Justice Dept. won’t oppose survey of small trucking firms

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The Department of Justice announced Tuesday, April 10, that it will not oppose a proposal by the National Association of Small Trucking Companies and Bell & Co. to conduct an operational and financial survey of small- and medium-sized trucking companies. NASTC and Bell plan to share the collected information in aggregate form with survey participants and others to provide trucking firms with competitive benchmarks. The department said the proposal is not likely to be anticompetitive and could lead to consumer benefits.

The department’s position was stated in a business review letter sent Monday, April 9, from Thomas O. Barnett, assistant attorney general in charge of the department’s antitrust division, to NASTC and Bell. The letter noted that the safeguards will ensure that the survey does not result in exchanges of competitively sensitive business information. The survey report will be administered by third parties, contain only aggregated data that is at least three months old, and be published only if responses to the survey are received from five or more trucking companies.

“Participation by members of an industry in benchmarking surveys does not necessarily raise antitrust concerns,” Barnett said in the letter. “In fact, with appropriate safeguards, such surveys can benefit consumers when industry members use information derived from such surveys to gain efficiencies and price their products or services more competitively.”

NASTC and Bell plan to collect data on general company information, equipment, finances and employee information. Under the department’s business review procedure, an organization may submit a proposed action to the antitrust division and receive a statement as to whether the division will challenge the action under the antitrust laws. NASTC and Bell requested the business review letter from the antitrust division stating its enforcement intentions regarding their proposed survey.