VAN'S DELIVERY SERVICE INC V ATTORNEY GENERALAnnotate this Case
STATE OF MICHIGAN
COURT OF APPEALS
BEHNKE, INC, MARTIN TRANSPORT
SYSTEMS, INC, and SERCOMBE TRUCKING,
February 21, 2008
STATE OF MICHIGAN and MICHIGAN STATE
POLICE MOTOR CARRIER DIVISION,
Ingham Circuit Court
LC No. 04-001252-CZ
Advance Sheets Version
VAN'S DELIVERY SERVICE, INC, VAN
EERDEN TRUCKING COMPANY, INC,
MODULAR TRANSPORTATION CO,
KUPERUS TRUCKING, INC, FOREWAY
TRANSPORTATION, INC, GRAND
TRAVERSE TRUCKING, INC, DEECO
TRANSPORTATION, INC, DAVIS CARTAGE
COMPANY, RYAN TRANSPORTATION, INC,
AUTO EXPEDITING, INC, SALTER OIL
COMPANY, INC, ALCO TRANSPORTATION,
INC, KOLEASECO, INC, ROMEO
EXPEDITORS, INC, TRAILER XPRESS, INC,
HOLLAND TRAILER LEASING, INC, PACE
TRAILER SALES AND SERVICES, BAY
SHIPPERS, LLC, and MASON COUNTY FRUIT
PACKERS CO-OP, INC,
GORDON FOOD SERVICE, INC,
ATTORNEY GENERAL, SECRETARY OF
STATE, MICHIGAN HIGHWAY
RECIPROCITY BOARD, and STATE POLICE
MOTOR CARRIER DIVISION,
Ingham Circuit Court
LC No. 04-08261-AW
Before: Fitzgerald, P.J., and Markey and Smolenski, JJ.
These consolidated cases involve actions for declaratory and injunctive relief, as well as
for a writ of mandamus. In each case defendants appeal as of right from a trial court order
granting summary disposition in favor of plaintiffs under MCR 2.116(C)(10). We affirm.
Plaintiffs are Michigan-based trucking companies engaged in interstate commerce. Their
trucks are registered in Michigan, but their trailers1 have been registered for years in foreign
jurisdictions, particularly Maine. This action arises out of a decision by the Michigan State
Police Motor Carrier Division (the motor carrier division) to issue civil infraction citations
beginning in the spring of 2004 because of plaintiffs' failure to display on their trailers a valid
Michigan registration plate in violation of MCL 257.255(1).2 The motor carrier division's active
enforcement of MCL 257.255(1) followed the amendment of MCL 257.801(1)(l). MCL
257.801(1)(l), as amended by 2003 PA 152,3 increased the registration fee for a trailer with an
elected gross weight of 10,000 pounds or over from $39 a year to a one-time $300 registration
For purposes of this opinion, use of the term "trailer" refers to a pole trailer, a semitrailer, a
trailer coach, and a trailer.
MCL 257.255(1) provides, in pertinent part:
Except as otherwise provided in this chapter, a person shall not operate,
nor shall an owner knowingly permit to be operated, upon any highway, a vehicle
required to be registered under this act unless there is attached to and displayed on
the vehicle, as required by this chapter, a valid registration plate issued for the
vehicle by the department for the current registration year.
Under MCL 257.216, every motor vehicle, pickup camper, trailer coach, trailer, semitrailer, and
pole trailer, when driven or moved on a highway, is subject to the registration and certificate-oftitle provisions of the Michigan Vehicle Code, except in certain situations not applicable here.
The effective date of 2003 PA 152 was October 1, 2003.
fee. The parties stipulated that the motor carrier division never issued citations to plaintiffs for a
violation of MCL 257.255(1) before the amendment of MCL 257.801(1)(l).
Plaintiffs commenced actions requesting declaratory and injunctive relief and a writ of
mandamus preventing the motor carrier division from issuing citations to interstate carriers for
failing to display a valid Michigan registration plate on trailers that are properly registered in
another jurisdiction. Plaintiffs asserted that they are not required to register their trailers in
Michigan because they participate in the International Registration Plan (IRP) and are therefore
permitted to register their trailers in any jurisdiction that participates in the IRP. The IRP is an
apportioned registration plan in which each of the 48 continental states, as well as Canada,
participates. Because interstate carriers must register in each jurisdiction in which they operate,
the IRP permits them to register their trucks annually in one "base" jurisdiction4 and to obtain
credentials to operate in other IRP jurisdictions. An interstate carrier that registers through the
IRP pays a full annual registration fee to its base jurisdiction, which, in turn, transmits a
percentage of that registration fee to the various IRP jurisdictions in which the carrier operates,
apportioned according to the mileage driven by the carrier during the preceding year in each
jurisdiction. According to the plan, all apportionable vehicles are required to register.5 Trailers
are not apportionable vehicles, and the IRP does not require the apportionment of trailers.6
"Base Jurisdiction" is defined in § 210 of the IRP as "the jurisdiction where the registrant has
an established place of business, where distance is accrued by the fleet and where operational
records of such fleet are maintained or can be made available in accordance with the provisions
of Section 1602."
Section 204 of the IRP defines "Apportionable Vehicle" as
[a]ny vehicle, except recreational vehicles, vehicles displaying restricted plates,
city pick up and delivery vehicles, buses used in transportation of chartered
parties, and Government-owned vehicles, used or intended for use in two or more
member jurisdictions that allocate or proportionally register vehicles and is used
for the transportation of persons for hire or designed, used or maintained
primarily for the transportation of property and:
1. is a power unit having two axles and a gross vehicle weight or
registered gross vehicle weight in excess of 26,000 pounds or 11,793.401
2. is a power unit having three or more axles, regardless of weight; or
3. is used in combination, when the weight of such combination exceeds
26,000 pounds or 11,793.410 kilograms gross vehicle weight.
Trucks and truck tractors, and combinations of vehicles having a gross
vehicle weight of 26,000 pounds or 11,793.401 kilograms or less and buses used
Plaintiffs argued below that their trailers are not subject to Michigan's registration
statutes because § 404 of the IRP specifically authorizes interstate carriers to register their
trailers in any member jurisdiction according to that jurisdiction's general registration statutes.
Defendants asserted that the IRP should be interpreted to require trailer registration in the
jurisdiction where the registrant's apportioned vehicles are registered. The trial court concluded
that the plain language of § 404 of the IRP allowed plaintiffs to register their trailers in any
member jurisdiction and to be given full and free reciprocity on Michigan highways.
Defendants first argue that the Ingham Circuit Court orders are void because the Ingham
Circuit Court lacked subject-matter jurisdiction. They maintain that jurisdiction is proper in the
Court of Claims. We disagree. A claim that the trial court lacked jurisdiction is a question of
law that this Court reviews de novo. Reed v Reed, 265 Mich App 131, 157; 693 NW2d 825
Plaintiffs' actions requested declaratory and injunctive relief and a writ of mandamus
preventing the motor carrier division from issuing citations under MCL 257.255(1) to interstate
carriers for failing to display a valid Michigan registration plate on trailers that are properly
registered in another jurisdiction. The claims sought declaratory or equitable relief not arising
out of either contract or tort. Under MCL 600.605, "Circuit courts have original jurisdiction to
hear and determine all civil claims and remedies, except where exclusive jurisdiction is given in
the constitution or by statute to some other court or where the circuit courts are denied
jurisdiction by the constitution or statutes of this state." Further, the remedies plaintiffs seek are
fully within the scope of the circuit court's jurisdiction as provided by MCL 600.4401(1) (an
action for mandamus against a state officer shall be commenced in the court of appeals, or in the
circuit court in the county in which venue is proper), and MCR 3.305(A)(1) (an action for
mandamus against a state officer may be brought in the Court of Appeals or the circuit court).
Even assuming that the Court of Claims has jurisdiction, MCL 600.6419a provides that
"jurisdiction conferred by this section [to the court of claims] is not intended to be exclusive of
the jurisdiction of the circuit court over demands for declaratory and equitable relief conferred by
section 605." Because the jurisdiction of the Court of Claims is not exclusive of the jurisdiction
of the circuit court over actions for declaratory or equitable relief, MCL 600.6419a, it can be
assumed that the Legislature intended that the circuit court retain original jurisdiction over such
claims as provided by MCL 600.605.
At the heart of the dispute in this case is § 404 of the IRP, which provides:
in transportation of chartered parties may be proportionally registered at the
option of the registrant.
There is no dispute that the trailers were not registered as apportioned vehicles.
Trailers, semitrailers and auxiliary axles properly registered in any
member jurisdiction and used, moved or operated in accordance with this section
shall be granted full and free reciprocity. This reciprocity shall be deemed
registration of such vehicles under the Plan and shall apply to both
interjurisdictional and intrajurisdictional movement or operation, provided
appropriate regulatory authority is held, if necessary. When registration fees are
paid on apportionable vehicles, full and free reciprocity shall be granted to all
trailers, semitrailers and auxiliary axles used in the combination. No member
jurisdiction shall require a registrant of power units to register any amount of
trailers, semitrailers or auxiliary axles in any proportion to the registrant's
apportioned power unit fleet.
We review de novo questions of statutory construction, with the fundamental goal of
giving effect to the intent of the Legislature. Weakland v Toledo Engineering Co, Inc, 467 Mich
344, 347; 656 NW2d 175 (2003), amended on other grounds 468 Mich 1216 (2003). The goal of
statutory interpretation is to determine and give effect to the intent of the Legislature, with the
presumption that unambiguous language should be enforced as written. Gladych v New Family
Homes, Inc, 468 Mich 594, 597; 664 NW2d 705 (2003). If the language is unambiguous, "the
proper role of a court is simply to apply the terms of the statute to the circumstances in a
particular case." Veenstra v Washtenaw Country Club, 466 Mich 155, 160; 645 NW2d 643
(2002), citing Turner v Auto Club Ins Ass'n, 448 Mich 22; 528 NW2d 681 (1995).
The plain language of § 404 states that trailers properly registered in any member
jurisdiction shall be granted full and free reciprocity and that such reciprocity shall be deemed
registration under the plan. Section 404 clearly gives an interstate carrier the ability to register
its trailers in any jurisdiction it chooses as long as registration fees are paid on its apportionable
truck.7 Because the plain and ordinary meaning of this statutory language is clear, judicial
construction is neither necessary nor permitted.8 Cherry Growers, Inc v Agricultural Marketing
On March 14, 2006, the Michigan IRP program manager submitted a memorandum to IRP,
Inc., and the Plan Re-Write Working Group recommending that the language of § 404 (which
has since been renumbered as § 525) be changed to "require [that] owners register their trailers in
any Member where they meet residency or base jurisdiction provisions of the Plan." This change
in language was recommended because the section as currently worded "gives registrants the
ability to register in any jurisdiction they choose. It is direct in permitting trailers to be
registered in any jurisdiction . . . ."
We also note that § 404 specifically states, "No member jurisdiction shall require a registrant of
power units to register any amount of trailers, semitrailers or auxiliary axles in any proportion to
the registrant's apportioned power unit fleet." Because apportioned vehicles must be registered
in the base jurisdiction, and no jurisdiction can require the registration of any amount of
semitrailers in any proportion to that of the apportioned vehicles, it is clear that the IRP does not
intend to force the registration of semitrailers to be in the base jurisdiction. To find otherwise
would be to nullify that final sentence of § 404.
& Bargaining Bd, 240 Mich App 153, 166; 610 NW2d 613 (2000).9 Accordingly, Michigan
must grant full and free reciprocity to trailers properly registered in any member jurisdiction
under § 404.
/s/ E. Thomas Fitzgerald
/s/ Jane E. Markey
/s/ Michael R. Smolenski
We decline defendants' invitation to read language from other sections of the IRP that govern
apportionable vehicles into § 404, which solely governs trailers.
In light of our conclusion, we need not address plaintiffs' constitutional arguments.