Federal Regulation of Private Carriers May Result in Fire Extinguishers on Each Truck

LENGTHY hearings before the Interstate Commerce Commission last year led to the conclusion that there is a need for Federal regulation of motor vehicles engaged in transporting property by private carriers. Present regulations apply only to common and contract motor carriers engaged in interstate commerce.

Although the I.C.C. has made no decision on this conclusion, there is hope in the situation for an improvement in the motor vehicle fire problem. One of the items of safety equipment required for common and contract carriers is a fire extinguisher, and there is every reason to assume that a similar regulation will be enacted for private carriers.

Large Number Affected

It is to be expected, when and if the regulations for private carriers are prescribed, between 750,000 and 1,000,000 commercial trucks of this class in interstate commerce will be required immediately to carry fire extinguishers, and, ultimately, practically all of the three million or more private carrier trucks will come under similar regulations by the various states.

Survey Conducted

The extent of the motor vehicle fire problem was discovered recently as the result of a survey conducted by FIRE ENGINEERING in collaboration with Safety Research Institute. This survey indicated that 11.53 per cent of all legitimate fire alarms in municipalities are for motor vehicle fires. As more and more vehicles of all classes are equipped with fire extinguishers of suitable types, the less acute this problem will become.

In 1937, according to the record of the I.C.C. hearings, there were about four million commercial cars engaged in transporting property in the United States, and of this number, it is estimated about three million were being operated by private carriers. However, only about twenty-five per cent of the private carriers crossed state lines and therefore may be subject to I.C.C. jurisdiction.

States Will Cooperate

Experience under the existing regulations for common and contract carriers _____dicates that many of the states are willing to cooperate with the Federal government in making highways and motor carriers safer. It is only five years, as of 1935, that the Motor Carrier Act gave the Commission authority to regulate common and contract carriers, and already thirty-six states have adopted all or part of the I.C.C. regulations. The same experience may be anticipated if regulations are prescribed for private carriers, but at a more rapid rate, as the states are more closely linked today in the highway safety movement.

For lack of adequate records it is difficult to learn what classes of motor vehicles are involved in fires. The Fire Departments of four cities have offered their records for 1939 and these probably approximate the national averages. These records follow:

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