American Trucking Assns. v. A., T. & S.F. R. Co. - 387 U.S. 397 (1967)
U.S. Supreme Court
American Trucking Assns. v. A., T. & S.F. R. Co., 387 U.S. 397 (1967)
American Trucking Associations, Inc. v.
Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway Co.
Argued April 13 and 17, 1967
Decided May 29, 1967
387 U.S. 397
Faced with the explosive growth of trailer-on-flatcar (TOFC or "piggyback") service the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) instituted a general investigation of all aspects of that service. Following hearings, the ICC promulgated rules providing that (1) "TOFC service, if offered by a rail carrier through its open-tariff publications, shall be made available" at the same charge to all other persons (Rule 2), and (2) motor and water carriers, and freight forwarders, "may utilize TOFC service in the performance of all or any portion of their authorized service through the use of open-tariff TOFC rates published by a rail carrier" (Rule 3). In a suit brought by railroads and freight forwarders, a three-judge District Court set these rules aside.
"[I]n light of the mandate of the National Transportation Policy, the Commission had authority derived from the common carrier obligations of the railroads as reflected in §§ 1(4), 2, and 3(1) of the Interstate Commerce Act to promulgate Rule 2 requiring that any railroad offering TOFC service through its open-tariff publications must make that service available 'to any person' on nondiscriminatory terms."
Pp. 387 U. S. 406-413.
(a) "The fact that the person tendering traffic is a competitor does not permit the railroad to discriminate against him or in his favor." Pp. 387 U. S. 406-408.
"In Seatrain [United States v. Pennsylvania R. Co., 323 U. S. 612 (1945)], this Court emphatically rejected the analysis upon which the District Court here essentially based its position -- that, since the Act regulates rail, motor, and water carriers separately, in Titles I, II, and III, the Commission may not compel the mutual furnishing of services and facilities other than as expressly directed."
Pp. 387 U. S. 408-411.
(c) The proviso to § 3(1) of the Act "certainly was not intended . . . to grant license to discriminate against traffic offered to the railroad by another carrier."
"The proviso means that the prohibition against 'undue or unreasonable preference or advantage' is not to be construed to forbid practices, otherwise lawful, solely because they operate to the prejudice of another carrier."
Pp. 387 U. S. 411-412.
"[T]here is no adequate reason to construe the Act so as to deprive the Commission of the power to authorize the carriers by motor vehicle to use TOFC when that service is offered by railroads to the public on open tariff."
Pp. 387 U. S. 413-420.
(a) The District Court and the appellees concede that a motor carrier may utilize TOFC with the consent of the railroad concerned. Because such consensual utilization of open-tariff TOFC differs importantly from a voluntary motor-rail through route and joint rate arrangement under § 216(c) of the Act, the exception for consensual TOFC undermines the argument that motor carriers are not authorized under their franchise to substitute rail transportation for transportation by road. There are other circumstances, too, in which a motor carrier may use the services of another mode of transportation.
"We may properly assume, therefore, that the Act cannot be construed to require that the trucker must always transport its cargo exclusively by road."
Pp. 387 U. S. 413-415.
(b) Although some prior ICC decisions have held that railroad concurrence is essential to motor carrier use of TOFC service,
"the Commission, faced with new developments or in light of reconsideration of the relevant facts and its mandate, may alter its past interpretation and overturn past administrative rulings and practice."
Pp. 387 U. S. 415-416.
"the attention of the Congress had been called to the need for action to secure the relief which the Commission subsequently granted in its rules,"
the resulting legislative history does not demonstrate "a congressional construction of the meaning of the statute. . . ." Nor is the ICC's advocacy of legislation "evidence of an administrative interpretation of the Act which should tilt the scales" against the ICC's conclusion in this case as to its authority. Pp. 387 U. S. 416-418.
"The mere fact that the truckers, by reason of the Commission's Rules 2 and 3, may utilize open-tariff TOFC service, where offered generally, certainly does not convert their activity into freight forwarding, in conflict with the Act."
Pp. 387 U. S. 418-420.
"The controlling fact of the matter is that all piggyback service is, by its essential nature, bimodal. . . . In the absence of congressional direction, there is no basis for denying to the ICC the power to allocate and regulate transportation that partakes of both elements, and there is no basis whatever for denying to the Commission the power to carry out its responsibilities under the National Transportation Policy. . . ."
Pp. 387 U. S. 420-422.
244 F.Supp. 955, reversed.