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Utah's contract trucking industry could lose recently gained freedom if a proposal to tighten regulations is approved.

The Utah Division of Public Utility wants a rule limiting non-regulated contract trucking firms' access to shippers.Officials believe contract carriers create unfair competition for common carrier firms that pay regulatory fees, provide service at set rates, and follow stricter safety standards.

The Utah Public Service Commission will have the final say after reviewing a recommendation by Administrative Law Judge Robert Thurman who conducted Monday's hearings.

Division officials say the 1986 Motor Carrier Act, intended to loosen entry into the trucking market, is hurting Utah's economy and could destroy the transportation industry.

The law allows contract carriers to make on-the-spot contracts at rates chosen in a similarly random style. Often the contract rates undercut the rates common carriers are required to charge.

Before the law was changed, contract carriers provided service only when unique circumstances made it impossible for common carriers to meet shipper needs. These contracts usually required specialized equipment not routinely available to common carriers.

The division wants those requirements restored to the Utah code through a Public Service Commission rule.

State Sen. Alarik F. Myrin, R-Altamont, who sponsored the 1986 law, opposes the rule. He said the Legislature, not the commission, should make statute changes.

Rather than tightening the regulations, the commission should further expand competition by allowing common carrier companies to compete in the contract market, Myrin said.