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Kassel v. Consolidated Freightways Corp

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Bloomberg Law

Citation. 450 U.S. 662, 101 S. Ct. 1309, 67 L. Ed. 2d 580 (1981)

Brief Fact Summary. The Supreme Court of the United States held that an Iowa law prohibiting trucks over a certain length to travel throughout the state was an unconstitutional burden on interstate commerce because the law forces trucking companies to travel around Iowa or use smaller trucks when driving through Iowa. Thus, the law created inefficiency and added expenses to interstate commerce.

Synopsis of Rule of Law. Where, as here, the state’s safety interest has been found illusionary, and its regulations significantly impair the federal interest in efficient and safe interstate transportation, that state law violates the commerce clause.


Facts. Plaintiff, Consolidated Freightways, one of the largest common carriers in the country, carried commodities through Iowa on Interstate 80 until Defendant, the State of Iowa, enacted a law prohibiting trucks over a certain length into its state. Due to Defendant’s statutory scheme and the adverse effect it had on Plaintiff, Plaintiff sued Defendant claiming that this law violated the commerce clause by unduly burdening commerce. The District Court found that the longer truck length (forbidden by Defendant), the “twin,” was safe and concluded that Defendant’s law impermissibly burdened commerce because the total effect of the law as a safety measure is so slight and problematical that it does not outweigh the national interest in keeping interstate commerce free from interferences that seriously impede it. The Court of Appeals agreed.

Issue. Whether the Iowa statute prohibiting the use of certain large trucks within the state violates the commerce clause.

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