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New Jersey’s “Truck Access” Regulations Deemed Unconstitutional

In the 1980′s, in response to the truckinindustry's desire to use 102-incwide trucks and double-trailer truck combinations, thfederagovernment required states to establisNational Network, which is a connected network of interstathighways to permit interstattravel by these vehicles. New Jersey complied with this directive, resultinin ove500 miles of roads in New Jersey that contributto the National Network. Thereafter, purportedly in response tthe threat to health and highway safetposed by largtrucks on local roadsthe New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT) adopted regulations which were designeto re-routlarge trucks onto thNationaNetwork, and which required restricted vehicles that do not have aorigin or destination in New Jersey to use the National Network while in New Jersey, except as necessarto access foodrest, repairs or fuel. Howeverthregulations indicated that restricted vehicles engaged in purely intrastate commerce or interstate commerce that includes an origin or destination in New Jersey are able to usboth the National Network and the New Jersey Network.

After the adoptioof the regulations, the American TruckinAssociatioand otherfiled Complaint in the UniteDistrict Court for the District oNew Jersey, alleging that thregulations violate the Dormant Commerce Clause of the UniteStates Constitution, whicprohibitthe states from imposing restrictionthat benefit in- stateconomic interests at out-of- statinterest's expense,” thus reinforcinthe principle of thunitary national market.” Essentially, thDormant Commerce Clause prohibits a state from impedinfree market forces to shield in-state businesses froout-of-state competition. In short, thAmerican TruckinAssociation argued that thregulations wer“discriminatory on their face,” becausthey discriminated against interstatcommerce, by only requirintruckthat do not have an origin or destination in New Jersey to use the National Network, subject to the few exceptions described above, while trucks engaged in intrastatcommerce or interstate commerce thaincludean origin or destination in New Jersey arpermitted to usboth the National Network and thNew Jersey Network, which icomprised of local roads.

In American TruckinAssociatiov. Whitman, et al., 437F.2d313 (3d. 2006)thUnited States Court oAppeals for the Third Circuit agreed that thregulationwere discriminatory otheir face, in that they placed greaterestrictions on those truckwhich dnot have an origiodestinatioin New Jersey or whicarengaged in intrastate commerce within thState of New Jersey. Asuchthe court determined that a “heightened” leveof judicial scrutinwould apply. Under the heightenescrutinstandard, for the regulations to be deemed constitutional the statmust demonstrate that the statute serves a legitimate local interest, and that this purpose could not be served as well by other availablnon-discriminatormeans.

The court determined that New Jersey had not satisfied the “heightened scrutiny” standard, because therwerother availablnon-discriminatory alternatives to achieve the statepurpose. More specifically, thCourt held that non-discriminatoralternatives were ava ilablin thform oregulation that would prohibit all trucks, regardless of origin odestinationfrom using the New Jersey Network excepas needed to reacthe NationaNetwork froNew Jersey originto reach a New Jersey destination from the National Network, or to access food, fuelresor repairsIt is for this reason that the Court of Appeals determined that New Jersey hanot satisfied the heightened scrutinstandard. Therefore, thregulationwere deemed unconstitutional, abeinin violation of the Dormant Commerce Clause.