Interstate regulations can hit lax taxi, bus, even Uber drivers
September 4, 2017
You can't talk about the leading industries in Nevada without mentioning tourism and gaming. However, there are a number of ancillary industries in the state that offer critical support to Nevada's thriving tourist trade. One such industry is transportation, much of which is generally regulated by the Nevada Transportation Authority, which was formed for the purpose of regulating and licensing motor carriers operating in the state. A motor carrier is any vehicle operating on the roads of Nevada for the purpose of transporting persons or property — anything from a taxi, to a limousine service, to tour bus operators, and even tow cars.
For obvious reasons, many key gaming and important tourist spots in Nevada are located near borders of other states — spots like Lake Tahoe and Reno on and near the Northern California border, Wendover on the Utah border, and Las Vegas near the borders of Utah, Arizona, and Southern California. Much of the Nevada transportation industry revolves around transporting tourists in and to these locations.
Commercial motor carriers who transport passengers in these border spots often have to deal with more than just NTA regulations. They may have to contend with neighboring state transportation agencies or even with federal agency regulations. Problems can and do arise for these carriers when they cross borders and inevitably have to navigate state and federal transportation agencies and potentially conflicting laws and regulations.
For instance, a limousine might be chartered to pick up a group of bachelor partygoers from Reno-Tahoe International Airport, take them to check in to their hotel in South Lake Tahoe, California, and then bring them to a casino just across the border in Stateline, Nevada.
The NTA employs several investigating officers with authority to detain commercial motor carriers on the road to ensure compliance with NTA regulations, which include requirements that such vehicles be marked with approved names and operating license numbers and that drivers carry NTA driving permits and medical cards. Like police officers, NTA investigators are authorized to issue citations to commercial drivers who fail to comply with applicable regulations.
In the previously mentioned South Lake Tahoe example, let's say the limousine was based out of California and does not have authority to operate in Nevada. In such a case, an NTA investigator might notice that the vehicle does not contain the markings required by NTA regulations and might stop the driver after he has dropped the passengers at the casino in Stateline. A citation is issued for the lack of required markings and, perhaps, for the driver's failure to carry an NTA driving permit.
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The owners of the California-based limousine would need to hire a Nevada attorney to represent them before the NTA and assist with getting the citations dismissed. Why? Because the limousine was operating in what is known as interstate commerce. However, the NTA is only authorized to regulate intrastate transportation — trips that occur entirely within the State of Nevada.
On the other hand, federal law provides that the federal government has jurisdiction over transportation of passengers between one state and another state or between two places in one state if such travel passes through another state at any point. Federal law trumps state law in such a case and the NTA citations must be dismissed.
Similar issues might arise in any number of different scenarios. Consider a tour bus operating between the Las Vegas strip and the Grand Canyon in Arizona or an Uber driver transporting a tourist from Wendover, Utah, to West Wendover. In all such cases, the lines often become blurred between Nevada and federal laws, which just might result in an NTA citation for one reason or another. When these or other transportation matters occur, transportation entities should consult with competent legal counsel that is experienced in transportation law to assist with the NTA and to obtain a just and fair result under whichever law applies. Understand your rights and responsibilities when it comes to federal and state transportation laws.
Justin Townsend is an associate with Allison MacKenzie Law Firm with primary practice in Business Law, Real Estate Law, Transportation Law, Commercial Transactions and Energy Law.