jump to content

An Informal History Compiled for Its Centennial (April 1991)

Motor Carriers & Buses

When America came home from World War I in 1918, it was ready to take to the roads in the new fancy driving machines--the horseless carriage. And what was good for the individual or family on the go was also good for freight or passengers. It wasn't long before trucks were available for hire and buses to carry those without a car. By the mid-1920s, however, there were so many trucks and buses going here and there, charging whatever was the going rate, sometimes with the vehicles being of questionable safety driven by operators of questionable ability, that some motor carrier operators began discussing the need for regulation. Laws coming out of the Legislature in 1925 didn't seem to hold the answer.

At the behest of the newly formed Motor Carriers Association, the Legislature passed the Motor Bus Law in 1927 and the Motor Carrier Law in 1929. With an additional law in 1931, the basis of the bus and motor carrier regulatory program was set in place. The Legislature placed the regulation of motor transportation for hire in the hands of the Railroad Commission, feeling that it was best to have all transportation regulated by one Commission; and since the Railroad Commission was already in existence with decades of experience regulating the railroads, oil and gas production, pipelines, and gas utilities, it was the right location for transports using the state's public highways.

Over the years, the motor carrier regulatory program of the Commission was administered by the Transportation Division as was the railroad program. Then, the Transportation and Gas Utilities divisions joined together as the new Transportation/Gas Utilities Division in the late 1980s.

The transportation regulatory function of this division is to help establish safe and economical ground-based transportation systems to serve the needs of Texas citizens and industry.

The division oversees motor carriers, motor bus operators, certain commercial vehicles, railroads, and transportation brokers operating only in Texas. It also has some oversight responsibilities for certified and exempt interstate carriers operating in the state.

Under provisions of state law, the Commission grants applications for new motor carrier authority if there is a proven need for the service and current service is inadequate to meet that need. A truck or bus company that wants to operate in Texas must also file proof of adequate insurance coverage and register its vehicles with the Commission and charge Commission-approved rates. In approving rates, staff studies whether a proposed rate provides a reasonable return on investment and whether the rate covers the company's expenses.

Federal law now preempts Commission authority over bus schedule changes, rate reductions, and route changes. Commission decisions on bus rate increases are subject to review by the Interstate Commerce Commission.