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
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 . . …