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North American Van Lines Inc. v. United States

decided: December 9, 1981.

NORTH AMERICAN VAN LINES, INC., ALLIED VAN LINES, INC., AMERICAN MOVERS CONFERENCE, INC., AERO MAYFLOWER TRANSIT CO., INC., ATLAS VAN LINES, INC., AND UNITED VAN LINES, INC., PETITIONERS,
v.
INTERSTATE COMMERCE COMMISSION AND UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, RESPONDENTS ; AMERICAN RED BALL TRANSIT CO. AND HOUSEHOLD GOODS CARRIERS BUREAU, INC., PETITIONERS, V. INTERSTATE COMMERCE COMMISSION AND UNITED STATES OF AMERICA AND CONSUMERS UNION OF UNITED STATES INC., RESPONDENTS



Petitioners for Review of Order of the Interstate Commerce Commission

Before Pell and Cudahy, Circuit Judges, and Dumbauld,*fn* Senior District Judge.

Author: Dumbauld

"Deregulation" is the current "buzzword" with respect to all forms of transportation. Beginning under the Jimmy Carter administration with the Airline Deregulation Act of October 24, 1978, 92 Stat. 1705, 49 U.S.C. § 1301 et seq. whose title describes it as an Act "to encourage, develop, and attain an air transportation system which relies on competitive market forces to determine the quality, variety, and price of air services,"*fn1 the increased reliance on what President Ronald Reagan has called "the magic of the market place" was extended to motor carriers by the Act of July 1, 1980, 94 Stat. 793, 49 U.S.C. § 10101, and to railroads by the Act of October 14, 1980, 94 Stat. 1895, 49 U.S.C. § 10101 (known from the name of its House sponsor, as the "Staggers Rail Act of 1980"). Likewise, one day later, the Household Goods Transportation Act of October 15, 1980, 94 Stat. 2011, 49 U.S.C. § 10101 note, with which we are concerned in the case at bar, was enacted.

Historians might philosophize that excessive reliance upon market forces may prove shortsighted and resurrect some of the ancient evils which led to the enactment in 1887 of the Interstate Commerce Act in the first place. Was it not the uninhibited operation of marketplace forces which enabled John D. Rockefeller's Standard Oil Company to obtain from railroads a rebate, not only upon its own traffic, but also upon that of its competitors? Be that as it may, it is for the courts and the Interstate Commerce Commission to carry out with fidelity the policies and provisions of legislation as formulated by the Congress.

Section 2(a) of the Household Goods Transportation Act contains the following declaration of policy:

The Congress hereby finds-

(1) that a safe, stable, and financially sound system of transportation of household goods by motor common carriers is vital to the maintenance of a strong national economy and strong national defense;

(2) that the best means of assuring such a system is through competition and reduced regulation;

(3) that maximum flexibility on the part of the carriers in the pricing of their services best serves the shippers of household goods and allows a variety of quality and price options to meet market demands; and

(4) that the interest of individual shippers can be best protected by allowing carriers of household goods maximum flexibility in serving the needs of their shippers, by providing accurate and complete information concerning carriers' performance and individual shippers' rights and remedies, by reducing the amount of unnecessary regulations, and by strengthening remedies for violations of those regulations that are necessary for protection of individual shippers.

Various specific new rules were included in the Act in response to historically experienced abuses and complaints frequently put forward by shippers. 49 U.S.C. 10734 authorized non-preferential, non-predatory rates for transportation based upon a binding estimate. Guaranteed pick-up and delivery time is also authorized (provided the carrier makes available a (lower) rate without such guaranteed service).

These innovations were inspired by the proverbially prevalent practice of issuing low estimates and then upon delivery exacting from the shipper charges based upon higher actual weights. Complaints about failure to meet pick-up and delivery promises were also rampant in the industry.

49 U.S.C. § 11711 provides for establishment of dispute settlement procedures for disputes between carriers and shippers. 49 U.S.C. § 11917 makes willful use of fraudulent weights ("weight-bumping") a crime.

49 U.S.C. § 11110 authorizes issuance of regulations by the Commission:

(a)(1) The regulations and paperwork required of motor common carriers providing transportation of household goods ... shall be minimized to the maximum extent feasible ...


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