Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Official citation and/or docket number and footnotes (if any) for this case available with purchase.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

ATCHISON v. UNITED STATES

SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES


January 26, 1914

ATCHISON, TOPEKA & SANTA FE RAILWAY COMPANY
v.
UNITED STATES

APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES COMMERCE COURT

White, McKenna, Holmes, Day, Hughes, Van Devanter, Lamar, Pitney

Author: Lamar

[ 232 U.S. Page 212]

 MR. JUSTICE LAMAR, after making the foregoing statement of facts, delivered the opinion of the court.

There are many cases between shipper and carrier in which each insists that the other is bound to furnish service or facilities connected with the transportation of freight. The present record, however, presents an instance where both parties are contending for the privilege of supplying an article needed in the proper shipment of fruit -- the consignor claiming that icing is a necessary part of the loading, which he is authorized to supply; while the carriers insist that icing is a part of refrigeration, by statute made transportation, which they are bound to provide and for which they are entitled to collect reasonable compensation. The determination of these conflicting

[ 232 U.S. Page 213]

     claims necessitates an examination of the two methods under which, in warm weather, oranges are shipped from California to the East.

In what is called Standard Refrigeration, the boxes, of the aggregate weight of 27,200 pounds, are so placed as to leave spaces between them wide enough to admit of a free circulation of air chilled by ice in the bunkers. Subsequently the carriers put in a system of pre-cooling, under which after the cars had been loaded they were taken from the point of shipment to Refrigerating Plants owned by the carriers, where whole trainloads are pre-cooled at one time by means of blasts of very cold air driven into the car through and around the boxes. At the end of three or four hours the fruit is sufficiently chilled, the bunkers are then filled with about 10 tons of ice, furnished by the carrier, and the train is started on its journey to the East -- the bunkers being re-iced from time to time as needed at stations along the route. For this entire service the Commission held that the carrier's charge of $62.50 was reasonable.

A different method obtains where the icing of the car is done by the shipper at his own expense. In that class of cases the oranges are taken from the grove directly to a cold room having a temperature of about 33 degrees F. There the boxes are allowed to remain for periods of from 24 to 48 hours, and until the fruit is chilled to the center. When thus pre-cooled, the boxes are ready for shipment. A refrigerator car is then placed on the truck opposite the door of the cold room of the warehouse with which it is connected by a collapsible enclosed passageway, so arranged as to exclude the outside air, while at the same time allowing that from the cold room to enter and cool the interior of the car. Through this passageway the oranges are trucked from the warehouse to the car and, as they have been chilled to the center, the boxes are packed close together forming a solid mass weighing

[ 232 U.S. Page 21433]

     ,000 lbs., with a temperature of about 35 degrees F. The doors and vents of the car are promptly and tightly closed, the bunkers are immediately filled with unusually large cakes of ice, in order to reduce the rate of melting, and the fruit is then forwarded under a filed tariff which provides that re-icing is unnecessary, and that the shipper will make no claim for damage occasioned by failure to re-ice in transit. For their services in connection with such pre-cooled shipments the carriers were allowed to charge $7.50 but the Commission refused to permit them to charge for the ice needed to keep the fruit cool between warehouse and destination.

1. This ruling is attacked by the appellants, who contend that icing is a part of refrigeration, which the Hepburn Act*fn1 makes a part of the transportation they are bound to furnish upon reasonable request. They insist that in order to meet the duty, thus imposed by statute, they have been compelled at great expense to erect immense plants where trainloads of fruit can be cooled and where an enormous quantity of ice is manufactured for refrigeration purposes. They argue that, being bound to furnish all necessary icing and re-icing and having at great cost prepared to furnish the supply, it is not only just, but a right given by statute, that they should be allowed to provide all needed icing or refrigeration at a rate to be approved by the Commission.

Whatever transportation service or facility the law requires the carrier to supply they have the right to furnish. They can therefore use their own cars, and cannot be compelled to accept those tendered by the shipper on

[ 232 U.S. Page 215]

     condition that a lower freight rate be charged. So, too, they can furnish all the ice needed in refrigeration, for this is not only a duty and a right, under the Hepburn Act, but an economic necessity due to the fact that the carriers cannot be expected to prepare to meet the demand, and then let the use of their plants depend upon haphazard calls, under which refrigeration can be demanded by all shippers at one time and by only a few at another.

This contention was sustained by the Commission, which recognized that "the shipper has no right to provide refrigeration himself today and call upon the railroad company for that service tomorrow. To permit such a course is to demoralize the service of the defendants and prevent them from discharging their duty with economy and efficiency. . . . It is the duty of the carrier to furnish refrigeration upon reasonable demand, and in so far as the furnishing of that refrigeration is a part of the service rendered by the carrier, the carrier may insist upon its right to furnish that service exclusively." 20 I.C.C. 116.

2. But of course this does not mean, that because the carriers have ice on hand, they can compel the shipper to have his fruit refrigerated, when, on account of the state of the weather or for other cause, he prefers to have it forwarded under ventilation only. When, however, ice is actually needed and is actually used, the question arises as to whether icing is a part of preparation which can be done by the shipper; or a part of refrigeration (transportation) which, by statute the carrier has the exclusive right to furnish.

To this question no answer can be given that will apply in all cases. For in the shipment of fruit, as in that of other articles, it is impossible to lay down a rule which definitely fixes what loading includes and by whom it must be done. Nor is there any consistent practice on this subject, since from reported cases it appears that the

[ 232 U.S. Page 216]

     claims of the parties are based rather on interest than on some definite principle. Sometimes the shipper, as here, insists on the right to load and provide necessary appliances. At other times he demands that such service and appliances be furnished by the railroad company. Conversely the carriers sometimes claim, as here, the right to furnish service and facilities, while in other cases insisting that one or both must be supplied by the consignor. Cf. National Lumber Dealers Association v. Atlantic Coast Line, 14 I.C.C. 154; Schultz v. Southern Pacific, 18 I.C.C. 234; In re Allowance for Lining and Heating Cars, 26 I.C.C. 681; 25 I.C.C. 497.

These inconsistent and conflicting demands serve to emphasize the fact that, before the haul actually begins, the right or duty of each party, where not absolutely fixed by statute, must be decided with reference to the special facts of each case.

As a general rule, the carrier loads all freight tendered in less than carload lots while the consignor loads in all cases where, for his convenience, the car is placed at his warehouse or on public team tracks. This practice has grown up not only because the work can be more satisfactorily performed by the owner, but also because it is impossible for railroad companies economically to load cars at private warehouses or on those tracks where vehicles of the consignor or consignee come and go at the direction of the owner. 25 I.C.C. 490.

3. But loading may involve more than the mere placing of the freight on the car, since the character of the shipment may be such as to require the furnishing and placing of stakes, racks, blocks and binders needed to make the transportation safe; or, the freight may be such as to require special covering, packing, icing or heating, in order to preserve the merchandise in condition fit for use at the end of the journey. Who is to furnish these needed facilities, may be quite as uncertain as who is to place the

[ 232 U.S. Page 217]

     freight on the car, and can only be determined by considering the character of the shipment, the place where the loading begins, and who can most economically perform the service required.

Neither party has a right to insist upon a wasteful or expensive service for which the consumer must ultimately pay. The interest of the public is to be considered as well as that of shippers and carriers -- their rights in turn having been adjusted by a reduction in the rate, if the loading is done in whole or in part by the shipper; and by an increase in the rate where the loading is done in whole or in part by the carrier. But, by whomsoever done, the loading must be such as to fit the freight for shipment, and when -- by statutory requirement, by valid order of the Commission, or by the carriers' voluntary act, -- the car is placed at the consignor's warehouse to be loaded by the shipper, he may not only put the freight on the car but may do all other acts required to fit the freight for its proper shipment -- at least, until under a tariff regularly filed, the carrier offers to do what is necessary to secure or preserve what has thus been placed on its car for transportation. The refrigeration and pre-cooling offered by the carrier to shippers of pre-cooled fruit was found not to be the equivalent of the method adopted by the shipper.

4. In the present case the carriers concede that in pre-cooling shipments the consignor had the right to take all of the steps for preparation except the last. They concede that he had the right to pre-cool the fruit, to pre-cool the car, to place the boxes on board the car, to stop the vents and seal the doors. But they deny that he could ice the bunkers, even though that was necessary to the complete preparation, or loading, needed in that particular class of shipments and without which the fruit would be damaged by the rise in temperature, occurring during the time the car is being hauled from the warehouse of the shipper to the icing station of the carrier. Such delay in

[ 232 U.S. Page 218]

     filling bunkers would nullify most of the advantage of the expensive chilling of fruit and car necessary in the precooling shipments, -- permitted, if not originally encouraged, by the carrier. The privilege was withdrawn -- not because the railroad companies were in position to furnish the ice at the proper time and place, but solely because the Commission had reduced the carriers' charge on pre-cooled oranges from $30 to $7.50 per car.

The icing may have been so related to refrigeration as to authorize the carriers to render that service. But manifestly they could not be expected to build refrigerating plants near each warehouse; and, the carrier not being in a position to do such icing, the consignor had the same right to provide the necessary supply that he would have had to ice a shipment of fish, to furnish and place standards to secure lumber on an open car, or to fasten to the floor articles which otherwise might be damaged by the jerks and jolts of a moving train. In the absence, therefore, of the carriers' offer, under a filed tariff, to furnish ice at the time and place needed in pre-cooled shipments, or to substitute a service of equal value at practically the same cost, they had no right to prevent the consignor from filling the bunkers so as to fit the freight for proper transportation.

5. The tariffs, withdrawing the pre-cooling privilege after July, 1911, would have changed the practice, recognized by the carriers themselves and actually approved by the Commission's order fixing $7.50 for the carrier's services in connection with such practice. As the withdrawal "affected a practice and a rate," the Commission had power to cancel that tariff and to require the carriers to conform to the order establishing the $7.50 charge on pre-cooled shipments. Such an order was justified by the provisions of the Hepburn Act (34 Stat. 589), which authorizes the Commission, after a hearing, to determine whether rates, or practices affecting rates, are unreasonable, to determine what practice in respect to transportation

[ 232 U.S. Page 219]

     is just, and to require the carrier to conform to those prescribed by the Commission.*fn1a

6. The appellants insist, however, that even if the shippers are entitled to furnish the ice the carriers are entitled to pay for hauling it. They claim that the charge of $7.50 is confiscatory because it does not cover what the Commission found to be the actual cost of the carriers' pre-cooling service. They point to the fact that the rate of $1.15 per cwt. on oranges was found to be reasonable, without regard to the character of the shipment and whether the fruit moved under Ventilation, Standard Refrigeration of Pre-cooling Shipment, -- additional sums being allowed for furnishing or hauling ice needed in transportation of the fruit. They admit that more revenue is derived from a carload of pre-cooled fruit, weighing 33,000 lbs. than from a car where the load weights 27,200, but insist that the greater revenue is because of a greater service rendered and a greater weight hauled. On the authority of Int. Com. Comm. v. Stickney, 215 U.S. 98, 105 they contend that the receipt of a fair return for carrying 33,000 lbs. of fruit affords no reason for compelling them to haul 5,000 lbs. of ice 2000 miles for nothing, when, as found by the Commission, the actual cost of the haul is $12.50.

The order does not show the items going to make up the $7.50 charge. In the brief for the Commission it was

[ 232 U.S. Page 220]

     said to include $5 for damage to the bunkers and $2.50 for profit. And since the report shows that the carriers were also entitled to $12.50 for hauling the ice, a charge of only $7.50 for a $20.00 service would at first blush appear to be not only unreasonable but confiscatory. But the order is to be read in connection with the report of which it forms a part. When so read it is evident that the Commission did not intend to require the carriers to haul 5,000 lbs. of ice without reasonable compensation, but considered that the haul of the ice was so much a part of the haul of the pre-cooled freight, that the expense could properly be treated as included or absorbed in the rate on the fruit itself. Cf. Farrar Co. v. N.C. & St. L., 25 I.C.C. 25; Swift v. M.P. Ry. Co., 22 I.C.C. 385.

The cost of such haul was $12.50 -- equivalent to 3.8 on the 33,000 lbs. of oranges in a pre-cooled shipment, and as a mere matter of figures, it was immaterial to the carriers whether they were permitted to charge $1.11.2 on the fruit and $12.50 for the ice, or $1.15 on the fruit alone without any distinct charge for transporting the ice. In either event, the revenue received was more than that derived from a car of Standard Refrigeration without corresponding increase in cost.

7. The claim that the order modifies the established rate of $1.15 and reduces it to $1.11.2 in pre-cooled shipments, thereby discriminating against the small fruitgrower and those who forward under ventilation or under the carriers' method of refrigeration, is not an issue presented by any assignment of error in this record, even if the carriers were in position to make such a contention. Int. Com. Comm. v. Chicago, Rock Island & Pac. Ry., 218 U.S. 88, 109. There is no claim in this case that such rate, thus distributed, is unreasonable.

8. What is a proper rate on fruit in pre-cooling shipments, or a fair charge for hauling necessary ice or rendering other transportation services are all rate-making

[ 232 U.S. Page 221]

     matters committed to the Commission. It may determine what shall be the difference in rate between carload and less than carload lots. It may decide whether the difference in revenue, due to a difference in method of loading, warrants a difference in the rate on carload shipments of the same article. It may prescribe the form in which schedules shall be prepared and arranged (ยง 6) and may approve tariffs stating that the single rate includes both the line haul and accessorial services absorbed in the rate. Conversely, it may prescribe a tariff fixing a through rate which includes not only the haul of the fruit, but the haul of the ice necessary to keep the fruit in condition. All these are matters committed to the decision of the administrative body, which, in each instance, is required to fix reasonable rates and establish reasonable practices. The courts have not been vested with any such power. They cannot make rates. They cannot interfere with rates fixed or practices established by the Commission unless it is made plainly to appear that those ordered are void. Int. Com. Comm. v. Union Pacific R.R., 222 U.S. 541, 547. No such showing is made in this case. The decree must, therefore, be

Affirmed.


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Official citation and/or docket number and footnotes (if any) for this case available with purchase.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.