State Regulation Protects Carriers, Public

Article excerpt

Regulation of the trucking and rail industries is aimed at protecting carriers as well as the public. In the Sooner State, the Oklahoma Corporation Commission regulates those services.

One way in which trucking and rail regulation protects the public is that the cost of hauling goods is set in a range of tariffs so that consumers in rural areas are not charged more than metropolitan consumers, or vice versa, explained Jerry Matheson, Transportation Division director at the commission.

The agency also checks that all regulated carriers are insured.

"It's economic enforcement," Matheson said.

Transportation by truck or rail has been separated in recent history from carrier functions and shippers _ the manufacturer or seller of the goods being hauled _ with distinction between interstate and intrastate transportation. Similar segmentation is presently being attempted in the natural gas pipeline industry.

In terms of protecting carriers, Matheson added, the agency is charged with creating fair and equitable conditions, making sure that everyone operates on a level playing field if in a competitive market. For instance, the agency attempts to ensure that carriers are not violating approved tariffs, therefore undercutting prices to steal business.

Hearings on the need of new carriers are also conducted so that too many carriers of a certain commodity or set of goods do not flood the market.

The agency also regulates size and weights of transportation carriers, in an effort to minimize damage to roadways. In that vein, shippers who contract for a carrier service can also be penalized if they overload a truck or rail car.

Only about 25 percent _ or about 7,000 _ of the trucks on Oklahoma roads are regulated, however, Matheson said. Private carriers _ those that haul goods for just one company _ are exempt from state regulation.

There are another 17,000 trucks involved in interstate commerce that go through Oklahoma annually, too, he said. Those are exempt from state regulation except for weight requirements. Interstate carriers are, however, required to buy a sticker or stamp to cross Oklahoma roadways, which Matheson said generates about $2.5 million a year.

Hauling of deleterious substances is also regulated by the transportation division by way of licenses and disposal regulations.

Rail traffic is somewhat less than truck traffic, but many of the same type of regulations apply. But whereas, the agency does not inspect roadways, it does inspect rail crossings and rights of way for safety.

In the past six years, since Matheson has taken over the division, a trend of spending more money than was collected through enforcement fines has been reversed.

"When I came here six and a half years ago, this department was spending 50 percent more than what it was taking in to run it. Today, we are putting back into the agency 42 percent to 44 percent and sometimes as much as 46 percent . . …