Yellow Transportation, Inc. v. Michigan

PETITIONER: Yellow Transportation, Inc.
RESPONDENT: Michigan
LOCATION: Harris County Sheriff’s Department

DOCKET NO.: 01-270
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1986-2005)
LOWER COURT: Michigan Supreme Court

CITATION: 537 US 36 (2002)
ARGUED: Oct 07, 2002
DECIDED: Nov 05, 2002

ADVOCATES:
Austin C. Schlick - on behalf of the United States, as amicus curiae, supporting the Petitioner
Beth L. Law - for the American Trucking Associations, Inc., et al. as amici curiae urging reversal
Charles A. Rothfeld - On behalf of the petitioner
Robert Digges, Jr. - for the American Trucking Associations, Inc., et al. as amici curiae urging reversal
Roy T. Englert, Jr. - for the American Trucking Associations, Inc., et al. as amici curiae urging reversal
Sherri Lynn Wolson - for the American Trucking Associations, Inc., et al. as amici curiae urging reversal
Thomas L. Casey - On behalf of the respondents

Facts of the case

Before 1994, the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) allowed States to charge interstate motor carriers annual registration fees of up to $10 per vehicle. Under this system, some States discounted or waived registration fees for carriers from other States in exchange for reciprocal treatment. Under the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991 (ISTEA), the ICC implemented a new registration system. ISTEA also capped state registration fees by establishing a fee system that "will result in a fee for each participating State that is equal to the fee?that such State collected or charged as of?1991." In 1991, the Michigan Public Service Commission did not levy a fee for Yellow Transportation, Inc.'s trucks pursuant to a reciprocal agreement. However, in 1992, the commission changed how it computed fees and, ultimately, levied a fee of $10 per vehicle on Yellow Transportation's entire fleet. Yellow Transportation sued, alleging that, because Michigan had not collected or charged a 1991 registration fee for those trucks, ISTEA's fee-cap provision prohibits Michigan from levying a fee for them. The Michigan Supreme Court concluded that reciprocity agreements are not relevant in determining what fee a State charged or collected as of 1991. The court reasoned that the new fee system is not based on the fees collected from one company, but at the generic fee Michigan charged or collected from carriers as of 1991.

Question

Did the Michigan Supreme Court err in holding that, under the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991, only a State's generic fee is relevant to determining the fee that was collected or charged as of November 15, 1991?

Media for Yellow Transportation, Inc. v. Michigan

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - October 07, 2002 in Yellow Transportation, Inc. v. Michigan

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - November 05, 2002 in Yellow Transportation, Inc. v. Michigan

William H. Rehnquist:

The opinion of the Court in No. 01-270, Yellow Transportation, Inc. versus Michigan will be announced by Justice O'Connor.

Sandra Day O'Connor:

This case comes to us on writ of certiorari to the Supreme Court of Michigan.

Before 1994, the Interstate Commerce Commission allowed States to charge interstate motor carriers operating within their borders annual registration fees of up to $10 per vehicle.

In the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991, Congress directed the ICC to create a new system called the Single State Registration System which caps state registration fee by directing the ICC to establish a fee system that would result in a fee for each participating state as equal to the fee not to exceed $10 per vehicle that such state collected their charge as of November 15, 1991.

The ICC ruled that under the new system, the States could not terminate reciprocity agreement that were in placed under the old regime.

To allow State to do so, the ICC concluded it would be inconsistent with the statute's fee-cap provision and what Congress' intent that the flow of revenue for the States be maintained while the burden of the registration system for the motor carriers be reduced.

We granted certiorari in this case to determine whether the Michigan Supreme Court erred in holding that the ICC's rule is inconsistent with the language of the fee-cap provision.

We hold that the ICC's interpretation of the Act's fee-cap provision is a permissible reading of the statutory language and reasonably resolves any ambiguity in it.

We therefore, defer to the agency's interpretation under the principles that established in Chevron U.S.A. versus Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc.

The statute can easily be read as the ICC chose, making that unlawful for a State to renounce and modify a reciprocity agreement so as to alter any fee charge that collected as of November 15, 1991.

Under the ICC's rule, where a State waives its registration fee, its fee collected or charged is zero and must remain zero.

To allow States to disavow their reciprocity agreements that can permit States to increase their revenues substantially, a result that the ICC reasonably believes Congress did not intend.

Justice Stevens has filed an opinion concurring in the judgment.