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AMERICAN TRUCKING ASSNS., INC. v. LARSON

June 10, 1981

AMERICAN TRUCKING ASSOCIATIONS, INC., Pennsylvania Motor Truck Association, Maryland Motor Truck Association, Coastal Tank Lines, Inc., CRST, Inc., Smith Transfer Corp., Ryder Truck Lines, Inc., and Preston Trucking Corp., Plaintiffs,
v.
Thomas D. LARSON, Secretary of the Department of Transportation of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, et al., Defendants, v. Steamship Operators Intermodal Committee, Plaintiff-Intervenor



The opinion of the court was delivered by: HERMAN

OPINION AND ORDER

I. INTRODUCTION

 Plaintiffs initiated this action to challenge the constitutionality of section 4703(a)(2) of the Pennsylvania Motor Vehicle Code, 75 Pa.C.S.A. § 4703(a)(2), as amended, Act of June 18, 1980, No. 68, 1980 Pennsylvania Legislative Service 191, which requires all motor carrier vehicles *fn1" operating on the highways of Pennsylvania to display "a currently valid certificate of inspection" issued by Pennsylvania or another state. *fn2" Thus, under the Act all such vehicles, whether in interstate or intrastate commerce and whether registered or not registered in Pennsylvania, must comply with the periodic inspection law of some state.

 Plaintiff American Trucking Associations, Inc. ("ATA") located in Washington, D.C., is a federation composed of state trucking associations such as Plaintiffs Pennsylvania Motor Truck Association and Maryland Motor Truck Association. The remaining Plaintiffs Coastal Tank Lines, Inc., CRST, Inc., Smith Transfer Corp., Ryder Truck Lines, Inc. and Preston Trucking Corp. conduct trucking operations in interstate commerce by motor carrier vehicles that haul various commodities including chemicals, petroleum products, iron and steel products, perishable goods, and other general commodities. *fn3" Plaintiff-Intervenor Steamship Operators Intermodal Committee ("SOIC") is an unincorporated association whose members are common carriers by water and are engaged in the intermodal transportation of containerized cargo in the interstate and foreign commerce of the United States. Among SOIC's thirty-nine members are Sea-Land Service, United States Line, Farrell Lines, Maersk Line, Barber Lines, Orient Overseas Container Line, Zim Israel and Moore-McCormick Lines. The Defendant public officials, empowered to administer and enforce the statute, are the Secretary of the Department of Transportation, the Attorney General of the Commonwealth, and the Commissioner of the Pennsylvania State Police.

 ATA and SOIC contend that the inspection provision at issue here imposes an enormous burden upon interstate commerce and that the alleged contribution to highway safety is purely illusory. Furthermore, ATA claims that the statute is vague, and thus, violates the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment because it allows administrative employees of the Commonwealth to use unfettered discretion in the interpretation and enforcement of the provision. In addition, SOIC contends that the statute imposes an arbitrary classification without a rational basis and that the state has insufficient inspection stations to inspect all the vehicles which would have to be inspected under the law.

 The complaint was filed on August 18, 1980 asking for injunctive relief and for a judgment declaring unconstitutional section 4703(a)(2) of the Pennsylvania Motor Vehicle Code, 75 Pa.C.S.A. § 4703(a)(2) as amended. At the same time Plaintiffs asked for a preliminary injunction and a temporary restraining order enjoining the enforcement of the section in question.

 After hearing, the temporary restraining order was granted and on September 2, Steamship Operators Intermodal Committee was permitted to intervene.

 Beginning on September 8 a four-day hearing was held on the request for a preliminary injunction, the trial on the merits having been advanced and consolidated with this hearing. The preliminary injunction was granted at the end of the hearing on September 12, and November 3 was the date fixed for further hearing on the merits.

 After five days of further hearings, the studying of briefs and oral argument and the full consideration of all of the facts and the law relative thereto, the court concludes and its judgment is that 75 Pa.C.S.A. § 4703(a)(2) imposes an unconstitutional burden on interstate commerce and accordingly a declaratory judgment and a permanent injunction against the enforcement of 75 Pa.C.S.A. § 4703(a)(2) will issue.

 II. FINDINGS OF FACT

 Pursuant to 75 Pa.C.S.A. § 4703(a)(2), all motor carrier vehicles operating on Pennsylvania highways must display a currently valid certificate of inspection. *fn4" This certificate can be obtained through compliance with the inspection laws of Pennsylvania or another state. *fn5" Although considerable controversy existed concerning which states have inspection programs that would fulfill the requirements of the statute, the evidence demonstrated that 25 states and the District of Columbia have some type of periodic inspection program. *fn6" Six of these states, however, exempt interstate motor carrier vehicles subject to regulation by the Federal Bureau of Motor Carrier Safety ("BMCS") from the requirements of that state's inspection law. *fn7" Several other states have atypical inspection procedures, such as New Jersey, which requires inspection for registration, *fn8" or Maryland, which requires inspection only in the event of retitling with an undated certificate of inspection given upon request. *fn9" None of these states, however, require inspection of vehicles registered in another state. Regardless of these inspection programs as they now exist, approximately 231,000 tractors and 700,000 trailers, including chassis owned by members of SOIC, are currently not required to be inspected by any state, and thus, if operated in Pennsylvania would be subject to the Pennsylvania inspection scheme. *fn10"

 The purported purpose of this inspection provision is to improve highway safety in Pennsylvania. *fn11" The Commonwealth's inspection program for motor carrier vehicles includes a periodic verification of the vehicle's registration and an inspection of the vehicle's brakes, tires, wheels, glazing, mirrors, operating controls, lighting, body, sheet metal, and the suspension, steering, fuel, exhaust and electrical systems. *fn12" In selective and random highway checks conducted by the Federal Bureau of Motor Carrier Safety and the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation of commercial interstate vehicles, between 40 and 60 percent of such vehicles were found hazardous and placed out of service. *fn13" Yet, during 1979, only 8.80 percent of the motor carrier vehicles involved in accidents had a vehicle failure cited as a contributing cause. *fn14" Thus, no relationship is shown to exist between mechanical defects in vehicles and accidents caused by such vehicles. *fn15" Similar evidence demonstrates that tractor-trailer combinations from non-inspecting states did not have a statistically disproportionate percentage of accidents than tractor-trailer combinations registered in inspection states. Although 45.48 percent of all tractors were registered in inspection states, they accounted for 43.84 percent of the fatal accidents in 1979 involving tractor-trailers. Likewise, while 40.66 percent of all tractors were registered in non-inspection states, 37.94 percent of the fatal accidents in 1979 involved such tractor-trailers. Only tractors from states with an interstate inspection exception exceeded their proportion of the tractor population with 13.86 percent of tractor registrations but 18.22 percent of all fatal accidents. *fn16" This evidence also suggests that no correlation exists between mandatory periodical inspections and highway safety. *fn17"

 Indeed, semiannual or annual inspections of high mileage vehicles such as motor carrier vehicles are insufficient to discover and correct mechanical defects. Trucking companies would have to continue in-house inspections. *fn18" Such inspections might consist of the mandatory systematic inspection, repair and maintenance of all motor vehicles subject to BMCS control. Under BMCS regulations, every motor carrier must require its drivers to prepare a report at the completion of each day's work with the vehicle covering at least the following parts and accessories: service brakes, including trailer brake connections; parking (hand) brakes; steering mechanism; lighting devices and reflectors; tires; horn; windshield wipers; rear vision mirrors; coupling devices; wheels and rims; and emergency equipment. 49 C.F.R. § 396.11. Any defects or deficiencies affecting the safety of operation of the motor vehicle or resulting in its mechanical breakdown must be reported by the driver. Before the motor carrier vehicle may be operated again, any such defects or deficiencies must be repaired and a certification to that effect submitted. Id. § 396.11(c). Before a driver takes out a motor carrier vehicle, he must under § 396.13 visually inspect it, satisfy himself that it is in safe operating condition, review the most recent inspection report carried on the vehicle, and sign the report only if he finds a certification that any safety-related defects or deficiencies have been repaired. *fn19" Although BMCS imposes no mandatory inspection interval, motor carriers typically inspect their vehicles from 4 to 12 times per year depending upon vehicle usage, region of the country, and other factors that differ for each motor carrier vehicle. *fn20"

 The reason that semiannual inspections are inadequate to improve highway safety is because of the processes of deterioration and failure which affect the structural and mechanical components of all motor carrier vehicles. The deterioration and failure of these vehicles occurs slowly and progressively, without predictability of when a mechanical failure might occur. *fn21" An inspection, however, will only detect the condition of the vehicle at the time the inspection is made. *fn22" Thus, such inspections do not lead to a reduction in accidents caused by mechanical failures. *fn23"

 ATA and SOIC demonstrated that the Pennsylvania law places substantial burdens on interstate commerce. Section 4703(a)(2) requires the trucking and containerized shipping industries to make a choice among various alternatives, including (1) inspection of their vehicles in Pennsylvania, (2) inspection of their vehicles in another inspection state, or (3) diverting motor carrier vehicles around Pennsylvania. Any of these ...


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