Bibb v. Navajo Freight Lines Inc.

PETITIONER: Bibb
RESPONDENT: Navajo Freight Lines Inc.
LOCATION: Illinois General Assembly

DOCKET NO.: 94
DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1958-1962)
LOWER COURT:

CITATION: 359 US 520 (1959)
ARGUED: Mar 30, 1959 / Mar 31, 1959
DECIDED: May 25, 1959

Facts of the case

The Illinois legislature adopted a law requiring all trucks and trailers traveling on the state's highways to operate with contour mudguards. The legislators believed that this specific type of mudguard would protect motorists by preventing trucks from throwing debris into the windshields of passing or trailing vehicles.

Question

Did a law which required a specific type of rear mudguard on trucks and trailers operated on Illinois's state highways conflict with the Commerce Clause of the Constitution?

Media for Bibb v. Navajo Freight Lines Inc.

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - March 31, 1959 in Bibb v. Navajo Freight Lines Inc.

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - March 30, 1959 in Bibb v. Navajo Freight Lines Inc.

Earl Warren:

Number 94, Joseph D. Bibb, Director of the Department of Public Safety of the State of Illinois, et al., Appellants, versus Navajo Freight Lines, Incorporated, et al.

Mr. Wines.

William C. Wines:

May it please the Court.

Your Honors, the United States District Court for the Southern District of Illinois with a three-judge bench has held unconstitutional and enjoined the enforcement of an Illinois statute requiring the equipment of trucks and trailers travelling over Illinois highways with contour type mudguards meeting specifications enacted by the statute.

The Court held only that the requirements of the statute imposed an unreasonable burden upon interstate commerce and enjoined the effect of the act with respect to that commerce.

In two other cases cited in the brief, Rudolph Express Company case and a later case, the Supreme Court of Illinois has held the instant measure reasonable and not violative of due process on the ground of its unreasonable character.

Your Honors have noted probable jurisdiction and the cause is here on direct appeal from the District Court for the Southern District of Illinois.

The District Court has summarized the requirements of the statute and with the Chief Justice's permission, I should like to quote that summary since its precise terms are important and I am reading from page 6 of appellant's brief which quotes the language of the District Court.

Specifications, the Court says, require that the splash guards, one, contour under the wheel, two, cover the top 90 degrees of the rear 180 degrees with an exception of vehicles of less than five inches counts from requiring a contour within 10 inches of the body.

So they extend down within 10 inches of the ground that they have a lip or plunge of two inches upon the outside and retain general parallel condition under all operating conditions remotely required by the statute not more than six inches from the truck when fully loaded.

The District Court premised its conclusion of unreasonable violation -- unreasonable burdening of interstate commerce upon that Court's finding that no other State has a similar requirement that Arkansas has a recent administrative regulation requiring a flap or -- or apron type mudguard which is in conflict with the Illinois type of mudguard upon a finding that it would unreasonably burden interstate commerce to equip entering vehicles with this mudguard when they're not required in other States and upon a declaration that -- based on conflicting evidence we say that there is some danger that this contour type of mudguard is likely to fall off and create a hazard to oncoming traffic in other lanes.

It is the respectful but honest position of the Attorney General that the major -- major stricken down by the District Court embodies and enacts a reasonable exercise of Illinois' police power over her highways and with respect to vehicles moving within her borders.

The District Court's opinion does not, in the findings, do not make mention of the evidence which I believe I can say is undisputed in the record that a contour splash guard that is the type required by the Illinois law unlike a flap or apron type mudguard will throw debris down instead of out.

There is a testimony in the record that the contour type of mudguard provided by the Illinois statute does cause debris to be thrown down.

The evidence shows that to plan an appreciating vehicle is equipped with inadequate mudguards, those mudguards don't prevent debris from flying into the -- a windshield of a following vehicle and that the driver of the following vehicle tends to lose control of this car.

It tends to go off the road and accidents ensue.

Now, it's significant that counsel for the plaintiffs don't cite a single decision of this Court and our own research indicate that they can't cite a decision of this Court in which this Court has ever stricken down a state law fixing the requirements for vehicles traveling upon state constructed highways.

I mean automotive vehicles.

The three leading cases sustaining such regulation --

Potter Stewart:

Mr. Wines, excuse me.

Before you get to your --

William C. Wines:

Yes.

Potter Stewart:

-- these cases going back to the facts, you referred to what evidence there was in the record --

William C. Wines:

Yes.

Potter Stewart:

-- in support of your position that these contour type mudguards were superior to the flap type and --

William C. Wines:

Yes.

Potter Stewart:

-- so on.

The -- the District Court, the three-judge District Court made on an expressed finding, did it not, that it was conclusively shown that the contour of mudflap possesses no advantages over the conventional (Voice Overlap) --

William C. Wines:

Yes, they did, Your Honor.

They made such a finding.