The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 91, July 1987 - April, 1988 Page: 282
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Southwestern Historical Quarterly
with the National Recovery Administration, which brought truckers to-
gether and shored up voluntary agreements on rates and competition.
Lacking legal bite, however, the NRA codes broke down under com-
The ill-fated NRA experience proved valuable in the long run,
though, paving the way for the Motor Carrier Act of 1935. Skillfully
describing the political bargaining that led to the MCA, Childs rightly
notes that it represented a fundamental shift in public policy. Truckers
of every stripe, railroads, federal and state commissioners-but not con-
sumers-worked to create a new competitive policy, substituting for a
free and open market the cartel structure so many had sought. Though
the MCA failed to establish a coordinated transportation policy, it did
contain an important political innovation-shared power between state
and federal regulators. This was done in response to the pervasively
local structure of trucking and its need for flexibility. Such structural
constraints, states Childs, shaped trucking regulation more than any-
While strong on the politics of regulation, Childs is somewhat weaker
on economic analysis. He tends to accept uncritically truckers' conten-
tion that their business needed greater stability to survive, and he ad-
duces no evidence to show that competition kept prices permanently
below costs. Indeed, as he admits, trucking thrived even during the de-
pression, unlike other forms of transportation (p. 1lo). In the absence
of high fixed costs or the economies of scale that justified railroad regu-
lation, trucking, it seems, needed only minor governmental direction.
Childs does not show that cartelization, which raised prices and re-
stricted service, was necessary. Overall, however, he has produced a
useful work and a valuable addition to the growing field of business
and public policy.
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 91, July 1987 - April, 1988, periodical, 1987/1988; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101211/m1/322/: accessed June 18, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.