As a result, the number of independent operators grew. The influx of unaffiliated operators created instability in the sector by lowering profits, safety standards, and shipping costs.
These factors led first to state-by-state regulation, then to federal regulation.
President Roosevelt signed the Motor Carrier Act in 1935 in an attempt to stabilize competition in the developing industry. The act gave the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) the authority to determine which companies could become motor carriers and what services they could offer. The act also stated that rates charged by the carriers had to be “just and reasonable." The rates must be filed thirty days in advance with the ICC. These rates were then allowed to be challenged by competitors. If the competition argued the validity, the ICC suspended them until they were proved legitimate.
Teamsters and other trade unionists fought to change service rules to limit driving time to 8 hours a day and 48 hours a week.
The competition pushed nearly 200 unionized carriers out of business during the first years of deregulation. The unionized carriers that managed to stay in business had to adapt.
As a response, Congress passed the Motor Carrier Act of 1980. They hoped the act would promote competition and efficiency in the trucking industry, as well as promote a variety of quality and price options for consumers.
The law massively reduced the involvement of the ICC in regulating the industry, and it created more competition between common and contract carriers. At the same time, the act gave individual motor carriers more freedom to set rates.
As a direct result of deregulation, the number of trucking companies doubled between 1980 and 1990.
Many who have lived through the period of deregulation remember the uncertainty it brought to the industry. For new drives, the effects of these fluctuating laws continue to impact their lives today.