Mississippi Valley Barge Line Co. v. United States
292 U.S. 282 (1934)

Annotate this Case

U.S. Supreme Court

Mississippi Valley Barge Line Co. v. United States, 292 U.S. 282 (1934)

Mississippi Valley Barge Line Co. v. United States

No. 807

Argued April 5, 1934

Decided April 30, 1934

292 U.S. 282




1. Findings of the Interstate Commerce Commission may not be assailed in a suit to set its order aside in the absence of the evidence on which they were made. This settled rule cannot be avoided by the submission of additional evidence in the form of affidavits. P. 292 U. S. 286.

2. It is not for a court to substitute its judgment for that of the Interstate Commerce Commission in the adjustment of a rate schedule; the judicial function is exhausted when there is found a rational basis for the Commission's conclusion. P. 292 U. S. 286.

3. Order of the Commission permitting lower rail rates on sugar, to meet water competition on the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers, held supported by the facts set forth in its report. Id.

Page 292 U. S. 283

4. The policy of Congress with respect to rail and water transportation, as evinced by the Transportation and the Inland Waterways Transportation Acts, does not mean that carriers by rail shall be required to maintain a rate that is too high for fear that, through a change, they may cut into the profits of carriers by water. The most that it can mean, unless, conceivably, in circumstances of wanton or malicious injury, is that, where carriers by land an water are brought within the range of the regulatory powers of the Commission, as, e.g., in establishing through routes or joint rates, there shall be impartial recognition and promotion of the interests of all. P. 292 U. S. 288.

5. The permissive minimum rail rate in this case, fixed high enough to more than pay the cost of service, involves no discrimination against the complaining water competitor. P. 292 U. S. 288.

4 F.Supp. 745 affirmed.

Appeal from a decree of the District Court, constituted of three judges, dismissing a bill to set aside an order of the Interstate Commerce Commission.

MR. JUSTICE CARDOZO delivered the opinion of the Court.

The appellant, Mississippi Valley Barge Line Company, is a common carrier by water, operating towboats and barges on the Mississippi and Ohio rivers. It derives a large part of its earnings from the transportation

Page 292 U. S. 284

of sugar, which it carries from New Orleans to Cincinnati and St. Louis and intermediate ports. It is in active competition with rail carriers serving the same ports and inland points beyond.

In 1932, the Illinois Central Railroad Company and other carriers by rail filed with the Interstate Commerce Commission proposed schedules of reduced rates on sugar from New Orleans to northern points, the rates to become effective October 1 of that year. The aim of the reduction was to meet the competition of the appellant and other carriers by water who had been able, by reason of low and unregulated rates, to divert to themselves a large part of the traffic in sugar that, till then, had moved by rail. The railway companies perceived that they were threatened with still heavier losses in the future unless something was done by a reduction of their own charges to recover the business that was slipping from their grasp. Indeed, the change had gone so far that already they were hauling practically no sugar within the field of competition. In 1932, the barge movement amounted to over 500,000 tons, about ten times as much as moved all-rail from Louisiana to the north. Of the water-borne traffic, by far the greater part was carried by the Federal Barge Line, which has acquiesced in the new schedules, preferring to let the rail carriers fix the rate level. The residue has been carried part of it by this appellant, part by the American Barge Company, and part by tramp or contract operators. During the year 1932, one railway company, the Illinois Central, lost about half a million dollars by traffic thus diverted. The new schedules that were filed in the attempt to retrieve these losses proposed two different sets of rates, one based upon a minimum weight of 60,000 pounds per car and the other upon a minimum weight of 80,000 pounds per car. To illustrate their effect, the old rate between New Orleans and Chicago had

Page 292 U. S. 285

been 56

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