase used more than once in the same act is understood ‘to carry the same meaning each time.’ " Town of Delafield v. Central Transport Kriewaldt, 2020 WI 61, ¶15 n.6, 392 Wis. 2d 427, 944 N.W.2d 819 (quoting State ex rel. DNR v. Wis. Court of Appeals, Dist. IV, 2018 WI 25, ¶30, 38......
  • State ex rel. Zignego v. Wis. Elections Comm'n
    • United States
    • Wisconsin Supreme Court
    • April 9, 2021
    ...federal law conflicts with state law, that raises a different kind of analysis, possibly implicating preemption. See Town of Delafield v. Cent. Transp. Kriewaldt, 2020 WI 61, ¶¶5-7, 392 Wis. 2d 427, 944 N.W.2d 819 (setting out preemption principles). No such arguments have been made here.¶3......

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT