APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA.
Warren, Black, Frankfurter, Douglas, Clark, Harlan, Brennan, Whittaker, Stewart
MR. CHIEF JUSTICE WARREN delivered the opinion of the Court.
The principal question presented on this appeal is whether the appellee Interstate Commerce Commission properly declined to impose certain restrictions upon motor carrier permits it issued to a trucking company which is a subsidiary of a railroad.
The permits in question are designed to allow appellee Pacific Motor Trucking Company, a wholly owned subsidiary of Southern Pacific Company, to perform a particular type of transportation service for appellee General Motors Corporation. Prior to issuance of these permits, Pacific Motor already had been authorized to conduct certain trucking activities in a number of States into which Southern Pacific's extensive railway system penetrates. Without adverting to immaterial details, that authority may be described as follows: Pacific Motor held common carrier certificates from the Commission for the transportation of commodities, by way of service auxiliary to and supplemental of Southern Pacific rail service, over routes paralleling Southern Pacific lines in Oregon, California, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas. It also held contract carrier authority from the State of California for intrastate transportation of trucks and automobiles. Finally, it had been granted contract carrier permits by the Commission for the transportation of automobiles, trucks, and buses from certain points in California to three nonrail points in Nevada, to two points on the Mexican border, to certain points in Los Angeles
Harbor, and to points in Nevada located on the Southern Pacific line. These latter contract carrier permits did not contain restrictions designed to make the service auxiliary to and supplemental of Southern Pacific rail service. Pacific Motor's only contract carrier shipper has been General Motors.
By the four applications which gave rise to the present controversy, Pacific Motor sought to extend the scope of its contract carrier service for General Motors. It requested authorization from the Commission for the transportation of new automotive equipment from plants of General Motors at Oakland, Raymer, and South Gate, California, to various interstate destinations not included within its prior permits. Generally speaking, the first application, designated Sub 34, covered contract carrier service from the Oakland plants to points on the Southern Pacific line in Oregon; the second, Sub 35, covered similar service to three Nevada nonrail points; the third, Sub 36, covered transportation from the Raymer plant to points in Arizona which are stations on the Southern Pacific line; and the last -- and broadest -- application, Sub 37, covered transportation from the Oakland, Raymer, and South Gate plants to points in seven States, whether or not on the Southern Pacific line.*fn1
The Commission proceedings resulted in the grant of some, but not all, of the requested authority. On May 8, 1957, the Commission acted favorably on the Sub 34 application. 71 M. C. C. 561. However, the Commission thereafter consolidated the four applications and heard oral argument. On September 9, 1958, the Commission issued its final report, 77 M. C. C. 605, which may
be described specifically enough for our purposes as authorizing transportation by Pacific Motor to the three additional Nevada nonrail points and to points on the Southern Pacific line in Nevada, Utah, Arizona, Oregon, and New Mexico.*fn2 Otherwise, the applications were denied. There were certain other conditions imposed by the Commission, which we will detail later, but the major restriction was the limitation of points of destination to points on the Southern Pacific line.
Appellants -- American Trucking Associations, Inc., its Contract Carrier Conference, the National Automobile Transporters Association, and six motor carriers -- brought suit in Federal District Court to set aside the Commission's order. See 28 U. S. C. § 1336. Appellees Pacific Motor and General Motors intervened in support of the order. The United States was named a party defendant, together with the Interstate Commerce Commission, but did not either participate in or oppose the defense. See 28 U. S. C. § 2323. A three-judge court, which was convened pursuant to 28 U. S. C. §§ 2325 and 2284, denied relief. 170 F.Supp. 38. Our appellate jurisdiction was invoked under 28 U. S. C. § 1253, and we noted probable jurisdiction. 361 U.S. 806. In this Court, the Commission opposes and the United States supports the appellants.
There is a preliminary challenge by Pacific Motor and General Motors to appellants' standing, a challenge which was sustained by two members of the lower court. We disagree with this holding. Since the basis for our view on the problem of standing will be more readily appreciated after the merits of the case have been fully treated, we postpone our discussion of this matter.
The critical issue raised by appellants is whether the Commission exceeded its statutory authority by granting the permits in question to a railroad subsidiary without imposing more stringent limitations than it did. On this question, the lower court unanimously ruled against appellants. This judgment must be evaluated in the light of this Court's previous decisions, set against the background of Commission practice.
Both the Commission and this Court have recognized that Congress has expressed a strong general policy against railroad invasion of the motor carrier field. This policy is evinced in a general way in the preamble to the 1940 amendments to the Interstate Commerce Act -- the National Transportation Policy, 54 Stat. 899 -- which articulates the congressional purpose that the Act be "so administered as to recognize and preserve the inherent advantages" of "all modes of transportation." More particularly, Congress' attitude is reflected by a proviso to § 5 (2)(b) of the Act,*fn3 which enjoins the Commission to withhold approval of an acquisition by a railroad of a motor carrier "unless it finds that the transaction proposed will be consistent with the public interest and will enable such carrier to use service by motor vehicle to public advantage in its operations and will not unduly restrain competition."
The Commission long ago concluded that the policy of the transportation legislation requires that the standards of § 5 (2)(b) -- then § 213 (a) of the Motor Carrier Act of 1935, 49 Stat. 555 -- be followed as a general rule in other situations, notably in applications for common carrier certificates of convenience and necessity under § 207.*fn4 Kansas ...