49 U.S.C. 14501(c) – Interpretation

On August 23, 1994, Congress, exercising its powers under the Commerce Clause, enacted 49 U.S.C. §14501(c), which generally deregulated the intrastate motor freight industry. The statute states in relevant part:

Motor carriers of property. (1) General Rule. Except as provided in paragraphs (2) and (3), a State, political subdivision of a State, or political authority to 2 or more States may not enact or enforce a law, regulation, or other provision having the force and effect of law related to a price, route, or service of any motor carrier . . . with respect to the transportation of property. 49 U.S.C. §14501(c)(1)(2005).

In Rowe v. New Hampshire Motor Transp. Ass'n., 552 U.S. 364 (2008), the Supreme Court, based on the language of §14501(c)(1) and on its previous decisions, examined the broad-reaching nature of the preemption effectuated by the statute.

The Court focused on Morales v. Trans World Airlines, Inc., 504 U.S. 374 (1992), which interpreted identical preemption language from the Airline Deregulation Act of 1978, 49 U.S.C.App. §§1302(a)(4) and 1302(a)(9).

The Rowe Court explained:

"In Morales, the Court determined: (1) that state enforcement actions having a connection with, or reference to carrier rates, routes, or services are preempted; (2) that such preemption may occur even if a state law's effect on rates, routes or services is only indirect; (3) that, in respect to preemption, it makes no difference whether a state law is consistent or inconsistent with federal regulation; and (4) that preemption occurs at least where state laws have a significant impact related to Congress' deregulatory and preemption-related objectives." Rowe, 552 U.S. at 370-71.

In Morales v. Trans World Airlines, Inc., the Supreme Court held that, given these principles, federal law preempts States from enforcing their consumer protection statutes against deceptive airline fare advertisements. Morales, 504 U.S. at 391;