Assigned Car Cases,
274 U.S. 564 (1927)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Assigned Car Cases, 274 U.S. 564 (1927)

The Assigned Car Cases*

Nos. 709, 710, 711, 712, 713, 714, 715, 716, 606, 638

Argued March 2, 3, 1927

Decided May 31, 1927

274 U.S. 564


1. Congress may prescribe the conditions on which private cars may be used on interstate railroads, and how carrier-owned cars shall be used. P. 274 U. S. 575.

2. A rule of the Interstate Commerce Commission which requires that, in determining how many coal cars are available for distribution in a district, the carrier placing them shall count, in addition to its own cars, those owned by foreign railroads and assigned to their fuel service and those owned by and assigned to the service of private shippers, and which prohibits the carrier, unless permitted by emergency order of the Commission, from placing for loading at any mine more than that mine's rateable share of all such cars, but which does not divert the surplus of cars owned by one shipper to the use of another -- does not involve an unconstitutional taking of the property of the private car owners, nor invade the private business affairs of the carrier. P. 274 U. S. 572.

3. Paragraph 12 of § 1 of the Interstate Commerce Act, as amended by § 402 of the Transportation Act, 1920, which declares it the duty of every carrier by railroad to make just and reasonable distribution of cars for transportation of coal among the mines served by it, and, when the supply available for such service does not meet the mines' requirements,

"to maintain and apply just and reasonable ratings of such mines and to count each and every car furnished to or used by any such mine for transportation of coal against the mine,"

leaves to the Commission the administrative discretion to determine how the cars shall be distributed. P. 274 U. S. 576.

Page 274 U. S. 565

4. Paragraph 10 of § 1 of the amended Interstate Commerce Act, defining "car service" as including the distribution of cars "used in the transportation of property," does not limit the Commission's authority to make regulations in respect of coal car service, under pars. 12 and 14, supra, to cars supplied by railroads in performance of their common carrier duties of transportation for the public. The authority extends to cars carrying coal for use as fuel by the transporting, or other, railroad. P. 274 U. S. 578.

5. The rule of car distribution here involved is not arbitrary or unreasonable. P. 274 U. S. 578.

6. The authority to establish reasonable rules with respect to car service conferred by par. 14 of § 1 of the amended Interstate Commerce Act includes power to make a rule of car distribution uniformly applicable. P. 274 U. S. 580.

7. Courts are not to weigh the evidence introduced before the Commission, enquire into the soundness of its reasoning, or question the wisdom of the regulations prescribed by it. P. 274 U. S. 580.

8. In making a general rule of coal car distribution, the Commission exercises a legislative function, and it is not a condition to the validity of the rule that there be adduced evidence of its appropriateness in respect of every railroad to which it will be applicable. P. 274 U. S. 582.

9. There is evidence to support the Commission's finding that existing "assigned car" practice caused discrimination in the use of other transportation facilities. The contention that, in adopting the rule here in question, the Commission, under guise of regulating carrier instrumentalities, sought to equalize industrial fortune and opportunity is unfounded. P. 274 U. S. 583.

10. The fact that use of private cars is permitted by Congress, and that shippers acquire them in their own interest, does not prevent the Commission from prohibiting their use in a way which will probably result in unjust discrimination against others and prove otherwise detrimental to transportation service. P. 274 U. S. 584.

9 F.2d 429 reversed.

These were suits, five in number, brought in the District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania to enjoin and annul an order of the Interstate Commerce Commission establishing a general rule of coal car distribution, including "assigned cars" -- i.e., privately owned cars and railroad fuel cars placed at specified mines for the

Page 274 U. S. 566

use of particular shippers. The defendants in each case were the United States, the Interstate Commerce Commission, and various intervening mine operators. The district court granted the relief prayed, 9 F.2d 429, and appeals were taken to this Court under Jud.Code § 238, as amended, separate appeals being taken in each case by the United States and the Commission, on the one hand, and the other intervening defendants, on the other.

Page 274 U. S. 567

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