New Jersey’s “Truck Access” Regulations Deemed Unconstitutional

New Jersey’s “Truck Access” Regulations Deemed Unconstitutional

In the 1980′s, in response to the trucking industry’s desire to use 102-inch wide trucks and double-trailer truck combinations, thfederal government required states to establish a National Network, which is a connected network of interstathighways to permit interstate travel by these vehicles. New Jersey complied with this directive, resulting in ove500 miles of roads in New Jersey that contribute to the National Network. Thereafter, purportedly in response to the threat to health and highway safety posed by large trucks on local roads, the New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT) adopted regulations which were designed to re-route large trucks onto the NationaNetwork, and which required restricted vehicles that do not have an origin or destination in New Jersey to use the National Network while in New Jersey, except as necessary to access food, rest, repairs or fuel. However, thregulations indicated that restricted vehicles engaged in purely intrastate commerce or interstate commerce that includes an origin or destination in New Jersey are able to use both the National Network and the New Jersey Network.

After the adoption of the regulations, the American TruckinAssociation and others filed Complaint in the United District Court for the District of New Jersey, alleging that the regulations violate the Dormant Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution, whicprohibits the states from imposing restrictions that benefit in- stateconomic interests at out-of- statinterest’s expense,” thus reinforcinthe principle of the unitary national market.” Essentially, the Dormant Commerce Clause prohibits a state from impeding free market forces to shield in-state businesses from out-of-state competition. In short, the American Trucking Association argued that thregulations were “discriminatory on their face,” because they discriminated against interstate commerce, by only requiring trucks that do not have an origin or destination in New Jersey to use the National Network, subject to the few exceptions described above, while trucks engaged in intrastatcommerce or interstate commerce thaincludes an origin or destination in New Jersey are permitted to use both the National Network and the New Jersey Network, which is comprised of local roads.

In American Trucking Association v. Whitman, et al., 437F.2d313 (3d. 2006)the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit agreed that thregulations were discriminatory otheir face, in that they placed greaterestrictions on those trucks which do not have an origin or destinatioin New Jersey or which are engaged in intrastate commerce within thState of New Jersey. As such, the court determined that a “heightened” level of judicial scrutiny would apply. Under the heightened scrutinstandard, for the regulations to be deemed constitutional , the state must demonstrate that the statute serves a legitimate local interest, and that this purpose could not be served as well by other available non-discriminatormeans.

The court determined that New Jersey had not satisfied the “heightened scrutiny” standard, because there werother available non-discriminatory alternatives to achieve the statepurpose. More specifically, thCourt held that non-discriminatoralternatives were ava ilable in the form of a regulation that would prohibit all trucks, regardless of origin odestination, from using the New Jersey Network except as needed to reach the National Network from a New Jersey origin, to reach a New Jersey destination from the National Network, or to access food, fuel, rest or repairs. It is for this reason that the Court of Appeals determined that New Jersey had not satisfied the heightened scrutinstandard. Therefore, the regulationwere deemed unconstitutional, abeing in violation of the Dormant Commerce Clause.

Our law firm services clients in Central and Northern New Jersey, including Warren County, Sussex County, Morris County, Essex County, Somerset County, Hunterdon County, and Passaic County out of our two offices in Hackettstown and Morristown, New Jersey.

We Accept
AMEX Discover MasterCard Visa