Responsibilities and Jurisdiction of the Motor Carriers Division

The Motor Carrier Division operates under Chapters 12, 13, 14, and 14.1 of Title 39 of the General Laws of Rhode Island, as amended. Its statutory oversight responsibility extends to regulating all for-hire transportation companies operating within the State of Rhode Island. As carriers serving the public, these companies must be fit, willing, and able at all times to provide public transportation services. The Motor Carrier Section's responsibility is to ensure that services performed by these carriers are done so in the public interest and in accordance with state law and Division rules and regulations.

The Division regulates all carriers that transport property or passengers, for hire, between points within the state of Rhode Island. This includes tow companies, household good movers, general freight haulers, courier services, liquid petroleum carriers, bulk carriers, transporters of hazardous materials, armored carrier services, taxicabs, limited public motor vehicles, limousine and similar passenger services, jitneys, and water taxis.

There have been significant changes in motor carrier regulation as a result of the Federal Aviation Administration Act of 1994 which effectively preempted states from exercising jurisdiction over "price, route, or service" of most intrastate common carriers. As a result, the Division no longer exercises control over tariffs or operating territories for most carriers (although rates for non-consensual tows, household goods moves and taxi service remain under Division jurisdiction). Aside from taxicabs companies and household goods moving companies, all other prospective for-hire carriers no longer need to establish "public convenience and necessity" to obtain operating authority. Rather, applicants only need establish "fitness, willingness, and ability to provide the proposed service."

Although the federal legislation has streamlined regulation of intrastate common carriers, the State of Rhode Island continues to protect the public's interest. The Motor Carrier Section employs several field investigators to research consumer complaints and provide general inspections of common carriers to ensure compliance with the requirements. Public hearings are conducted on new applicants to ensure fitness, willingness, and ability to provide public transportation services.

There are two exceptions to the federal legislation; 1) carriers of household goods and 2) tow operations performed without the prior consent or authorization of the owner or operator of the vehicle. In such cases, the Division maintains additional regulatory oversight over these types of common carriers.

Tariff rates for common carriers of household goods and towing operations performed without prior consent of the owner or operator of the vehicle must be approved by the Division. Tariffs must be kept on file in the office of the carrier for public review. Complaints regarding charges are investigated by the Division. To receive a certificate to transport household goods, applicants must prove fitness, willingness, and ability to provide the proposed service and that a public convenience and necessity exists for the proposed service.

In addition to motor carriers transporting property, as described above, the Division maintains statutory authority over carriers transporting passengers within the State of Rhode Island. Such carriers include, but are not limited to, taxicabs, limited public motor vehicles, jitneys, and water carriers.