Summary of Kassel v. Consolidated Freightways Corp.
450 U. S. 662 (1981)
TRANSPORTATION RESTRICTIONS OF THE COMMERCE CLAUSE-SAFETY REGS.
Facts: Kassel, Director of the Iowa Department of Transportation, Appellee, one of the largest common carriers in the country Consolidated Freightways of Delaware. Consolidated mainly uses two kinds of trucks. One consists of a three-axle tractor pulling a 40-foot two-axle trailer. This unit, commonly called a single, or “semi,” is 55 feet. Consolidated would like to use 65-foot doubles on many of its trips through Iowa. Iowa, by statute, restricts the length of vehicles that may use its highways. Unlike all other States in the West and Midwest, Iowa generally prohibits the use of 65-foot doubles within its borders. Instead, most truck combinations are restricted to 55 feet in length. Doubles, mobile homes, trucks carrying vehicles such as tractors and other farm equipment, and singles hauling livestock, are permitted to be as long as 60 feet.
Issue: Whether the Iowa statute that prohibits the use of certain large trucks within the State unconstitutionally burdens interstate commerce?
Holding: Yes the statute is unconstitutional.
Procedure: D Ct’s finding that 65-foot dbls were as safe as 55-foot sngls. The Ct of App affirmed. S. Ct affirmed.
Rule: State’s power to regulate commerce is never greater than in matters of local concern. Matters that touch safety, which are not illusory, must be balanced by weighing the asserted safety purpose against the degree of interference with interstate commerce.
Ct. Rationale: Iowa failed to present any persuasive evidence that 65-foot doubles are less safe than 55-foot singles, evidence clearly establishes that the twin is as safe as the semi. Moreover, Iowa’s law is now out of step with the laws of all other Midwestern and Western States. Iowa thus substantially burdens the interstate flow of goods by truck. Iowa’s safety interest has been found to be illusory, and its regulations impair significantly the federal interest in efficient and safe interstate transportation. In 1974, the legislature passed a bill that would have permitted 65-foot doubles in the State. Governor Ray said: “I find sympathy with those who are doing business in our state and whose enterprises could gain from increased cargo carrying ability by trucks. However, it would benefit only a few Iowa-based companies while providing a great advantage for out-of-state trucking firms and competitors at the expense of our Iowa citizens. A State cannot constitutionally promote its own parochial interests by requiring safe vehicles to detour around it.
PL A : (Consol/ee) – Iowa’s statutory scheme unconstitutionally burdens interstate commerce.
Def A: (Kassel/ant) – The law is a reasonable safety measure enacted pursuant to police powers of the state. The law promotes safety and reduces road wear within the state.
Notes from the Case
Parochial – narrow
Ameliorate – to improve or make better
Accede – assent, grant or succumb to.
Arrogate – Commandeer or seize.
Whether Iowa’s safety regulation has an indirect or direct effect on interstate commerce is the key question.
Consolidated carries commodities through Iowa on Interstate 80, the principal east-west route linking New York, Chicago, and the west coast, and on Interstate 35, a major north-south route.
Minority Rule – The Ct has a limited authority to review state legislation under the commerce clause. In the absence of Congressional action, the formation of public policy was reserved to the state legislatures and not the Ct.
65 ft doubles are prohibited in 17 other states, all of N. England, Penn, and the S. Eastern States.
Sensitive consideration – determines if the asserted safety justification is merely a pretext for discrimination against interstate commerce. Trivial safety regulation vs greater burden on commerce = discrimination.