An Interstate Commerce Commission staff report that lambasts critics of trucking deregulation should prove new fodder for those politicians pushing to remove remaining state truck regulations.

"I did not ask that the study come to any specific conclusions," Edward Philbin, ICC chairman and Republican member, said of the report released this week.Mr. Philbin said he asked the commission's office of economics to prepare the report as soon as he learned a House subcommittee would be holding hearings on proposals to end state regulation of interstate trucking companies.

This week the Surface Transportation Subcommittee of the House Public Works and Transportation Committee held the first of three scheduled hearings on the state regulation issue. The hearings are also examining proposals to end truck tariff-filing and streamline the process of becoming an ICC-licensed carrier.

The report, which is not considered a formal ICC policy document, concluded that the benefits of deregulation are widespread and long-term. It found that, despite the financial pressures the trucking industry has encountered since it was deregulated in 1980, motor carrier deregulation has been a resounding public policy success.

Gail C. McDonald, Democrat commission member, said she had not yet reviewed the report but commented it had been prepared without her knowledge.

In a withering indictment, the report said critics of deregulation are not the shipping public, mainstream corporate America or the majority of the shipping public.

"Rather, they (critics) appear to be a narrowly focused group consisting primarily of smaller and financially distressed less-than-truckload carriers, organized workers in the LTL (less-than-truckload) sector and representatives of motor carrier rate bureaus. . . . However well-intentioned these groups are, their views are often self-serving and lacking in theoretical, legal, economic and evidentiary merit."

Republican commissioner Edward Emmett said most of the complaints about deregulation have come from the LTL carriers that have been "squeezed by truckload carriers on the top and small package carriers on the bottom."

The report said estimates of the benefits to the U.S. economy of trucking deregulation range from $10 billion to $65 billion annually.

The report also disputed the allegation there is now or soon will be undue carrier concentration in the LTL sector. "The fact that there may be fewer LTL carriers nationwide does not indicate that there are fewer in each - or any - of these smaller (regional) markets because the carriers that remain may operate in many more markets than they did previously."

The report added, "Competition brought about by deregulation has led to much non-traditional entry into the LTL sector. . . . There has been significant geographic expansion by existing LTL firms into each others' territories and entry from other carriers, including carriers from other modes."