A. L. Mechling Barge Lines, Inc. v. United States
376 U.S. 375 (1964)

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U.S. Supreme Court

A. L. Mechling Barge Lines, Inc. v. United States, 376 U.S. 375 (1964)

A. L. Mechling Barge Lines, Inc. v. United States

No. 58

Argued February 18, 1964

Decided March 23, 1964*

376 U.S. 375




The Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC), after a hearing, issued an order permitting appellee railroad to depart from the long- and short-haul restrictions of § 4 of the Interstate Commerce Act. The ICC refused to pass on: the contention of the appellant Board of Trade that the proposed rail rates discriminated against Chicago grain merchants and processors (§ 3(1) of the Act); appellant barge line's contention that the rates discriminated between connecting carriers (§ 3(4) of the Act); and the claim that the rates were not just and reasonable (§ 1(5) of the Act). Nor did the ICC make a direct finding, despite appellants' insistence, that the railroad's new rate structure did not violate the National Transportation Policy. The District Court approved the action of the Commission.

Held: Appellants' claims that the proposed rail rates violated other sections of the Act and were contrary to the National Transportation Policy were ripe for adjudication, and should have been considered in the § 4 proceeding; the ICC's failure to consolidate the issues and reach the merits of the several contentions could only result in manifest inequities, potential windfalls to some carriers, and contravention of the National Transportation Policy. Pp. 376 U. S. 376-388.

209 F.Supp. 744 reversed and remanded.

Page 376 U. S. 376

MR. JUSTICE CLARK delivered the opinion of the Court.

This direct appeal from a final judgment of a three-judge District Court is but another episode in the long and continued struggle between the railroads and competing barge lines. In 1960, the Interstate Commerce Commission issued an order permitting a departure from the long- and short-haul provision of § 4 of the Interstate

Page 376 U. S. 377

Commerce Act. [Footnote 1] 310 I.C.C. 437. This order permitted the New York Central and connecting carriers to inaugurate a rate structure on its Belt Line west of Kankakee, Illinois, to eastern destinations under which lower rates were charged for some long hauls than for shorter ones on the same route. The District Court approved this action by dismissing a complaint to set aside the order. 209 F.Supp. 744. We noted probable jurisdiction, 374 U.S. 823, and now reverse the judgment with directions that the District Court vacate the order of the Commission and remand for further consideration in light of this opinion.


The New York Central operates the Kankakee Belt Line, which extends from South Bend, Indiana, through Kankakee, Illinois, and westward to Zearing, Illinois. That portion of the line west of Kankakee to Moronts, Illinois, roughly parallels the Illinois River in Northern Illinois, and is used in large part to transport corn toward eastern markets. In the mid-1930's, the Illinois River was developed for barge movement, and almost all of the corn

Page 376 U. S. 378

traffic was drawn away from the rails to the river, corn being moved to Chicago by barge and then shipped to the East by rail. [Footnote 2] Prior to 1957, barge rates from ports along the Illinois River to Chicago averaged 4.625

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