length on segments of the Designated Network as long as the overall length of the tractor-trailer unit is 60 feet or less. On all other state roads, the overall length limitation of any tractor-trailer combination remains 60-feet. 75 Pa. C.S.A. § 4923(a). Plaintiffs argue that this 60-foot length limitation for tractor-trailer units operating on the Designated Network and Pennsylvania's remaining roadways is in direct contradiction to STAA's prohibition of overall length limitations. Plaintiffs thus claim that Pennsylvania's length restriction must be invalidated.
Although parts of the federal and Pennsylvania statutory language are awkwardly phrased, certain aspects are clear. First, under STAA, no state can prohibit the operation of trailers of 48 feet or less on any segment of the Designated System. 49 U.S.C. § 2311(a). The first sentence of subsection (b) makes it explicit that the 48-foot length limitation in subsection (a) applies only to trailers or semi-trailers, and not to truck tractors. Secondly, to prevent the states from rolling back previous length limitations, no state can prevent the use of a trailer or semi-trailer of such dimensions that were in actual and lawful use within the state as of December 1, 1982. 49 U.S.C. § 2311(b). Finally, the states cannot establish an overall length limitation for tractor-trailer units. Id.
The uncertain aspect of STAA, however, is whether the provisions in subsection (b) apply to all roadways within a state or just those highways within the Designated System. This is the question before us. Additionally, we must determine whether Pennsylvania's 60-foot overall length limitation conflicts with STAA. Since it is absolutely clear that subsection (b)'s prohibitions against state regulations apply to the Designated System at the very minimum, we will address the latter issue first.
The parties have stipulated that as of December 1, 1982, Plaintiff National Freight, Inc. actually and legally operated 53-foot trailers in Pennsylvania. As Defendants admit, this 53-foot trailer length was not regulated per se by Pennsylvania statute. Rather, because of the 60-foot overall length limitation on the tractor-trailer unit, 75 Pa. C.S.A. § 4923(a), the practical limitation on the trailer length was 53 feet. Defendants' brief in support of summary judgment, at 7-8. The prior maximum permissible trailer length in Pennsylvania, thus, was 53 feet.
Under STAA, Pennsylvania now cannot prohibit the use of trailers less that 53 feet in length. 49 U.S.C. § 2311(b)
Furthermore, Pennsylvania cannot impose an overall length limitation on a tractor-trailer unit. Nevertheless, Pennsylvania's statute currently provides, in essence, that no tractor and single trailer combination can exceed an overall length of 60 feet when operated upon the Designated Network. In attempting to circumvent the clear statutory language of STAA, Defendants maintain that the 60-foot length limitation is merely a "condition" of operation of 53-foot trailers that existed prior to STAA's enactment and which continues today under STAA's grandfather clause.
We must reject Defendants' arguments on this point. Congress' explicit prohibition against the states regulating the overall length of tractor-trailer units terminates Pennsylvania's "conditional" use of 53-foot trailers. Therefore, Pennsylvania's prohibition of the operation of tractor-trailer units exceeding 60 feet in overall length on the Designated Network, being in direct contradiction of federal law, is invalid pursuant to the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution.
IV. PENNSYLVANIA'S 60-FOOT OVERALL LENGTH LIMITATION AS APPLIED TO ROADWAYS NOT PART OF THE DESIGNATED SYSTEM
Plaintiff's contend that subsection (b)'s grandfather clause as to trailer length and the prohibition against overall length limitations apply to all Pennsylvania roadways and not just those highways that are part of the Designated Network. In support thereof, Plaintiffs note that only subsections (a) and (c) mention the Interstate and Federal-aid Primary System highways (Designated Network). Id., at § 2311(a), (c). While the first sentence of subsection (b) refers to subsection (a), Plaintiffs maintain that the remaining provisions in subsection (b) read as separate sentences that address state regulations on any highway. Plaintiffs further observe that the Secretary of Transportation was authorized to designate "qualifying Federal-aid Primary System highways subject to the provisions of subsections (a) and (c) of this section . . ." with subsection (b) not being included. 49 U.S.C. § 2311(e).
In addressing this issue, we recall the Ninth Circuit's comments in its attempt to interpret the meaning of a statute:
While success for the novelist often lies in suggestive ambiguity allowing the readers to share in the process of creation, perfection for a statute's crafter lies in unquestionable clarity, forcing his audience to participate only in the process of implementation. When those charged with the responsibility of enforcing a statute find sufficient ambiguity by which to substitute creation for rote implementation, the judiciary must insure that the interpretation of the statute conforms to the probable intent of statute's collective authors. Not gifted with literary omniscience, the judiciary must rely on the words of the statute, legislative history, subsequent case law, common sense and consideration of relevant policy implications in order to properly shape its critique.
FINNEGAN v. MATHEWS, 641 F.2d 1340, 1344 (9th Cir. 1981). Thus, in interpreting STAA, we must consider the plain language of the statute, STAA's legislative history, and the underlying policy implications.
Examining the statutory language first, we observe that subsections (a) and (c) explicitly refer to the operation of certain commercial vehicles on the Designated Network. Subsection (a) prohibits a state from regulating a length limitation of less than 48 feet for a trailer operating on any segment of the Designated Network. Subsection (c) forbids a state from prohibiting the operation of twin trailers on any segment of the Designated Network.
In contrast, subsection (b) does not condition its prohibition of certain state regulations concerning overall length limitations to vehicles operating on the Designated Network. While the first sentence in subsection (b) refers back to subsection (a), the sentence appears to be only a clarification of subsection (a). The two pertinent sentences of subsection (b) that follow are:
No state shall establish, maintain, or enforce any regulation of commerce which imposes an overall length limitation on commercial motor vehicles operating in truck -- tractor semi-trailer or truck tractor semi-trailer, trailer combinations. No state shall establish, maintain, or enforce any regulation of commerce which has the effect of prohibiting the use of trailers or semi-trailer of such dimensions as those that were in actual and lawful use in such State on December 1, 1982.