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UNITED STATES ET AL. v. PENNSYLVANIA RAILROAD CO. ET AL.

SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES


decided: January 29, 1945.

UNITED STATES ET AL
v.
PENNSYLVANIA RAILROAD CO. ET AL.

APPEAL FROM THE DISTRICT COURT OF THE UNITED STATES FOR THE DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY.*fn*

Stone, Roberts, Black, Reed, Frankfurter, Douglas, Murphy, Jackson, Rutledge

Author: Black

[ 323 U.S. Page 613]

 MR. JUSTICE BLACK delivered the opinion of the Court.

Seatrain Lines, Inc., is a common carrier of goods by water. In 1929, its predecessor began to carry goods from Belle Chasse, Louisiana, to Havana, Cuba. Each of the vessels used was so constructed that it could carry a number of railroad cars, and special equipment was provided to hoist these cars from adjacent tracks on the docks and move them bodily into the vessels. It was thereby rendered unnecessary for goods carried to the ports in railroad cars to be unloaded from the cars and carried piecemeal into the vessels. This new method of transportation, so the Interstate Commerce Commission has found, was a great improvement over the old practice, less destructive to the goods, more economical and more efficient. 226 I. C. C. 7, 20-21. In 1932, Seatrain decided to initiate a new interstate service between Hoboken, N. J. and Belle Chasse, Louisiana, via Havana, Cuba, and thus entered into direct competition with the interstate transportation of freight by railroads. During the time Seatrain had limited its business to foreign transportation, i. e., Louisiana to Cuba, the non-competing railroads freely permitted it the use of their cars. Shortly after it began its interstate service, however, the following rule was promulgated by the American Railway Association:*fn1 "Cars

[ 323 U.S. Page 614]

     of railway ownership must not be delivered to a steamship, ferry or barge line for water transportation without permission of the owner filed with the Car Service Division." Thereafter, some railroads continued to permit Seatrain to use their cars but others, including the parties to this proceeding, refused to do so. No railroads "refused to permit delivery of their cars to any of the other eleven water lines listed in a circular of the Association as coming within the intendment of the rule." 206 I. C. C. 328, 337.

A complaint was filed with the Interstate Commerce Commission. Appropriate hearings were conducted and a series of findings and opinions were entered. The findings were that the sole object of the Association of Railroads' rule was to prevent diversion of traffic from the railroads to Seatrain; that Seatrain, as an interstate water carrier, was subject to the Commission's jurisdiction; that its interstate operations were in the public interest and of advantage to the convenience and commerce of the public; that the Commission had jurisdiction to require through rail-water interstate routes, and, where such through routes were established, to require railroads to interchange cars with water carriers, 195 I. C. C. 215; 206 I. C. C. 328. An initial order of the Commission required the railroads to establish certain through joint rail-water routes with Seatrain. Such through interstate routes together with joint rates were established. 226 I. C. C. 7; 243 I. C. C. 199. The Commission then heard evidence and found that a payment of $1.00 per day would be a reasonable amount for Seatrain to pay the railroads for their cars while they were in Seatrain's possession. 237 I. C. C. 97; 248 I. C. C. 109. Based on its findings the Commission ordered the railroads to abstain from observing and enforcing rules and practices which prohibited the interchange of their freight cars for transportation by Seatrain in interstate commerce.

[ 323 U.S. Page 615]

     The railroads promptly brought this action under 28 U. S. C. 41 (28), 47, to set aside the Commission's order. The District Court set aside the order insofar as it required railroads to interchange cars destined for carriage by Seatrain outside the territorial waters of the United States, but sustained it in all other respects. 55 F.Supp. 473. Both sides appealed directly to this Court as authorized by the Urgent Deficiencies Act of October 22, 1913, 28 U. S. C. 47, 47a, and § 238 of the Judicial Code, 28 U. S. C. 345, par. (4).

First. It is contended that the railroads are under no duty to deliver their cars to Seatrain and that the Interstate Commerce Commission is without authority to require them to do so. It has long been held, and it is not denied here, that since the passage of the Interstate Commerce Act, railroads may be compelled to establish through routes*fn2 and to interchange their cars with each other,*fn3 both subject to reasonable terms. Nor is it denied that the railroads are under a legal duty, enforceable by proper Commission orders, to establish through routes with connecting water carriers.*fn4 The narrow contention is that the power granted the Commission to require the establishment and operation of through rail-water routes does not empower it to require a railroad to interchange its cars with a water carrier. Since the Commission's order was entered after passage of the 1940 Transportation Act,

[ 323 U.S. Page 61654]

     Stat. 898, the question must be decided under that Act. Ziffrin, Inc. v. United States, 318 U.S. 73, 78.

There is no language in the present Act which specifically commands that railroads must interchange their cars with connecting water lines. We cannot agree with the contention that the absence of specific language indicates a purpose of Congress not to require such an interchange. True, Congress has specified with precise language some obligations which railroads must assume. But all legislation dealing with this problem since the first Act in 1887, 24 Stat. 379, has contained broad language to indicate the scope of the law. The very complexities of the subject have necessarily caused Congress to cast its regulatory provisions in general terms. Congress has, in general, left the contents of these terms to be spelled out in particular cases by administrative and judicial action, and in the light of the Congressional purpose to foster an efficient and fair national transportation system. Cf. Chicago, R. I. & P. R. Co. v. United States, 274 U.S. 29, 36; Interstate Commerce Commission v. Railway Labor Executives Assn., 315 U.S. 373, 376-377.

The 1940 Transportation Act is divided into three parts, the first relating to railroads, the second to motor vehicles, and the third to water carriers. That Act, as had each previous amendment of the original 1887 Act, expanded the scope of regulation in this field and correlatively broadened the Commission's powers. The interrelationship of the three parts of the Act was made manifest by its declaration of a "national transportation policy of the Congress to provide for fair and impartial regulation of all modes of transportation subject to the provisions of this Act, so administered as to recognize and preserve the inherent advantages of each." The declared objective was that of "developing, coordinating, and preserving a national transportation system by water, highway, and rail, . . . adequate to meet the needs of the commerce of the

[ 323 U.S. Page 617]

     United States . . ." Congress further admonished that "all of the provisions of this Act shall be administered and enforced with a view to carrying out the above declaration of policy." 54 Stat. 899.

This policy cannot be carried out as to Seatrain's interstate carriage unless railroads interchange their cars with it. The particular type of service introduced by Seatrain, and found by the Commission to be qualitatively superior, cannot be rendered without the privilege of carrying the very railroad cars which carry freight to its ports. The "inherent advantages of this service" would be lost to the public without railroad car interchange.

Furthermore, the Act calls for "fair and impartial regulation." The railroad Association's rule however is constructed on the premise that the railroads can at their discretion determine which water carrier may, and which may not, transport their cars. Seatrain alone, of all the water carriers, according to the Commission's findings, has been refused car interchange. This means that the Association's rule, if valid, enables the railroads to decline to deal with Seatrain as it does with other carriers. As early as 1914, the Commission had declared that the Interstate Commerce Act, as then in effect, prohibited railroad practices which lent themselves to such purpose. The Commission said at that time:

"If the rail carriers are permitted to choose the particular boat lines with which they will establish through routes and joint rates, they will be able to dictate who shall operate on the water and who shall not, for a boat line which is accorded a monopoly of the through rail-and-water traffic will soon be able to drive its competitors out of business." Pacific Navigation Co. v. Southern Pacific Co., 31 I. C. C. 472, 479.

We cannot agree with the contention that the Commission has less power now to protect water carriers than it

[ 323 U.S. Page 618]

     had in 1914.*fn5 The 1940 Act was intended, together with the old law, to provide a completely integrated interstate

[ 323 U.S. Page 619]

     regulatory system over motor, railroad, and water carriers. In the light of its declared policy, and because of its provisions hereafter noted, we think railroads are under a duty to provide interchange of cars with water carriers to the end that interstate commerce may move without interruption or delay. Cf. Flour City S. S. Co. v. Lehigh Valley R. Co., 24 I. C. C. 179, 184.

Sec. 1 (4) of Part I of the Act imposes a duty on railroads to establish reasonable through routes with other carriers, including water carriers, and to "provide reasonable facilities for operating such routes"*fn6 under "reasonable rules and regulations."

Sec. 3 (4) makes it the duty of railroads to "afford all reasonable, proper, and equal facilities for the interchange of traffic between their . . . lines and connecting lines, and for the . . . forwarding . . . of . . . property to and from connecting lines," and a "connecting line" is defined to include a water carrier.

Sec. 15 (3) supplements these sections by providing that the Commission may hold hearings, and "shall," if it deems it "necessary or desirable in the public interest, . . . establish through routes . . . and the terms and conditions under which such through routes shall be operated."

These sections provide sufficient authorization for the Commission's order. It was from its power to require through routes that the Commission originally derived its power to require interchange of railroad cars among connecting railroads.*fn7 Since a rail-water through route with Seatrain cannot function without an interchange of cars, the unquestioned power of the Commission to require establishment of such routes would be wholly fruitless, without the correlative power to abrogate the Association's rule which prohibits the interchange.

[ 323 U.S. Page 620]

     whether, under the 1920 Act, there was a duty on the part of American railroads to furnish cars for transportation on a Mexican railroad. It was there held that in the absence of a discrimination against shippers, places, or classes of traffic within the United States, American railroads were "not bound by any law, regulation, or tariff to furnish cars for transportation in Mexico." These decisions simply meant that whatever power Congress might have to regulate the conduct of its domestic companies doing business abroad,*fn10 it had, by the limiting provisions of the 1920 Act, expressed its purpose not to empower the Commission with general authority to regulate rail transportation in foreign countries.

But these interpretations of the 1920 Act concerning rail transportation outside the United States are of dubious relevance to the instant case. For Congress has, in § 15 (3) of the 1940 Act, unequivocally granted to the Commission the power to establish through joint rail-water routes, and § 302 (i) (2) makes this power applicable to such routes "from a place in the United States to another place in the United States."*fn11 Cf. Cornell Steamboat Co. v. United States, 321 U.S. 634. The reason for this grant of authority to the Commission is apparent. It is well known that a substantial part of intercoastal and lake transportation among the states, in which American companies engage, traverses waters outside of the territorial limits of the United States. Foreign countries have not the same interest in this purely domestic carriage of goods as they have in controlling the movement of railroads

[ 323 U.S. Page 622]

     in their territory.*fn12 Such transportation must be regulated by this country if it is to be effectively regulated. Congress recognized this fact when it made special provision in § 15 (3) for the Commission to regulate water transportation from one to another place in the United States, even though that transportation took place "partly outside" the United States. It is this particular provision, made especially applicable to interstate rail-water transportation, by which the Commission's authority over such movements must be measured, rather than by the limiting clause of § 1, which is applicable to the Commission's power over railroad transportation. There is therefore nothing in the Act to deny the Commission the same power over interstate water-rail transportation which passes through foreign waters, as we have just held it enjoys where the transit is wholly within the territorial limits of the United States. We therefore hold that the order of the Commission requiring car interchanges was within its authority as to interstate movements which take place within or without the territorial waters of the United States.*fn13

[ 323 U.S. Page 623]

     possession, would be reasonable for application to the interchange of cars between defendants and complainants for use by Seatrain." 248 I. C. C. at 119. This being true we sustain the Commission's order in this respect.*fn14

We find no merit in any of the other contentions raised against the order of the Commission.

The judgment in No. 47 is reversed, and the judgment in No. 48 is affirmed.

It is so ordered.

MR. JUSTICE ROBERTS dissents.

Disposition

55 F.Supp. 473, reversed in part.

FOOTNOTES

* Together with No. 48, Pennsylvania Railroad Co. et al. v. United States et al., also on appeal from the District Court of the United States for the District of New Jersey.


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