Interstate Commerce Commission

Twelfth Street and Constitution Avenue, NW.
NAtional 7460, Branch 303

Chairman   John L. Rogers
  Clyde B. Aitchison Walter M.W. Splawn
  Claude R. Porter J. Haden Alldredge
  William E. Lee William J. Patterson
  Charles D. Mahaffie J. Monroe Johnson
  Carroll Miller George M. Barnard


Secretary W.P. Bartel
Assistant Secretary George W. Laird
Assistant to the Secretary James L. Murphy
Chief, Section of Audits and Accounts Guy L. Seaman
Purchasing Agent A.H. Laird, Jr.
Librarian Mildred R. Senior
Director, Bureau of Accounts C.D. Crandall
Director, Bureau of Finance Oliver E. Sweet
Chief Examiner Ulysses Butler
Chief, Bureau of Informal Cases Arja Morgan
Director, Bureau of Inquiry Edgar M. Ebert
Chief Counsel Daniel W. Knowlton
Director, Bureau of Locomotive Inspection John M. Hall
Director, Bureau of Personnel Supervision and Management John B. Switzer
Director, Bureau of Safety Shirley N. Mills
Director, Bureau of Service Virgil C. Clinger
Director, Bureau of Transport Economics and Statistics W.H.S. Stevens
Director, Bureau of Traffic W.V. Hardie
Director, Bureau of Valuation Robert A. Lacey
Director, Bureau of Motor Carriers Wendell Y. Blanning
Director, Bureau of Water Carriers and Freight Forwarders (Vacancy)

Creation and Authority.--The Interstate Commerce Commission was created as an independent establishment by the Act to Regulate Commerce, of February 4, 1887 (24 Stat. 379, 383; 40 U.S.C. 1-22), now known as the Interstate Commerce Act. Subsequent legislation has strengthened the authority of the Commission and broadened the scope of its jurisdiction.

The Hepburn Act, approved June 29, 1906 (34 Stat. 584; 49 U.S.C. 1, 6, 11, 14-16a, 18, 20, 41), was important in providing for the enforcement of the Commission's orders. By the terms of this act, as amended, orders of the Commission other than orders for the payment of money become effective within such reasonable time, not less than 30 days, as the Commission shall prescribe, and remain in force until its further order or for a specified period of time, unless suspended or modified or set aside by the Commission, or suspended or set aside by a court of competent jurisdiction. Under the Act to Regulate Commerce, of February 4, 1887, the jurisdiction of the Commission applied to common carriers engaged in transportation of passengers or property "wholly by railroad or partly by railroad and partly by water when both are used under a common control, management, or arrangement for a continuous carriage or shipment." Its jurisdiction was extended by the Hepburn Act to include express companies, pipe lines (except those for water and gas), and sleeping-car companies.

The Panama Canal Act of August 24, 1912 (37 Stat. 566; U.S.C. titles 5, 15, 46, 48, 49), as amended by the Transportation Act of 1940 (54 Stat. 898; 45 U.S.C. 131-46, also title 49), added to the Commission's regulatory authority over rail-and-water transportation by empowering it to take acton to secure the establishment of through routes between rail-and-water carriers for transportation of property from point to point in the United States, where not entirely within the limits of a single State, and to prescribe maximum joint rates for such transportation.


The Transportation Act of 1920 enlarged the Commission's powers in many respects over carriers already subject to its jurisdiction under prior acts, and placed the duty upon the Commission to take many steps toward development and maintenance of an adequate national transportation service. Among the powers delegated was that authorizing the Commission directly to prescribe intrastate rates when necessary to remove discrimination against interstate commerce.

The Motor Carrier Act of 1935, approved August 9, 1935, now cited as Part II of the Interstate Commerce Act, vests in the Commission the regulation, to the extent provided by the act, of the transportation of passengers and property by motor carriers engaged in interstate or foreign commerce, of the procurement thereof, and of the provision of facilities therefor.

By the Transportation Act, 1940, approved September 18, 1940, extensive jurisdiction was conferred upon the Commission over water carriers operating coastwise, intercoastal, and upon inland waters of the United States. The water carrier regulatory provisions are to be cited as Part III of the Interstate Commerce Act. This act transfers to the Interstate Commerce Commission some of the jurisdiction heretofore exercised by the Maritime Commission, and also brings under regulation water transportation heretofore not subject to any regulation. This act also made numerous changes in those portions of the Interstate Commerce Act relating to the Commission's jurisdiction over rail carriers and over motor carriers.

Part IV of the Interstate Commerce Act, approved May 16, 1942, conferred upon the Commission jurisdiction over freight forwarders. This part of the act vests the Commission with authority to administer the provisions thereof and to issue necessary rules and regulations, and confers upon it the duty to prescribe reasonable rules and regulations for the filing of surety bonds and policies of insurance. Other important duties are conferred upon the Commission by this part, corresponding in a general way with the duties imposed upon the Commission by parts I, II, and III.

Purpose.--The general purpose of creating the Commission was to provide for a body empowered to regulate, in the public interest, common carriers subject to the act engaged in transportation in interstate commerce, and in foreign commerce to the extent that it takes place within the United States. As recently amended, all the provisions of the act are to be administered by the Commission in the light of a transportation policy added by the 1940 act, that all modes of transportation subject to its provisions are to be regulated so as to recognize and preserve the inherent advantages of each; to promote safe, adequate, economical, and efficient service and foster sound economic conditions in transportation and among the several carriers; to encourage the establishment and maintenance of reasonable charges for transportation services, without unjust discriminations, undue preferences or advantages, or unfair or destructive competitive practices; to cooperate with the several States and the duly authorized officials thereof; and to encourage fair wages and equitable working conditions--all to the end of developing, coordinating, and preserving a national transportation system by water, highway, and rail, as well as by other means, adequate to meet the needs of the commerce of the United States, of the Postal Service, and of the national defense.


Organization.--The Interstate Commerce Commission consists of eleven members appointed by the President. From its membership the Commission selects a chairman. The Commissioners appoint the Secretary, Chief Counsel, directors of bureaus 9other than the Director of the Bureau of Locomotive Inspection, who is appointed by the President), and such other assistants, attorneys, examiners, special agents, and clerks as are necessary for the performance of the Commission's duties. The act authorizes the Commission to create divisions, and a decision of a division (of not less than three members) has the same force and effect as a decision of the Commission itself, subject to the entire Commission, in its discretion, granting a rehearing. Under this authorization, there are now five divisions in the Commission. The Commission is also empowered under certain conditions to delegate work to boards of three or more eligible employees.


Regulates Motor Carriers.--By Part II of the Interstate Commerce Act, added in 1935 to the act, the Commission is charged with the duty of regulating common carriers by motor vehicle as provided therein; and to that end the Commission may establish requirements with respect to continuous and adequate service, transportation of baggage and express, uniform systems of accounts, records, and reports, preservation of records, qualifications and maximum hours of service of employees, and safety of operation and equipment. Part II also places the duty upon the Commission to regulate contract carriers by motor vehicle as provided therein, and to that end the Commission may establish requirements with respect ot uniform systems of accounts, records, and reports, preservation of records, qualification and maximum hours of service of employees, and safety of operation and equipment; also, to establish for private carriers of property by motor vehicle, if necessary, reasonable requirements to promote safety of operation, and to that end prescribe qualifications and maximum hours of service of employees, and the standards of equipment.

Regulates Water Carriers.--By Part III of the Interstate Commerce Act, added in 1940 to the act, the Commission is given extensive authority with respect to transportation by common carriers and contract carriers by water, and to that end, to inquire into and report on the management of the business of such water carriers, and of persons controlling, controlled by, or under a common control of water carriers. The Commission is to keep itself informed as to the manner and method in which these activities are conducted, and may obtain from the carriers and persons controlling them such information as deemed necessary; it is also to establish from time to time just and reasonable classifications of carriers required in the administration of the act, and it has authority to issue such general and special rules and regulations and to issue such orders as may be necessary to carry out its provisions.

Regulates Freight Forwarders.--Freight forwarders, subject to regulation by the Commission in accordance with provisions of Part IV of the Interstate Commerce Act, added in 1942, are defined as persons, other than carriers, who in the performance of contracts to


transport property for the general public employ the services, of rail, water, and other carriers which are subject to Parts I, II, and III of the act. The Commission ha authority to establish reasonable requirements with respect to continuous and adequate service. It is authorized to inquire into the management of the business of freight forwarders and the method in which these activities are conducted, obtaining in this connection such information as it deems necessary. It may obtain information concerning the operations of freight forwarders, make necessary recommendations for further legislation, and institute and investigate complaints as to whether freight forwarders have observed the provisions of the act.

Maintenance of Just, Reasonable, and Nondiscriminatory Rates.--In proceedings instituted upon complaint or upon its own motion, the Commission is empowered, following hearings, to prescribe by order th rates, charges, regulations, and practices to be observed by carriers and freight forwarders subject to the Interstate Commerce Act, and to make such other orders and to grant such authority as fall within the administrative powers conferred upon it. The Commission is charged with the duty of determining whether just, reasonable, and nondiscriminatory rates are maintained by carriers and freight forwarders under its jurisdiction. When it becomes necessary, the Commission is authorized after hearing to prescribe such rates, fares, and charges, or with certain exceptions, minima and maxima, as it finds to be just, reasonable, and nondiscriminatory.

Establishment of Through Routes and Joint Rates.--It is authorized, under certain conditions, to require common carriers to establish through routes and joint rates, and it may act summarily in making just and reasonable rules and regulations with respect to car service without regard to ownership, during an emergency, and require joint or common use of terminals, including main line track or tracks for a reasonable distance outside of such terminals, give directions as to preference or priority of transportation, during such emergency, which will, in the opinion of the Commission, promote the service in the interest of the public and the commerce of the people. By the Second War Powers Act of 1942, similar powers were conferred upon the Commission with respect to motor carriers during the present war.

Division of Joint Rates.--Upon complaint or upon its own initiative, following hearings, the Commission may prescribe the just, reasonable, and equitable division of joint rates, and may require readjustment of such past joint rate divisions as it finds to have been inequitable, provided the joint rate which is being divided was itself established pursuant to a finding or order of the Commission.

Requirement of Switch Connections.--The Commission may require common carriers by railroad to construct switch connections with lateral branch lines of railroads and private sidetracks.

Car Service.--The Commission exercises extensive jurisdiction over the use, control, supply, movement, distribution, exchange, interchange, and return of locomotives, cars, and other vehicles, including special types of equipment and the supply of trains. Under certain conditions, it is authorized to make directions as to the handling and movement of traffic over a railroad and its distribution over other lines of railroads. By the Second War Powers Act of 1942, similar


powers with respect to motor carriers, during the war emergency were conferred on the Commission.

Pooling.--The Commission is authorized to approve contracts of carriers subject to its jurisdiction for the pooling or division of traffic, service, or earnings. Such contracts are unlawful without this approval. This provision does not apply to the pooling of traffic, service, or earnings of freight forwarders.

Consolidation, Mergers, and Acquisitions of Control.--The Commission passes upon all consolidations, unifications, and mergers of railroad properties, express companies, motor carriers, and water carriers, and its authority is necessary to any acquisition of control by carriers of other carriers, or, in a common interest, of two or more carriers.

Posting of Rates and Regulations.--Parts I, II, III, and IV of the Interstate Commerce Act require carriers, subject to their respective provisions, and freight forwarders to publish and file their rates, rules, and regulations pertaining to interstate traffic, and prohibit such carriers and freight forwarders from engaging in interstate transportation unless they comply with this requirement.

Accounts and Records of Carriers.--The Commission prescribes the forms of the accounts, records, and memorandums to be kept by the carriers and freight forwarders subject to the Interstate Commerce Act. Part III authorizes the Commission to prescribe the forms of any and all accounts, records, and memorandums to be kept by motor carriers subject to that act. The Commission requires carriers subject to the Interstate Commerce Act, Part I, to file annual reports, together with such intermediate reports as are deemed necessary. It is authorized by Part II Ito require annual, periodical, or special reports from all motor carriers. The Commission is empowered to obtain full and complete information from railroad, motor, and other carriers subject to its jurisdiction as to the manner in which they conduct and manage their business, and is given at all times access to all accounts, records, and memorandums of carriers subject to its jurisdiction. Similar authority was conferred upon the Commission with respect t water carriers by Part III, and with respect to freight forwarders by Part IV, approved May 16, 1942.

Suspension of Proposed Rates.--The Interstate Commerce Act provides that whenever there shall be filed with the Commission any schedule showing a new rate, fare, or charge, etc., the Commission may, either upon its own initiative or upon complaint, enter upon a hearing concerning the lawfulness of such new rate, fare, or charge, pending the determination of which the Commission may temporarily suspend the operation of such new joint rate, fare, or charge.

Railroad Carriers Barred From Operating Competing Water Carriers.--The Commission administers and enforces that section of Part I of the Interstate Commerce Act making it illegal for any railroad company or other common carrier subject to the act to own, lease, operate, control, or have any interest in any competing water carrier unless the Commission finds that any water-line operation other than through the Panama Canal by a railroad company is in the public interest and will not reduce competition, in which event it may permit the continuance of such service.


Valuation of Carriers Subject to the Interstate Commerce Act.--The Commission is charged with the duty of ascertaining and reporting the value of all property owned or used by common carriers by rail or pipe line subject to the act.

Awards of Reparation.--Upon complaint, and following hearing, the Commission is empowered to order any common carrier subject to its jurisdiction under Part I of the Interstate Commerce Act to make reparation as to damage sustained by reason of any violation of the act. Part III of the Interstate Commerce Act gives the Commission the same authority over certain water carriers brought within its jurisdiction.

Authorization for Carriers to Issue Securities.--The Commission's authority is necessary to the issuance of securities or the assumption of obligations by carriers by railroad. Its authority is also necessary to the issuance of securities or the assumption of obligations by common or contract carriers by motor vehicle where the par value of the securities to be issued, together with the par value of the securities then outstanding, exceeds $500,000, except that notes having a maturity of two years or less and aggregating not more than $100,000 are exempt from such authority.

Forms for Bills of Lading.--The Commission prescribes rules, regulations, and forms for domestic bills of lading and for through export bills of lading which are required to be issued in full detail to the point of destination.

Compilation and Publication of Statistics.--The Commission collects statistics concerning the corporate history, organization, investments, capitalization, indebtedness, physical property, and operations of all common carriers subject to the provisions of the Interstate Commerce Act, including exhibits of financial changes, taxation, contracts, revenues, expenses, employees, traffic, operation, and maintenance, and also reports of railway accidents under the Accident Reports Act. The Commission prepares rules, instructions, and forms for the guidance and use of such carriers in keeping statistical records and in making reports to it, and compiles, prepares, and publishes periodical and special statistical statements.

Administration of Railroad Bankruptcy Laws.--The Commission is charged with many duties under the railroad bankruptcy laws contained in the act approved March 3, 1933 (47 Stat. 1467, 1474; 11 U.S.C. 205), as amended by the acts approved August 27, 1935, June 26, 1936, and June 22, 1938, as amendments to the Bankruptcy Act, including the approval after hearing of plans of reorganization, the regulation of protective committees, the ratification of the selection of trustees, and the fixing of maximum allowances, expenses, and attorneys' fees for the trustees, their counsel, reorganization managers, or others entitled thereto.

Antitrust Activities.--Whenever the Commission after investigation or hearing has reason to believe that certain provisions of the Clayton Antitrust Act of October 15, 1914 (15 U.S.C. 12-27, 44; 18 U.S.C. 412; 28 U.S.C. 381-83, 386-90; 29 U.S.C. 52), relative to prohibiting discrimination by carriers between purchasers, in sales of commodities, or in other ways contributing to the creation of monopolies, have been violated, it transmits its finding to the Attorney General.


Determination of Mail Transportation Rates.--The Commission determines fair and reasonable rates for mail transportation by railway carriers and urban and interurban electric carriers.

Fixing of Time Zones.--The Commission fixes limits of the standard time zones of continental United States, excluding Alaska.

Railroad Safety Appliances.--It designates the number, dimensions, location, and manner of application f safety appliances prescribed by law for trains, engines, and cars, inspects these appliances, and notifies United States Attorneys of violations, so the violators may be prosecuted.

Hours of Service for Railroad Employees.--Through investigations by its inspectors and monthly reports filed by railroads, the Commission keeps informed concerning the hours of labor of train service employees, dispatchers, and operators. Information concerning violations of the hours-of-service law is transmitted to the United States Attorneys for use in prosecution.

Investigation of Railroad Accidents.--The Commission requires reports from railroads of all train accidents which result in deaths or serious personal injuries, and investigates the more serious collisions and derailments, issues reports, and makes recommendations designed to prevent their recurrence.

Automatic Train Control Devices.--The Commission ha required the installation of automatic trains-stop, train-control, or cab-signal devices on parts of some railroads. From time to time engineers on its staff inspect these installations.

Railroad Safety Devices.--It reports upon devices intended to promote safety in railroad operation which are submitted for examination.

Safety and Equipment of Motor Carriers.--By Part II the Commission is authorized to establish reasonable requirements with respect to safety of operation and equipment of motor carriers subject to that Part, including qualifications and maximum hours of service of employees whose activities affect safety of operation. If need therefor is found, the Commission is authorized to exercise these powers over private carriers of property by motor vehicle.

Medals of Honor.--The Commission investigates and makes recommendations to the President concerning applications for medals of honor filed on behalf of persons who endanger their own lives in saving, or attempting to save, lives from wrecks, disasters, or grave accidents on railroads.

Locomotive Inspection.--Inspections are made of all locomotives used on the lines of common-carrier railroads, for the purpose of determining whether the locomotives are in proper condition to operate without unnecessary peril, and whether they are equipped and maintained in accordance with rules and regulations. Corrective action is taken in connection with locomotives not conforming to requirements. Investigations are made of accidents caused by failure of locomotives or any of their appurtenances, and evidence of violations is obtained so that appropriate action may be taken.

Specifications covering design, construction, and major rep airs of locomotives are checked to determine their safety, and corrective action is taken where discrepancies are found. Inspection and repair


reports filed by the railroads, and inspection and accident reports filed by Commission inspectors, are analyzed and coordinated to put the information in the most usable form for promotion of safety.

Transportation of Explosives.--The Commission provides regulations for the safe transportation of explosives and other dangerous articles by common carriers by railroad and carriers by highway in interstate of foreign commerce.

Other Duties.--The Commission's authority is necessary to the construction of new lines by common carriers by railroad and to the abandonment of existing lines; also to the operation, under certain conditions, by common and contract carriers by motor vehicle in interstate or foreign commerce. on public highways. By Part III of the Interstate Commerce Act, Commission authority was required for common and contract carriers by water to engage in new operations, except that the act contains a clause requiring the Commission to issue certificates and permits to those carriers in actual operation on January 1, 1940, whose operations have continued since that date.

The Commission is charged with the duty of keeping itself informed as to the manner in which all carriers and freight forwarders subject to its jurisdiction conduct and manage their business, and is empowered to obtain from them full information to that end. It is charged with the duty of investigating violations of the criminal and penal provisions of the acts which it is required to administer, and to request the Attorney General for prosecution or other enforcement of said provisions, and for the enforcement of some orders, if disobeyed, in equity suits, and in civil suits for recovery of the penalties prescribed for such disobedience.

War Activities.--The chairman and other members of the Commission have participate din various conferences with representatives of the Government engaged in wartime activities with respect to transportation problems.

Under the provisions of the Interstate Commerce Act the Commission is given broad powers concerning supply, exchange, interchange, and return of freight cars, and rules, regulations, and practices relating thereto, and with respect to the handling, routing, and movement of traffic. These powers may be exercised whenever the Commission is of the opinion that shortage of equipment, congestion of traffic, or other emergency requiring immediate action exists in any section of the country. Among other things the act provides that "in time of war or threatened war the President may certify to the Commission that it is essential to the national defense and security that certain traffic shall have preference or priority in transportation, and the Commission shall, under the power herein conferred, direct that such preference or priority be afforded." By the Second War Powers Act of 1942, these emergency powers of the Commission were so broadened as to include motor carriers. The Commission has had occasion may times during the present war to exercise these emergency powers.


John L. Rogers


Table of Contents

Transcribed and formatted for HTML by Patrick Clancey, HyperWar Foundation