State of New Hampshire v. Wayne Bickford et al.

Local Taxicab Licensing Scheme Not Preempted
NH Supreme Court No. 2013-796
Tuesday, May 19, 2015

The New Hampshire Supreme Court determined that a Manchester taxicab business must comply with the City’s local licensing scheme and the United States Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

In this case, there were several defendants: all were drivers for two Manchester taxicab drivers, and all had been cited by the City Police for operating a taxicab services without a City license, as required by ordinance. The defendants sought dismissal of the citations, arguing that the federal FMCSA preempts the City’s ordinance and regulation of their transportation services. The trial court agreed with the defendants and dismissed the citations.

On appeal, the NH Supreme Court held that the local taxicab licensing scheme was not preempted by the FMCSA. First, while the federal law preempts a state’s ability to regulate transportation services provided on an interstate route, Congress explicitly denied the federal government jurisdiction over motor vehicles providing purely interstate taxicab services, leaving that regulation in the hands of state and local authorities. Second, there is no actual conflict between the federal law and City ordinance—in other words, it is not impossible for individuals to comply with both.  A motor carrier that provides taxicab services under a state or local license would generally be exempt from federal regulation; however, if the transportation ceased to be local, it would also be subject to the jurisdiction of the FMCSA. So, here, the Court determined that while the defendants’ FMCSA certification provides them with the authority to carry passengers in interstate commerce, it does not authorize them to provide purely intrastate services that are unrelated to their interstate services. Therefore, the trial court’s dismissal of the defendants’ citations was reversed.

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