471 U.S. 1069 (1985)

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U.S. Supreme Court


471 U.S. 1069

No. 84-550

No. 84-867

Supreme Court of the United States

April 29, 1985

On petitions for writs of certiorari to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

The petitions for writs of certiorari are denied.

Justice WHITE, with whom Justice REHNQUIST joins, dissenting.

In the Staggers Rail Act of 1980, 49 U.S.C. 10101 et seq., Congress took a significant step away from the traditionally pervasive federal regulation of railroads. Displaying evident distrust of the regulatory model, the Act includes a 15-point National Rail Transportation Policy. 10101a. Among the policies identified are "(1) to allow, to the maximum extent possible, competition and the demand for services to establish reasonable rates for transportation by rail; [and] (2) to minimize the need for Federal regulatory control over the rail transportation system." Ibid. The Act also provides that the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) " shall exempt" persons or transactions from an otherwise applicable regulation if the regulation "is not necessary to carry out the transportation policy of section 10101a" and "either (A) the transaction or service is of limited scope, or (B) the application of a provision of this subtitle is not needed to protect shippers from the abuse of market power." 10505(a).

Justice O'CONNOR took no part in the consideration or decision of these petitions.

Page 471 U.S. 1069 , 1070

These cases arise out of an ICC rulemaking regarding the deregulation of boxcar traffic. Exemption from Regulation-Boxcar Traffic, 367 I.C.C. 423 (1983); Alaska Railroad Certification, 367 I.C.C. 745 (1983). The Commission granted far-reaching exemptions pursuant to 10505(a). First, it eliminated ceilings on boxcar rates. Particularly in light of economic pressures caused by competition from the trucking industry, the Commission found that rail carriers lacked market power and that regulation of boxcar rates was not necessary to further the National Rail Transportation Policy . Second, it extended this exemption to "joint rates." A joint rate is the charge to a shipper for transportation over connected lines by more than one carrier. The revenues are divided among the carriers pursuant to joint rate agreements, which are regulated by 49 U.S.C. 10705. The Commission concluded that elimination of joint rate regulation would not lead to the demise of joint rates, long haul routes, or cooperation between large and small carriers. Third, the Commission exempted negotiated agreements from its "car hire rules." Under the otherwise applicable rules, the owner of a boxcar could charge a per diem rental fee to the railroad with control over the boxcar for the entire time the car was on that railroad's tracks, even if it was empty and still. The Commission found that in practice these rules resulted in extreme inefficiency, higher operating costs, an incentive for excessive purchases of boxcars, and a lack of responsiveness to market conditions.

Respondents sought judicial review in the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. The court sustained the exemption of boxcar traffic from maximum rate regulation, but set aside the other two rulings. 238 U.S.App.D.C. 352, 740 F.2d 1023 (1984). With regard to the joint rate exemption, it found that the Commission's consideration of the need for regulation and the possible adverse consequences of its elimination had been inadequate. Noting congressional concern about the possibility of large carriers squeezing profits from captive small carriers, it held the Commission's failure to consider the effect of joint rate exemption on the fair division of joint rate revenue among carriers had been arbitrary and capricious. Turning to the car hire issue, the Court of Appeals, echoing the position of dissenting ICC Chairman Taylor, held that the Commission's decision was, in reality, not an exemption but a new regulation. As such, it exceeded the Com- [471 U.S. 1069 , 1071]

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