Columbus v. Ours Garage & Wrecker Service, Inc., 536 U.S. 424, 18 (2002)

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Cite as: 536 U. S. 424 (2002)

Opinion of the Court

the exemption in question is for state safety regulation. Corroboratively, the measure's legislative history shows that the deregulatory aim of the legislation had been endorsed by a key interest group—the American Trucking Association— subject to "some conditions that would allow regulatory protection to continue for non-economic factors, such as . . . insurance [and] safety." H. R. Conf. Rep. No. 103-677, at 88. The conferees believed that the legislation "address[ed] these conditions." Ibid.; see also Ace Auto Body, 171 F. 3d, at 776.

The construction of 14501 that respondents Ours Garage and TRAO advocate, moreover, does not guarantee uniform regulation. On respondents' reading as on petitioners', a State could, without affront to the statute, pass discrete, nonuniform safety regulations applicable to each of its several constituent municipalities. Ohio thus could adopt the Columbus regulations to govern in that city, the Toledo regulations to govern there, and so on down the line. See Tr. of Oral Arg. 37-38. Indeed, because 14501(c)(2)(A) refers only to "political" subdivisions, nothing in the statute's text would impede a State from creating an administrative agency organized into local offices, each of which could craft local rules suitable to its assigned jurisdiction. There is no reason to suppose that Congress meant to stop the States from spreading their authority among municipalities unless they employ such artificial or inefficient schemes.

Furthermore, 49 U. S. C. 31141 (1994 ed.) affords the Secretary of Transportation a means to prevent the safety exception from overwhelming the lawmakers' deregulatory purpose. That provision authorizes the Secretary to void any "State law or regulation on commercial motor vehicle safety" that, in the Secretary's judgment, "has no safety benefit . . . [or] would cause an unreasonable burden on interstate commerce." 31141(a), (c)(4); see also 31132(8) (" 'State law' includes [for the purposes of 31141] a law enacted by a political subdivision of a State"); 31132(9) (parallel definition of "State regulation"). Under this authority,


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