Federal regulation of trucking which, during its illustrious career, provided a competition-free system, guaranteeing huge profits for owners and high wages for unionized workers, died January 1. Last summer, its cousin, state oversight of intrastate carriers, sustained a mortal blow as all controls on interstate firms hauling intrastate loads were abolished. Interstate Commerce Commission regulation was in its 60th year. Ravaged by the Motor Carrier Act of 1980, Washington's supervision of motor carriers suffered a long enfeeblement, leading ultimately to its demise, despite the heroic efforts of union workers to preserve their benefactor. Unfortunately for the health of federal curbs, a combination of free market economists, shippers groups, and a surprising group of liberal politicians, including Senator Ted Kennedy and President Jimmy Carter, had undermined its support system and it died, not with a bang but a whimper.
Born at the height of the New Deal in 1935 from the unlikely marriage of federal and state regulators, large trucking interests, and railroads, ICC management of motor carriers evinced a long and successful career of prescribing prices, enjoining entry, and curtailing competition. By the early 1970s, Washington bureaucrats were forcing trucks to travel empty on return trips; to carry goods on circuitous routes, adding hundreds of miles to their transport; and to distinguish between carrying ordinary horses and those destined for the slaughterhouse. During the nearly six decades of ICC rulemaking, the economy suffered hundreds of billions of dollars in waste, loss and abuse.
In addition to continued controls over household good carriers, federal regulation is survived by its adopted offspring, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. No services are planned.
Prepared by Thomas Gale Moore, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and a former member of the Council of Economic Advisers under President Ronald Reagan.