Congressional Regulation of Railroads.

Legislation and ad-ministrative orders pertaining to railroads have been challenged repeatedly under the Due Process Clause, but seldom with success. Orders of the Interstate Commerce Commission establishing through routes and joint rates have been sustained,524 as has the Commission’s division of joint rates to give a weaker group of carriers a greater share of such rates where the proportion allotted to the stronger group was adequate to avoid confiscation.525 The recapture of one-half of the earnings of railroads in excess of a fair net operating income, such recaptured earnings to be available as a revolving fund for loans to weaker roads, was held valid on the ground that any carrier earning an excess held it as trustee.526 An order enjoining certain steam railroads from discriminating against an electric railroad by denying it reciprocal switching privileges did not violate the Fifth Amendment even through its practical effect was to admit the electric road to a part of the business being adequately handled by the steam roads.527 Similarly, the fact that a rule concerning the allotment of coal cars operated to restrict the use of private cars did not amount to a taking of property.528 Railroad companies were not denied due process of law by a statute forbidding them to transport in interstate commerce commodities that they manufactured, mined, or produced.529 An order approving a lease of one railroad by another, upon condition that displaced employees of the lessor should receive partial compensation for the loss suffered by reason of the lease,530 is consonant with due process of law. A law prohibiting the issuance of free passes was held constitutional even as applied to abolish rights created by a prior agreement by which the carrier bound itself to issue such passes annually for life, in settlement of a claim for personal injuries.531 A non-arbitrary Interstate Commerce Commission order establishing a non-compensatory rate for carriage of certain commodities does not violate the Due Process or Just Compensation Clauses as long as it serves the public interest and the rates as a whole yield just compensation.532

Occasionally, however, regulatory action has been held invalid under the Due Process Clause. An order issued by the Interstate Commerce Commission relieving short line railroads from the obligation to pay the usual fixed sum per day rental for cars used on foreign roads for a space of two days was held to be arbitrary and invalid.533 A retirement act that made eligible for pensions all persons who had been in the service of any railroad within one year prior to the adoption of the law, counted past unconnected service of an employee toward the requirement for a pension even if the employee had contributed nothing to the pension fund, and treated all carriers as a single employer and pooled their assets, without regard to their individual obligations, was held unconstitutional.534


St. Louis S.W. Ry. v. United States, 245 U.S. 136, 143 (1917). back
New England Divisions Case, 261 U.S. 184 (1923). back
Dayton-Goose Creek Ry. v. United States, 263 U.S. 456, 481, 483 (1924). back
Chicago, I. & L. Ry. v. United States, 270 U.S. 287 (1926). Cf. Seaboard Air Line Ry. v. United States, 254 U.S. 57 (1920). back
Assigned Car Cases, 274 U.S. 564, 575 (1927). back
United States v. Delaware & Hudson Co., 213 U.S. 366, 405, 411, 415 (1909). back
United States v. Lowden, 308 U.S. 225 (1939). back
Louisville & Nashville R.R. v. Mottley, 219 U.S. 467 (1911). back
Baltimore & Ohio R.R. v. United States, 345 U.S. 146 (1953). back
Chicago, R.I. & P. Ry. v. United States, 284 U.S. 80 (1931). back
Railroad Retirement Bd. v. Alton R.R., 295 U.S. 330 (1935). But cf. Usery v. Turner Elkhorn Mining Co., 428 U.S. 1, 19 (1976). back