The original and intervening plaintiffs are trucking companies. All are engaged in transporting goods from, into and through several states, including New Jersey. Each plaintiff operates a fleet of motor vehicles and carries on its business under the authority of certificates of public convenience and necessity issued by the Interstate Commerce Commission. Most of the plaintiffs are incorporated under the laws of Ohio, but one is incorporated in Delaware, one in Nevada and one in Michigan. Each plaintiff has its principal place of business outside of New Jersey, although all of them have qualified to do business in New Jersey.
Plaintiffs challenge the constitutionality of Chapter 119 of the Laws of 1969; N.J.S.A. 39:3-6 et seq. , a statute which took effect July 1, 1969 and which appears to be commonly called the New Jersey Counterpart Fee Act. The most significant section for present purposes reads as follows:
Except as otherwise provided by reciprocity agreement or arrangement entered into by the director or by a declaration issued by him, no motor vehicle or motor drawn vehicle registered in another jurisdiction
which requires the payment of a registration fee or fees or taxes of any other nature from an owner of a similar vehicle properly registered in this State for the operation of such vehicle on the highways of such other State, shall be operated on the highways of this State unless a fee is paid to the director, equal in amount to the fee or tax collected by the authorized official or body of such other jurisdiction for the operation on its highways of the motor vehicle or motor-drawn vehicle properly registered in this State. In the event that the fee or tax collected by such other jurisdiction is imposed for the registration of the vehicle therein, then in no case shall the fee paid to the director be less than the amount now or hereafter provided for by the laws of this State for the registration of a similar vehicle. The director shall from time to time promulgate such regulations as may be necessary for the effective enforcement of this section. (L. 1969, c. 119, § 1; N.J.S.A. 39:3-6)
The "director" referred to in the legislation is the Director of the Division of Motor Vehicles. The title given to Chapter 119 of the Laws of 1969 reads as follows:
An Act concerning motor vehicles and reciprocal relations with other jurisdictions with respect to motor vehicle fees and taxation, and amending sections 39:3-6 and 39:3-15 and supplementing chapter 3 of Title 39, of the Revised Statutes.
It is hardly necessary to add that Title 39 of the Statutes is designated "Motor Vehicles and Traffic Regulation."
Following the above-quoted section of the Counterpart Fee Act are a number of sections dealing with the powers and duties of the director with respect to negotiating and entering into reciprocity agreements and to enforcement of the statute and of any agreements made.
A resident of one state who uses his passenger automobile to tour through other states will not be required to pay taxes of any sort to the other states; he enjoys reciprocity at its broadest. No such statement can be made about interstate use of motor trucks and buses. General information about the complexity of the fees and charges which are applicable to operating trucks and buses across state lines can be found in two publications furnished to me by counsel: (a) "A History of Motor Vehicle Reciprocity" compiled and issued March, 1965 by the American Association of
Motor Vehicles Administrators, Washington, D.C., and (b) "Motor Truck Reciprocity," Public Relations Department, American Trucking Association, Inc., Washington, D.C. Both of those publications use the term "third structure taxes" in describing the type of fee or tax to be paid under N.J.S.A. 39:3-6. In this scheme of terminology registration fees are the first structure taxes and fuel taxes are the second structure taxes. After pointing out the benefits of reciprocity -- convenience, lower costs to both shipper and consumer of goods, lower bus fares, etc. -- "A History of Motor Vehicle Reciprocity" says at page 1:
Each state depends on license fees and fuel taxes to build and maintain highways. As long as these fees and taxes are uniform, reciprocity can be extended. When extra or third structure taxes are imposed by one state or several states, reciprocity is restricted. Sometimes it ceases. Such extra taxes are expensive to collect, difficult to enforce and are not conducive to good relations between states. They threaten the entire structure of reciprocity, for other states enact retaliatory levies and the result is often loss of reciprocity.
Plaintiffs' trucks are not covered by any reciprocity agreement New Jersey has subscribed to; therefore, plaintiffs' trucking in New Jersey is subject to the charges imposed by the Act if it is valid. On the basis of past experience with operations in this state, plaintiffs have shown that those charges will be substantial and will be considerably in excess of the amounts New Jersey would charge under the statute for comparable operations by an owner whose trucks are registered in any one of several other states. The position taken by plaintiffs is summarized in their trial brief (page 3) as follows:
The determinative factor with regard to the taxes they pay under N.J.S.A. 39:3-6 is not the nature of their commercial operations or the extent of their actual use of New Jersey roads, but simply the adventitious situs of registration of their vehicles. In short, the statute, in actual effect, establishes a different taxing structure for affected vehicles from each of the sister states.
They contend that the statute as presently implemented and administered violates traditional federal and state constitutional safeguards
against denial of equal protection of the laws and due process of law and constitutes an unconstitutional burden on interstate commerce. Furthermore, plaintiffs argue, that the enactment effects an unlawful delegation of legislative powers and constitutes ...