Dept. of Safety authority is strictly commercial

These are the cruisers Tennessee highway patrol troopers use to enforce Title 55, the commercial statute, upon commercial motor vehicles. (Photo THP)

State government has no authority to interfere with the private activity of the people of Tennessee as they travel the roads for pleasure or private business, so the duties of the department of safety and homeland security are strictly commercial.

These duties — touching on traffic stops and demands for trucker manifests — are outlined in Title 65 of the Tennessee code annotated in chapter 15 called “motor carriers.”

By David Tulis / 92.7 NoogaRadio

But Tennesseans face a grave problem. State, county and city governments enforce Title 55, the motor vehicles code, and also Title 65, against private users outside the scope of their authority.

Such freelance activity is at the very least tortious conduct. At the least, it is a nuisance and harassment. On the extreme, it is oppression for which I have prepared transportation administrative notice as a vehicle of abatement.

Transportation of persons and property’

It is “the duty of the department of revenue and the department of safety to supervise and regulate the transportation of persons and property by motor vehicle over or upon the public highways of this state, and to supervise and regulate certain businesses closely allied with such motor transportation” Tenn. Code Ann. § Title 65-15-1-1 Purpose — Participation in the unified carrier registration system. (italics added).

As explained in transportation administrative notice, the department seeks to preserve peace and safety as between commercial users and everybody else, both travelers and  business operators..

The agency must “[r]elieve existing and future undue burdens upon the highways arising by reason of their use by motor vehicles” and “[p]rotect the welfare and safety of the traveling and shipping public.” The state has an interest in regulating commerce because it damages the people’s property — the roadway infrastructure paid for by tax dollars.

The danger to be forestalled: The “unreasonable, improper or excessive use” of the roadways. Tenn. Code Ann. § 65-15-101(a)(4).

The powers of the department are outlined strictly in terms of transportation and commerce. The department of safety has “the power and authority, and it is its duty, to license, supervise and regulate every motor carrier in the state and promulgate rules and regulations.” No mention among these powers of any private user being subject to enforcement activity.

Its officers have arrest powers, yes, but only “for violation of this part, orders, decisions, rules and regulations of the department of safety, or any part or portion thereof” Tenn. Code Ann. § 65-15-106. Powers of the department.

The law fleshes out exactly how the officer is to enforce the department’s powers. If a highway patrol officer has “reasonable belief that any motor vehicle is being operated in violation of this part,” he may arrest/stop such a party and begin making demands of the diver or operator (note, these are commercial usages only and do not apply to private users of the road).

➤ Registration certificate

➤ “Submit to such enforcement officer for inspection any and all bills of lading, waybills, invoices or other evidences of the character of the lading being transported in such vehicle”

➤ Let the officer “impound any books, papers, bills of lading, waybills and invoices which would indicate the transportation service being performed is in violation of this part *** . (Tenn. Code Ann. § 65-15-106(b)(3).

Compliant with federal law

To the end of regulating commerce, Tennessee abides by a transportation supervision system created by the federal government to regulate interstate commerce. The state has set up a “unified carrier registration plan and agreement” so that “no foreign or domestic motor carrier, motor private carrier, leasing company, broker or freight forwarder, as defined in title 49 of the United States Code, shall operate any motor vehicles on the highways of this state without first registering *** under the unified carrier registration system and paying all fees required under the federal Unified Carrier Registration Act of 2005, compiled generally throughout title 49 of the United States Code.”

State regulation of commercial users is constitutional. Citing court cases in annotations to the Tennessee code, no common or contract carrier has “an unqualified right to use public highways for profit.” The general assembly in “its discretion and in exercise of the police power, can regulate any occupation or business, if the occupation or business has inherent within it the germs of fraud or danger to Public Safety.”  Boeing vs. Hannah, 167 Tenn. 451, 71 S.W.2d 672 (1934). See also State v. Harris, 168 Tenn. 159, 76 S.W.2d 324 (1934).

Excluded from the necessity to sign up with the program are a variety of cars, vans, trucks and busses such as milk delivery trucks come a newspaper delivery trucks airport limousines ambulances and hearses, and Sunday and church vans. TCA 65-15-103. Exempt vehicles – applicability.

Not to offend Uncle

The motor vehicle statute does nothing to offend uncle Sam saying that its rules “except” interstate commerce and government business. Nothing in the law “shall be construed” to regulate or apply to commerce with foreign nations, “commerce among the several states” or to U.S. government “business,” except that which is constitutional and pursuant to the acts of congress. (TCA 65-15-105)

The David Tulis show is 1 p.m. weekdays, live and lococentric.

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