Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Sunset Transportation, Inc. v. Texas Department of Transportation

Court of Appeals of Texas, Third District, Austin

April 21, 2017

Sunset Transportation, Inc. and MEL Transport, Inc. d/b/a Magnum Transportation, Inc., Appellants
v.
Texas Department of Transportation; James M. Bass, in his Official Capacity as Director of Texas Department of Transportation;1 Texas Department of Motor Vehicles; and Whitney Brewster, in her Official Capacity as Director of Texas Department of Motor Vehicles, Appellees

         FROM THE DISTRICT COURT OF TRAVIS COUNTY, 126TH JUDICIAL DISTRICT NO. D-1-GN-09-001874, HONORABLE AMY CLARK MEACHUM, JUDGE PRESIDING

          Before Justices Puryear, Pemberton, and Bourland

          OPINION [1]

          Bob Pemberton, Justice

         Federal law requires interstate motor carriers to annually register and pay fees through what is known as the "Unified Carrier Registration" process. Texas law also imposes certain registration, fee, and financial-responsibility requirements on motor carriers as a prerequisite to operating intrastate within our state's borders. The dispositive issues in this appeal concern whether an interstate motor carrier's compliance with the Unified Carrier Registration requirements excuses it, by virtue of either federal preemption or Texas law's own internal limitations, from complying with Texas requirements with respect to any intrastate operations it also conducts here. We conclude it does not, at least with respect to the Texas requirements at issue here.

         BACKGROUND

         At a much earlier juncture, the underlying litigation gave rise to an interlocutory appeal from a jurisdictional challenge that we addressed in Texas Department of Transportation v. Sunset Transportation, Inc. (Sunset I).[2] As suggested in our opinion there, one needs an introductory explanation of a complicated regulatory scheme just to understand what the parties' dispute is about.

         Regulation of interstate versus intrastate motor-carrier operations

         The bedrock of this legal landscape is Congress's constitutionally enumerated power to regulate interstate commerce[3] and the corresponding limitations on state power to discriminate against or unduly burden interstate commerce that this express grant has been held to imply.[4] Under color of this authority, Congress has enacted statutes regulating motor-carrier operations in interstate commerce, [5] including requiring such carriers to register for and obtain what is termed federal "operating authority" from the Department of Transportation (specifically, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration) as a prerequisite to market entry.[6] This registration process, in turn, requires compliance with various additional prerequisites that include registering for and obtaining a "USDOT number" from the Department, [7] filing with the Department the designation of an agent for service of process in each state through which the carrier operates, [8] and providing proof of financial responsibility of a nature and minimum amount the Department prescribes.[9]

         The Texas Legislature has similarly enacted regulatory statutes that apply to motor-carrier operations within this state. These enactments include Chapter 643 of the Texas Transportation Code, [10] which imposes, as a prerequisite to operating a commercial motor vehicle on "a road or highway of this state, " a regime of registration and filing requirements that is currently administered by the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles (TDMV).[11] To obtain this Texas state version of operating authority, Chapter 643 requires a motor carrier to, inter alia, file an application providing its name, address, agent for service of process (if different), and a description of each motor vehicle requiring registration, accompanied by a $100 "application fee" plus a $10 fee for each vehicle.[12] The registrant must also file proof of insurance[13] for each vehicle, in an amount set by TDMV that cannot exceed the amounts prescribed in the counterpart federal requirements, accompanied by an additional filing fee.[14] Assuming the registration is approved by TDMV, the agency issues a registration certificate and, for each vehicle, a "cab card" that must be carried onboard.[15]

         Of particular importance for this case, Chapter 643 generally requires that a motor carrier's state operating authority must be renewed periodically, typically on an annual basis.[16] The process for renewing a motor carrier's state operating authority generally entails payment of a registration renewal fee and providing evidence of continuing insurance.[17] In addition to requiring proof of insurance in connection with an initial or renewal registration, Chapter 643 requires a motor carrier to make such a filing if it fails to maintain registration and has to register anew, or if it changes ownership or insurers.[18]

         The TDMV has implemented these and related statutory requirements through rules now codified in Subchapter B of Title 43, Chapter 218 of the Texas Administrative Code.[19] Specific provisions of significance to this case include:

• Rule 218.11, which forbids a motor carrier from operating upon the public roads or highways of this state without first obtaining a certificate of registration issued by TDMV.[20]
• Rule 218.13, which specifies the content of the registration application and requires it be accompanied by an application fee, proof of insurance in accordance with Rule 218.16, and an "insurance filing fee" of $100.[21] Rule 218.13 also prescribes the duration of said registration, which generally may be only for specified periods that include one or two years.[22]
• Rule 218.14, which permits and prescribes procedures for renewals of annual or biannual registrations. These requirements include the filing of a renewal application, a filing fee, and a requirement that the "motor carrier shall maintain continuous insurance . . . in an amount at least equal to the amount prescribed under [Rule] 218.16."[23]
• Rule 218.16, which prescribes minimum insurance requirements and requires that the motor carrier "file and maintain" proof of automobile liability insurance for all vehicles required to be registered "at all times."[24] The rule further specifies that such filing is actually performed by the motor carrier's insurance carrier, and must be performed, at the time of original application for registration and upon any of several subsequent events bearing on coverage, including any change in insurers or any replacement of an active insurance filing.[25]

         Of final note, Chapter 643 and TDMV's rules authorize the agency to revoke a motor carrier's state registration on grounds that include failure to maintain the required insurance.[26] In that event, a motor carrier has resort to a contested-case hearing process to oppose the action.[27] If a registration is revoked, the motor carrier may retain its prior certificate of registration number by filing a "supplemental" application to "re-register" in lieu of a new original application, together with "adequate evidence that [it] has satisfactorily resolved the facts that gave rise to the . . . revocation."[28]But the supplemental application must be accompanied by a new filing of proof of insurance and a $100 insurance-filing fee.[29]

         The parties agree that, for purposes of our analysis here, the federal registration regime applies to motor carriers that operate in interstate commerce ("interstate motor carriers"), while motor carriers that operate intrastate within Texas would be subject to the Texas regime. Their dispute arises in an area of overlap between the two regimes-interstate motors carriers who also operate intrastate in Texas. More specifically, the dispute concerns the ramifications of an additional layer of the federal regulatory regime applicable to interstate motor carriers-the Unified Carrier Registration Act of 2005 (UCR Act)[30]-and the extent to which the UCR Act limits the authority Texas otherwise would exercise over the Texas intrastate operations of interstate motor carriers.

          The UCR Act

         The UCR Act is best understood against a historical backdrop of federal measures that had authorized states to require (or more precisely, provided that states would not be considered to unduly or unreasonably burden interstate commerce by requiring) proof of the federal operating authority of an interstate motor carrier that operates through the states' respective boundaries.[31]Initially, the federal government permitted these state laws to take the form of annual registration requirements with accompanying fees of up to $10 per vehicle, per year.[32] Such requirements were to be administered by each participating state individually, meaning that interstate motor carriers were required to register and pay fees annually to each separate state through which their vehicles might pass during the ensuing year. To verify compliance, carriers would be issued a state-specific stamp that they would then affix to a multistate "cab card" (a/k/a "bingo card") that had to be carried within the vehicle.[33]

         Over time, Texas and thirty-eight other states came to impose these registration and fee requirements, giving rise to complaints that state-by-state compliance under the "bingo card" system had grown too burdensome for interstate motor carriers.[34] Acting on such concerns, Congress in the 1990s enacted legislation establishing a new "Single State Registration System, " whereby an interstate motor carrier was deemed to have complied with the registration requirements of all of the participating states through which it operated if the carrier registered in a single "base State" and paid that state a total fee representing the sum of the individual states' fees, which the base state would then disburse among the relevant participating states according to their respective shares.[35]In lieu of the "bingo card" and multiple state stamps of the prior regime, compliance was signified by a mere receipt that was kept in the vehicle.[36] However, Congress authorized the base state to demand proof of (1) the carrier's federal operating authority, (2) compliance with federal financial-responsibility requirements, and (3) the carrier's agents for service of process required by federal law.[37]

         Eventually, Congress saw fit to revisit this balancing of interests yet again through the UCR Act. In that Act, Congress abolished the Single-State Registration System and declared it to be an unreasonable burden on interstate commerce for any state, its subdivisions, or combination of states "to enact, impose, or enforce any . . . standards with respect to, or levy any fee or charge on, " any interstate motor carrier in connection with state registration of the carrier's interstate operations, state filings of information relating to federal financial responsibility, or state filings of the federally required agents for service of process.[38] The Act instead contemplated that states, other governmental entities, and private persons would verify interstate motor carriers' federal compliance through an online "Unified Carrier Registration System" that is to consolidate federal motor carrier registrations, federal financial-responsibility filings, federal agent-of-process filings, and other information regarding interstate motor carriers.[39]

         A vestige of the earlier regimes lives on under the UCR, however, in the form of a more limited form of registration (essentially, completing a one-page form providing name, address, and USDOT and federal registration numbers) that interstate motor carriers must perform annually in a base state. The Act also authorizes imposition of fees that serve to replicate or replace somewhat the fee revenues made available to states under the prior regimes.[40] However, in lieu of the state-specific focus of the earlier fees, the UCR fees are calculated as flat nationwide rates according to the size of the carrier's vehicle fleet.[41] While all states are subject to the Act's preemptive provisions, individual states are given the choice of participating as base states and sharing fee revenues under an interstate agreement (known as the "UCR Agreement").[42]

         A more critical feature of the UCR Act for this appeal, however, is that Congress also expressly preempted two categories of state requirements relating to the intrastate operations of interstate motor carriers.[43] First, states are barred from imposing any fee or tax on interstate motor carriers that also operate intrastate if carriers that operate exclusively intrastate there would be exempt from that exaction.[44] Second, with respect to intrastate motor carrier operations other than charter-bus service, household-goods transport, certain tow-truck operations, and waste transport, [45]states cannot:

enact, impose, or enforce any requirement or standards with respect to, or levy any fee or charge on, any [interstate] motor carrier . . . in connection with-
. . .
the annual renewal of the intrastate authority, or the insurance filings, of the motor carrier . . ., or other intrastate filing requirement [defined elsewhere in the UCR Act to mean "any fee, tax, or other type of assessment, including per vehicle fees and gross receipts taxes, imposed on a motor carrier . . .for the renewal of the intrastate authority or insurance filings of such carrier with a State"[46] necessary to operate within the State.[47]

         But this second preemptive provision is conditioned on the interstate motor carrier being:

(1) registered under federal law (i.e., having federal operating authority), which the Act contemplates would eventually be performed through the UCR system; and
(2) "in compliance with the laws and regulations of the State authorizing the carrier to operate in the State in accordance with section 14501(c)(2)(A)[.]"[48]

         The "section 14501(c)(2)(A)" referenced in the latter provision had previously been enacted by Congress as a component of the Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act of 1994 (FAAA Act).[49] Under that Act, in aid of federal deregulation of interstate trucking, [50] Congress prescribed a "[g]eneral rule"-now codified within Section 14501, Subsection (c) of Title 49, United States Code[51]-that states, their subdivisions, or combinations of states "may not enact or enforce a law, regulation, or other provision having the force and effect of law related to a price, route, or service of any motor carrier . . . with respect to the transportation of property."[52] But Congress excepted from this "[g]eneral rule" certain categories of intrastate transportation and related state regulations, including the following exception that is enumerated in the aforementioned Section 14501(c)(2)(A): the safety regulatory authority of a State with respect to motor vehicles, the authority of a State to impose highway route controls or limitations based on the size or weight of the motor vehicle or the hazardous weight of the cargo, or the authority of a State to regulate motor carriers with regard to minimum amounts of financial responsibility relating to insurance requirements and self-insurance authorization.[53]

         The UCR Act has been construed and applied in the UCR Agreement itself, [54] as well as through "Informal Guidance" issued periodically by the UCR Plan Board of Directors.[55] In the view of these authorities, the key preemptive effects of the Act can be summarized as follows:

• States are barred from requiring interstate motor carriers to file proof of their compliance with federal requirements relating to interstate operating authority, financial responsibility requirements, or agents for service of process.[56]
• Conversely, state regulation of motor carriers that operate only in intrastate transportation is not affected.[57]
• Where UCR-registered interstate motor carriers also operate intrastate, the UCR Act distinguishes between (1) "initial" registration filings, insurance filings, and related fees required for obtaining intrastate operating authority within a particular state, which can permissibly be imposed on UCR registrants with respect to their intrastate operations there, [58]versus (2) the imposition of such filing or fee requirements when made necessary to "renew" intrastate operating authority, which is prohibited.[59]
• However, "[a] State may require the insurance company or surety company providing such coverage to notify the State whenever the coverage is cancelled or not renewed, " and "nothing in the UCR Act prohibits a State from verifying the coverage as part of its internal review process of intrastate motor carriers."[60] Additionally, with reference to the underlying substantive requirements of insurance or financial responsibility, "a State may enforce its laws requiring liability coverage for any vehicle operating on the State's public ways. In other words, if an interstate motor carrier is found to be operating on a State's highways without liability insurance coverage, the State may take an action against that motor carrier."[61]

         The parties generally agree with this basic view of the UCR Act's material features, though they differ vigorously as to the implications for Texas's regulatory scheme.

         Texas's response to UCR

         Texas, which had also participated in the former Single-State system, opted into the UCR Agreement through legislation that took effect on September 1, 2007.[62] A corresponding rule adopted in response to the UCR Act, Section 218.17 of Title 43, provided that the State, through TDMV, shall participate in the UCR system plan and agreement, and would later adopt by reference the UCR Agreement.[63] Rule 218.17 further required that an interstate motor carrier operating in Texas must register and comply with the UCR system.[64]

         Other changes were calculated to take account of the UCR Act's preemption provisions. The Legislature amended a preexisting provision of Chapter 643 that had addressed the effects of the former Single-State system, Section 643.002, to read (with the new language italicized):

         This chapter [643] does not apply to:

(1) motor carrier operations exempt from registration by the Unified Carrier Registration Act of 2005 (49 U.S.C. Section 14504a) or a motor vehicle registered under the single state registration system established under 49 U.S.C. Section 14504(c) when operating exclusively in interstate or international commerce[.][65]

         A corresponding rule amendment exempted "a motor vehicle exempt from registration by the Unified Carrier Registration Act of 2005" from the definition of "[c]ommercial motor vehicle" made subject to the registration requirements implemented under Chapter 643.[66]

         Further, a new Subsection (c) of Rule 218.14 provided that "[a]n interstate motor carrier registered under § 218.17" (i.e., UCR) "is not required to renew a certificate of registration issued under § 218.11."[67] Correspondingly, TDMV created, initially as a practice or policy, but eventually through formal rules, a "non-expiring" form of registration certificate that would be issued to a UCR-compliant interstate motor carrier upon the carrier's notification of that status to TDMV.[68]

         However, Subsection (c) of Rule 218.14 also contemplated that this "non-expiring" form of registration could still be lost through revocation, as with other types of registration. Subsection (c)(2) cautioned that "[i]f a motor carrier that registered under § 218.17 [i.e., UCR] does not maintain continuous motor carrier registration under § 218.11, " it would be required to re-register or otherwise regain registration (with the accompanying required fees and insurance filings that process entailed) in order to operate intrastate within Texas.[69]

         The dispute

         The two appellants-Sunset Transportation, Inc., and MEL Transport, Inc.-are affiliated interstate motor carriers that at all relevant times have each been registered in compliance with UCR. Each carrier had also previously obtained Texas intrastate operating authority from TDMV. In June 2008, however, TDMV gave notice to Sunset that its intrastate operating authority was being revoked for failure to maintain the insurance required by Chapter 643 and TDMV rules, more specifically that the Texas Department of Insurance had determined that Sunset's insurer-MAKE Transportation, Inc., a risk-retention group affiliated with Sunset and MEL-had exceeded a maximum aggregate net risk after reinsurance.[70] Sunset did not avail itself of the remedies for challenging the action, and it became final. There is also evidence that MEL's intrastate operating authority was similarly revoked for failure to maintain the required financial responsibility-on at least two occasions-although appellants insist that MEL thereafter made the filings and fee payments necessary to regain that authority.

         While appellants have not preserved any direct challenges to the revocations, they have mounted a broader attack on TDMV's power to enforce its requirements relating to interstate operating authority against a UCR-compliant interstate motor carrier. Essentially appellants' position is that once an interstate motor carrier then also having Texas intrastate operating authority registers under UCR, as did they, any subsequent enforcement of Texas's requirements for maintaining that authority, such as insurance requirements, runs afoul of the UCR Act's preemption of "renewals" or "annual filings, " or alternatively of Texas law's internal limitations deriving from Section 643.002 of the Transportation Code. Premised on these contentions, appellants in their live pleadings asserted claims under Section 2001.038 of the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) for declarations invalidating Rule 218.14(c)(2) (the provision contemplating that a UCR-compliant interstate motor carrier could be required to re-register, with attendant fee and insurance-filing requirements, upon revocation of its "non-expiring" intrastate authority[71]) and Rule 218.16(e)(1)(A) (the general requirement-and potential ground for revocation-that "[a] motor carrier shall file and maintain proof of automobile liability insurance for all vehicles required to be registered . . . at all times"[72]), as well as a declaration that TDMV's rules governing registration of intrastate motor-carrier operations (Chapter 218 of Title 43) were wholly inapplicable to them.[73] To similar effect, appellants asserted a litany of claims through the Uniform Declaratory Judgments Act (UDJA), [74]with an accompanying claim for the attorney's fees that the statute would permit, [75] that in essence sought to restrain TDMV's enforcement and administration of this regime as conduct ultra vires of statutory or (with reference to federal preemption and the Supremacy Clause) constitutional authority.[76]

         The proceedings below were ultimately concluded with a bench trial in which both jurisdictional challenges and the merits were addressed. After hearing evidence, the district court rendered final judgment on the merits-thereby implicitly overruling appellees' jurisdictional challenges-and ordered that appellants take nothing on their claims. The district court subsequently made findings of fact and conclusions of law. Among these, the district court found that both Sunset and MEL had their intrastate authority revoked for failing to maintain insurance or proof of financial responsibility and that TDMV and its rules had not run afoul of UCR preemption or Transportation Code Section 643.002 either legally or factually.

         Appellants timely perfected an appeal from the district court's final judgment.

         ANALYSIS

         Appellants bring what are styled as seven issues on appeal seeking reversal of the district court's judgment and rendition of judgment on their claims, or alternatively, a new trial. These issues ultimately distill to five basic legal contentions. In appellants' view, the UCR Act preempts, with respect to the intrastate operations of UCR-compliant interstate motor carriers that had previously obtained Texas intrastate operating authority, (1) Texas's minimum insurance requirements; (2) any required re-registration and accompanying insurance filings or fee payments in the event intrastate authority is revoked; (3) Rule 218.16(e)(1)(A)'s requirement that motor carriers "file and maintain" proof of automobile liability insurance for all vehicles required to be registered "at all times";[77] and (4) Rule 218.14(c)(2)'s provision contemplating that UCR-compliant interstate motor carriers with Texas intrastate authority can have that authority revoked for noncompliance with insurance or insurance-filing requirements.[78] Alternatively, appellants urge that (5) Texas law, chiefly Section 643.002(1) of the Transportation Code, exempts the intrastate operations of UCR-compliant interstate motor carriers from the registration regime otherwise imposed under Chapter 643 and TDMV rules.[79]

         In addition to opposing appellants' positions on the merits, appellees seek reversal of the district court's judgment to the extent of dismissing appellants' claims under the UDJA as barred by sovereign immunity, [80] arguing specifically that appellants have not proven any conduct ultra vires of appellees' statutory or constitutional powers and also seek UDJA relief redundant of appellants' APA claims.[81] Although we are obligated to consider these jurisdictional challenges, [82] the stakes are largely theoretical here, as these challenges parallel the merits of appellants' claims and appellants disclaim any claim for UDJA attorney's fees at this juncture. Accordingly, we will focus initially on the controlling legal questions raised by appellants, then sort out how our answers implicate jurisdiction versus the merits.

         Preemption

         General principles

         The Supremacy Clause of the United States Constitution gives Congress the power to preempt state law.[83] There are three well-known categories of federal preemption-"express, " "field, " and "conflict" preemption.[84] Where, as here, a federal statute expressly preempts state law, "our analysis of the scope of the pre-emption statute must begin with its text[.]"[85] "[T]he purpose of Congress is the ultimate touchstone in every pre-emption case.'"[86] We "begin with a presumption that Congress did not preempt state law."[87] This presumption "applies not only to whether Congress preempted state law at all, but also to the scope of preemption."[88] Moreover, this "presumption is particularly strong when Congress legislates 'in [a] field which the States have traditionally occupied.'"[89] "[W]e 'start with the assumption that the historic police powers of the States were not to be superseded by the Federal Act unless that was the clear and manifest purpose of Congress.'"[90] Moreover, "[c]itizens' health and safety are 'primarily and historically, . . . matter[s] of local concern, ' and thus states have 'great latitude' to protect 'the lives, limbs, health, comfort, and quiet of all persons.'"[91]

         Appellants acknowledge that the UCR Act permits states to require registration, proof of insurance, and related fee requirements on UCR-compliant interstate motor carriers as a condition for initially obtaining intrastate authority. Their focus, rather, is on Texas law requirements that may come into play after such carriers obtain their intrastate authority.

         Insurance requirements

         Appellants insist that the UCR Act preempts TDMV from requiring UCR-compliant interstate motor carriers to comply with Texas's minimum-insurance requirements with respect to their intrastate operations here. Relatedly, appellants urge that the UCR Act preempts TDMV from requiring compliance with these insurance requirements as a condition for maintaining intrastate operating authority, as contemplated by Rule 218.14(c)(2). As appellants see it, the UCR Act had the effect of requiring UCR-compliant interstate motor carriers, once having initially obtained intrastate operating authority in a state, to comply only with the federal insurance requirements made a condition of the federal operating authority, with no obligation to continue complying with any counterpart state insurance or financial responsibility requirements made a condition of intrastate operating authority within that state. In this regard, appellants assert (and appellees do not appear to dispute) that the federally required insurance for interstate motor carriers, which they claim to have had in effect at all relevant times, has higher minimums than Texas's counterpart requirements. In fact, as previously noted, Chapter 643 caps the insurance minimums TDMV is authorized to set at the amounts prescribed in the counterpart federal requirements.[92]

         To the extent appellants are complaining that TDMV erred in determining they each lacked insurance complying with the Texas requirements and revoking their intrastate authority on that basis, they have, again, failed to preserve that contention.[93] And the text of the UCR Act belies appellants' view that UCR compliance excuses them from ongoing compliance with the Texas insurance requirements.

         As explained previously, the UCR Act preempts two categories of state regulatory activity relating to interstate motor carriers that also operate intrastate: (1) a state is barred from imposing any fee or tax on such interstate motor carriers if intrastate-only carriers there would be exempt from that exaction;[94] and (2) a state cannot (with the exception of charter-bus service, household-goods transport, certain tow-truck operations, and waste transport) "enact, impose, or enforce any requirement or standards with respect to, or levy any fee or charge on, any [interstate] motor carrier . . . in connection with . . . the annual renewal of the intrastate authority, or the insurance filings, of the motor carrier . . ., or other intrastate filing requirement necessary to operate within the State."[95] Appellants ground their arguments in the second category of preempted state activity, insisting that TDMV is imposing a form of prohibited "annual renewal" of their intrastate operating authority. But this second category is expressly conditioned on the interstate motor carrier meeting requirements that include being "in compliance with the laws and regulations of the State authorizing the carrier to operate in the State in accordance with section 14501(c)(2)(A)[.]"[96] And "section 14501(c)(2)(A), " again, refers to "the safety regulatory authority of a State with respect to motor vehicles, . . . or the authority of a State to regulate motor carriers with regard to minimum amounts of financial responsibility relating to insurance requirements and self-insurance authorization[.]"[97] Among the effects of this language and statutory structure is that TDMV is not preempted from enforcing Texas's insurance requirements with respect to the intrastate operations of UCR-registered interstate motor carriers.[98] Our conclusion is further supported by the presumption against preempting "the historic police powers of the States . . . unless that [is] the clear and manifest purpose of Congress."[99] We overrule appellants' contentions to the contrary.

         "Re-registration" following revocation

         For essentially the same reasons, we likewise reject assertions by appellants that the UCR Act preempts TDMV from requiring them, following revocation of their intrastate operating authority for noncompliance with Texas's minimum-insurance requirements, to submit applications, insurance filings, and related fees in order to regain their authority. As just explained, the UCR Act's preemption of "annual renewals" related to intrastate authority is conditioned on, among other requirements, a carrier being "in compliance with the laws and regulations of the State authorizing the carrier to operate in the State in accordance with section 14501(c)(2)(A), "[100] i.e., "the safety regulatory authority of a State with respect to motor vehicles, . . . or the authority of a State to regulate motor carriers with regard to minimum amounts of financial responsibility relating to insurance requirements and self-insurance authorization[.]"[101] Consequently, because appellants were each found out of compliance with Texas's insurance and financial-responsibility requirements and did not preserve any challenge to those determinations, the UCR Act did not preempt TDMV from requiring appellants to "re-register" in order to regain their intrastate operating authority.

         Insurance filings

         Appellants further complain that TDMV is transgressing the UCR Act's preemptive scope by requiring "annual renewal[s] of . . . insurance filings" (as distinguished from compliance with substantive coverage requirements) by UCR-compliant interstate motor carriers as a condition of retaining the intrastate operating authority.[102] In part, this is an attempt by appellants to leverage one of our holdings from Sunset I. In that earlier opinion, we held-in the context of a jurisdictional challenge to the sufficiency of appellants' pleadings at the time-that appellants had pleaded facts that would be ultra vires of TDMV's authority vis-à-vis UCR preemption.[103] Our analysis rested on unchallenged factual allegations that, liberally construed as per our standard of review there, had asserted that the agency was baldly requiring UCR-compliant interstate motor carriers "whose registrations have not been revoked to re-register, pay related fees, and also submit annual filings of proof of financial responsibility."[104] Suffice it to say that the procedural posture of the present appeal is quite different-a final judgment following a bench trial at which appellees contested appellants' allegations both factually and legally. In short, the Sunset I holdings that appellants emphasize are ultimately of little guidance or import in the present appeal.

         As their contentions have been refined through the intervening proceedings, appellants specifically complain of Rule 218.16 (e)(1)(A)'s requirement that motor carriers "file and maintain proof of automobile liability insurance for all vehicles required to be registered . . . at all times."[105] Together with the prospect of revocation of intrastate authority for noncompliance, as contemplated by Rule 218.14(c)(2), Rule 218.16(e)(1)(A), appellants reason, amounts to a preempted required "annual renewal of . . . the insurance filings, of the motor carrier" as a condition of retaining intrastate authority.[106] As an initial observation, we question whether appellants have standing to assert this challenge on this record, [107] given the district court's findings that the intrastate operating authority of both carriers had been revoked.[108] Under these findings, neither carrier would have a ripe or live claim that it was being required to make "annual" insurance filings despite having active intrastate authority, as appellants have alleged.

         Appellants further suggest that MEL, at least, would possess a justiciable interest in the claim by virtue of current or imminent re-registration. Even if so, we cannot conclude that the district court erred in rejecting the claim on its merits.

         Reading Rule 218.16 as a whole, the complained-of obligation to "file" or "maintain" proof of insurance (which, as an aside, is actually performed by the motor carrier's ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.