Columbus v. Ours Garage & Wrecker Service, Inc., 536 U.S. 424, 5 (2002)

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428

COLUMBUS v. OURS GARAGE & WRECKER

SERVICE, INC.

Opinion of the Court

Justice Ginsburg delivered the opinion of the Court.

Federal preemption prescriptions relating to motor carriers, contained in 49 U. S. C. 14501(c) (1994 ed., Supp. V), specifically save to States "safety regulatory authority . . . with respect to motor vehicles," 14501(c)(2)(A). This case presents the question whether the state power preserved in 14501(c)(2)(A) may be delegated to municipalities, permitting them to exercise safety regulatory authority over local tow-truck operations.

The federal legislation preempts provisions by "a State [or] political subdivision of a State . . . related to a price, route, or service of any motor carrier . . . with respect to the transportation of property." 14501(c)(1). As an exception to this general rule, Congress provided that the preemption directive "shall not restrict the safety regulatory authority of a State with respect to motor vehicles." 14501(c)(2)(A). Section 14501(c)(1)'s statement of the general rule explicitly includes "State[s]" and their "political subdivision[s]." The exception for safety regulation, however, specifies only "State[s]" and does not mention "political subdivision[s]." 14501(c)(2)(A).

We hold that 14501(c) does not bar a State from delegating to municipalities and other local units the State's authority to establish safety regulations governing motor carriers of property, including tow trucks. A locality, as 14501(c) recognizes, is a "political subdivision" of the State. Ordinarily, a political subdivision may exercise whatever portion

M. Byron, John E. Gotherman, and James G. Burkhardt; and for Coalition for Local Sovereignty by Kenneth B. Clark.

Briefs of amici curiae urging affirmance were filed for the American Trucking Associations, Inc., et al. by Evan M. Tager, Beth L. Law, and Robert Digges, Jr.; for the California Dump Truck Owners Association by Edward J. Hegarty; for the Cargo Airline Association by Paul T. Friedman, Ruth N. Borenstein, Drew S. Days III, and Beth S. Brinkmann; for the Towing and Recovery Association of America by Erik S. Jaffe and Michael P. McGovern; and for VRC LLC et al. by James C. Mosser.

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