Railroad Commission of Texas, Motor Transportation Division:
An Inventory of Motor Transportation Division Enforcement and Regulation Records at the Texas State Archives, 1929-1955, bulk 1936-1942
The Railroad Commission of Texas regulates the exploration, production, and transportation of oil and natural gas in Texas. Its statutory role is to prevent waste of the state's natural resources, to protect the correlative rights of different interest owners, to prevent pollution, and to provide safety in matters such as hydrogen sulfide. It oversees hazardous materials pipelines and natural gas pipelines and distribution systems as well as propane, butane, compressed natural gas, and liquefied natural gas. It works to make sure a continuous, safe supply of natural gas is available to Texas consumers at the lowest reasonable price. Additionally, the Commission regulates surface mining for coal, uranium, and iron ore gravel, and conducts a program for reclaiming lands that were mined and abandoned before 1975.
The Railroad Commission of Texas had its origin in the demands of the shipping public in the late 1880s that insisted that railroads be subject to regulation based on public interest. An advocate for governmental regulation, Attorney General James Stephen Hogg ran for Governor in 1890 with the issue of railroad regulation as the focal point of the campaign. Hogg was elected Governor in the general election and the voters also approved an amendment to Article X, Section 2 of the Texas Constitution that empowered the Legislature to enact statutes creating regulatory agencies. These elections paved the way for the Legislature to enact on April 3, 1891 "An Act to Establish a Railroad Commission of the State of Texas," that later was placed in the Texas Revised Civil Statutes under article 6444 et seq. (House Bills 1, 3, and 58, 22nd Texas Legislature, Regular Session).
The Commission originally consisted of three members appointed by the Governor for three-year terms. Governor Hogg appointed the first three Commissioners in 1891 including John H. Reagan, who resigned as U.S. Senator from Texas to serve as the first Chairman. The Texas Constitution, Article XIX, Section 30 was amended in 1894 to provide for elective six-year overlapping terms for the Commissioners. That same year John H. Reagan was elected and served until his retirement in 1903.
The Texas Railroad Commission was the first regulatory agency created in the State of Texas and originally had jurisdiction over the rates and operations of railroads, terminals, wharves and express companies. The legal focus was on intrastate passenger and freight activities. Interstate jurisdiction fell under the U.S. Interstate Commerce Commission. For the first twenty-five years of its existence, the Railroad Commission was largely concerned with regulating railroads, setting rates, receiving complaints, and making investigations. As other controversies arose where the Legislature deemed that the public interest could best be served by regulation, additional duties were assigned to the Railroad Commission.
The Railroad Commission's authority was broadened beginning in 1917 with the passage of the Pipeline Petroleum Law (Senate Bill 68, 35th Legislature, Regular Session) that declared pipelines to be common carriers like railroads and placed them under the Commission's jurisdiction. This was the first act to designate the Railroad Commission as the agency to administer conservation laws relating to oil and gas. The Commission's regulatory and enforcement powers in oil and gas were increased by the Oil and Gas Conservation Law (Senate Bill 350 of the 36th Legislature, Regular Session), effective June 18, 1919. This act gave the Railroad Commission jurisdiction to regulate the production of oil and gas. Acting upon this legislation, the Commission adopted in 1919 the first statewide rules regulating the oil and gas industry to promote conservation and safety, including Rule 37. This rule requires minimum distances between wells at drilling sites in order to protect field pressure and correlative rights.
The Gas Utilities Act of 1920 (House Bill 11, 36th Legislature, 3rd Called Session) gave the Commission regulatory and rate authority over individuals and businesses producing, transporting, or distributing natural gas in Texas. In 1937, following a large natural gas explosion in a school in New London, Texas, the 45th Legislature passed legislation giving the Railroad Commission the authority to adopt rules and regulations pertaining to the odorization of natural gas or liquefied petroleum gases (House Bill 1017, Regular Session).
The passage of the Public Regulatory Act of 1975 (PURA) (House Bill 819, 64th Legislature, Regular Session) required certain state regulatory agencies, including the Commission, to set the overall revenues of a utility based on its "cost of service." Regulation of liquefied petroleum was added to the Commission's responsibilities in 1939 by the 46th Legislature (House Bill 792, Regular Session). The legislation authorized the Commission to adopt and enforce safety rules and standards in the storage, handling, transportation, and odorization of butane or LP-gases. Regulation of compressed natural gas was added to the Railroad Commission's responsibilities in 1983 (Senate Bill 617, 68th Legislature, Regular Session).
The Motor Bus Law of 1927, House Bill 50, 40th Legislature, Regular Session, and the Motor Carrier Law of 1929, House Bill 654, 41st Legislature, Regular Session, extended the Commission's regulatory powers to commercial transportation of persons and property on state highways. In 1995, following federal deregulation of motor carriers, the 74th Legislature eliminated the agency's authority to regulate commercial carriers involved in intrastate transport and transferred the remaining responsibilities related to commercial carriers (motor carrier registration, insurance verification, and safety) to the Texas Department of Transportation (Senate Bill 971, Regular Session), and the Department of Public Safety (Senate Bill 3, Regular Session).
(Sources: Guide to Texas State Agencies, various editions; general laws and statutes; and the records themselves.)
The Railroad Commission of Texas had regulatory power of the commercial transportation of persons and property on state highways during the period covered by these records. Motor transportation activities were handled by the Motor Transportation Division. These records include inspection reports of motor carriers' certificates, inspections of railroad crossing warning equipment, valuation reports of the equipment of a carrier, monthly revenue and expense reports of carriers, reports on the amount of driving done during the month by each commercial driver, and reports of railroad accidents. Dates covered are 1929-1955, bulk 1936-1942. The Division inspected and maintained records to ensure adequate and safe transportation for the public.
The enforcement and regulation activities of the Motor Transportation Division include the maintenance of rate and time schedules, inspections and patrols for adequate and safe accomodations and all other requirements for public convenience, the receipt of complaints from the public and from companies, and participation in trials in proper courts. Internal records kept by the Division to enforce its regulations include inspection reports, interlocker reports, monthly drivers' registers, motor carrier operating reports, valuation reports, and accident reports.
Inspection reports list inspectors' findings of missing or expired licenses and certificates and violations of permits such as carrying too much weight or using the wrong route. Interlocker reports document inspections of the working order of warning equipment at railroad crossings. Motor carrier operating reports are forms sent to the Division by carriers that reported their monthly operating revenue and expenses. Monthly drivers' registers kept track of the amount of driving time commercial drivers put in each month. Valuation reports include the type, make, cost, and depreciation of each motor vehicle that a carrier operated. Accident reports list railroad accidents and not highway accidents unless it involved a collision between a train and a motor vehicle.
To prepare this inventory, the described materials were cursorily reviewed to confirm the accuracy of contents lists, to provide an estimate of dates covered, and to determine record types.
This finding aid describes one series of the Railroad Commission of Texas records. See Railroad Commission of Texas: An Overview of Records for more records series.
Restrictions on Access
Materials housed in the State Archives do not circulate, but may be used in the State Archives search room. Materials will be retrieved from and returned to storage areas by staff members.
Restrictions on Use
Most records created by Texas state agencies are not copyrighted and may be freely used in any way. State records also include materials received by, not created by, state agencies. Copyright remains with the creator. The researcher is responsible for complying with U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17 U.S.C.).
(Identify the item), Motor Transporation Division enforcement and regulation records, Records, Railroad Commission of Texas. Archives and Information Services Division, Texas State Library and Archives Commission.
Accession numbers: 1961/005 and others unknown
Some of these records were transferred to the Archives and Information Services Division of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission by the Railroad Commission of Texas in October 1961 and at other undetermined dates.
Described by Paul B. Beck, June, 1985
Finding aid edited for DACS compliance by Laura K. Saegert, December 2008
Detailed Description of the Records