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Interstate Commerce Commission

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Interstate Commerce Commission
Agency overview
FormedFebruary 4, 1887
DissolvedJanuary 1, 1996
Superseding agency
JurisdictionUnited States
Key documents

The Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) was a regulatory agency in the United States created by the Interstate Commerce Act of 1887. The agency's original purpose was to regulate railroads (and later trucking) to ensure fair rates, to eliminate rate discrimination, and to regulate other aspects of common carriers, including interstate bus lines and telephone companies. Congress expanded ICC authority to regulate other modes of commerce beginning in 1906. Throughout the 20th century several of ICC's authorities were transferred to other federal agencies. The ICC was abolished in 1995, and its remaining functions were transferred to the Surface Transportation Board.

The Commission's five members were appointed by the President with the consent of the United States Senate. This was the first independent agency (or so-called Fourth Branch).

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Hello, I’m Craig and this is Crash Course Government and Politics and today I’m going to talk a bit more about economic policy. Ran into the table there a little bit. Whoo! Economic policy can be dangerous. Specifically, we’re going to look at some of the broad goals of economic policy and some of the things that the government does to try to accomplish those goals. And we may even provide some examples of times when the government DID accomplish them, so take that, skeptics. But, I have to admit, a lot of the time the goals are just goals. [Theme Music] So all people have goals and aspirations (except me) and the government, since it’s made up of people is no different. Well I do have one goal: to punch the eagle again. And I did it. Accomplished. Well, actually the government's different because it’s economic goals are much bigger and more important than, say my goal of punching the eagle again. Although I would argue my goal is pretty important. So what are these, goals of economic policy? The first goal is promoting stable markets. We talked about how the government structures the market system in the last episode, so I probably don’t need to repeat it. At least I hope I don’t. You should’ve been paying attention. But since nobody wants a malfunctioning market, most of the things the government does to create a market system also work to make the system stable and predictable. Maintaining law and order and minimizing monopolies are examples of government actions that make the market system stable. I didn’t know the government maintained Law and Order – oh not the tv show, OK. One of the more interesting ways – ok interesting to me – that the government keeps markets predictable is through national regulations of things like automobile fuel efficiency standards. If there were no national regulations, and states were allowed to set the rules, then it might be possible for car makers in Detroit to build cars that live up to the mileage standards in Michigan, but not in California, and that would be anarchy. Well, maybe not anarchy exactly, but it wouldn’t be good, and it’d make it much more difficult for manufacturers to know what kind of cars to make. Also, do you really want California, the state with the biggest population, making rules for the rest of us? Of course you don’t. The second major goal of economic policy is promoting economic prosperity. Here’s another example of a situation where many people will tell you that the best way for the government to promote prosperity is to get out of the way, and they may have a point, but the government doesn’t stop trying. So what does the government do to promote prosperity? For one thing, it tries to keep a positive investment climate and build confidence in the economy. One way the federal government can accomplish this is through regulating financial markets through the Securities and Exchange Commission since people won’t want to invest in the securities markets if they think the game's fixed. Another thing the government can do, if it’s feeling particularly Keynesian, is to spend money on public investment in things like highways and the internet. While not actually built by Al Gore, it did begin with a government program out of the Defense Department. The government also pays for research through the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation, and enhances the workforce through education policy and immigration policy, all of which contribute to national prosperity. Another, and by no means the last, way that the government can try to make the country more prosperous is by keeping inflation low. You can find out more about inflation from Crash Course: Economics, but the main tool the government uses to control inflation is the Federal Reserve, which is so complicated that it gets it’s own episode. A third goal of government economic policy, one closely related to the first two, is promoting business development. Many people would probably argue that promoting business development and promoting prosperity are the same thing but policies aimed at helping businesses are slightly different and more focused than those targeting the broader goal of promoting prosperity. The main ways that the federal government promotes business development are through tariffs and subsidies. Since the Great Depression, the U.S. has pretty much pursued a policy of free trade, which means lowering tariffs on most things, which by forcing them to compete can hurt businesses, at least in the short run. In the past, however, high tariffs allowed American businesses to develop free from foreign competition and this helped to make the U.S. the most powerful industrial nation in the world! Can we use that Libertage from US History? I think Yes! [Libertage] Subsidies are very controversial and they come in two forms. Grants in aid for things like transportation – building those superhighways again – provide an indirect subsidy to businesses who don’t have to pay for the roads they use to ship the goods they make. Most people don’t complain about this type of subsidy, because they can also be looked at as a public good. Direct subsidies are another issue. These include direct assistance to businesses through the Small Business Administration and government investment in firms like Sematech and, more recently and more controversially, Solyndra. Many people don’t think that the government should be in the business of investing in business and that these subsidies provide the businesses that receive them with an unfair advantage. Farm subsidies are probably just as controversial. They were put in place to help farmers during The Great Depression, but these days, critics worry that most of the subsidies go to corporate farms. The fourth goal of government economic policy is to protect consumers and employees. A lot of people will tell you that the federal government doesn’t do much to protect employees these days, and those people are probably right, but in the past it certainly did. The government made unionization easier with the National Labor Relations Act and setting labor standards, especially overtime rules with the Fair Labor Standards Act. Both of these were passed in the 1930s, by the way. Probably the most notable thing that the government does to protect workers these days is set the federal minimum wage, but since that topic is being hotly debated as this episode is being produced in 2015, I can’t really comment on how it’s going to turn out. On the other hand the Occupational Safety and Health Administration does set up regulations to prevent workers from breathing in hazardous fumes and protect them from other potentially life threatening workplace conditions, and that’s a good thing. As far as consumers are concerned, there are thousands of regulations that protect us to make sure that the things we buy don’t kill or maim us. The Food and Drug Administration makes sure that our medicines aren’t poison, and the Department of Agriculture inspects meat, which I think is really good a idea, actually. The National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 1966 made cars safer, and the Consumer Products Safety Commission helps keep lead paint out of our toys and saves us from exploding toasters. I like explosions as much as the next guy, but not with breakfast. All of these goals of economic policy, promoting stable markets, promoting economic prosperity, fostering business development and protecting employees and consumers are interrelated and important. I’ll leave it up to you to decide if one is more important than the other three, because that makes for excellent dinner conversation. If your dinner parties are mostly about the role the government plays in our economy. Please invite me to those dinner parties. I’m hungry, for roast beef and political debate. So, to shift gears a little, let’s talk history, and how the government’s role in regulating the economy has changed in the last 240 years or so. So you probably remember from back when we talked about the transition from congressional to presidential government that began with Teddy Roosevelt and really came into its own with Franklin Roosevelt, that before the 20th century the federal government didn’t really do that much. A lot of that has to do with fiscal policy and taxation, which we’re going to discuss in another episode, and maybe that dinner you’re going to invite me to, but some of it was certainly because of the way that the Supreme Court had interpreted the Commerce Clause to mean that government regulation was suspect, and by suspect, I mean generally not allowed. But by the end of the 19th century the Federal government’s regulatory power had begun to change, and a lot of that has to do with one of my favorite subjects - no not Star Wars. And no not the protection of endangered species. (punches eagle) I’m talking about railroads (Yeah!). Let’s go to the Thought Bubble. So, with the completion of the transcontinental railroad in 1869, travel and communication across the U.S. became much easier and it was possible for the first time to have a national market for goods. If you raised cattle in Kansas, you could now easily ship beef to New York or San Francisco. Railroads were, almost by definition, interstate entities, so it was pretty clear that Congress could regulate them. And they needed regulation because railroads had a nasty habit of discriminatory pricing, charging much, much more for some shippers than for others. Something had to be done and Congress stepped in with the Interstate Commerce Act in 1887, which created the Interstate Commerce Commission to regulate railroads. The period of time around the turn of the 20th century in the U.S. is known as the Gilded Age and is associated with runaway capitalism and the creation of modern corporate structures and industrial capitalists like Andrew Carnegie – or Carnegie, if you will – and John D. Rockefeller who are heroes to some and villains to others. In response to some of the abuses of the Gilded Age, Congress passed its first wave of regulatory legislation. In addition to the ICC, Congress created the Federal Trade Commission to regulate trade and the Sherman and Clayton Acts to try to counter the problem of monopolies. These anti-trust laws are the basis of modern anti-trust regulation and have been used against Standard Oil and Microsoft. This first wave of economic regulation didn’t have huge effects on the economy, certainly not greater than the effects of, say World War I. In the 1920s the federal government returned to a more traditional laissez faire approach, which lasted until the Great Depression swept Herbert Hoover and the Republicans out of office and Franklin Roosevelt into it. And with Franklin Roosevelt came the New Deal and the advent of what law schools sometimes like to call the administrative and regulatory state. Thanks Thought Bubble. We’re not going to get into details about the various laws and regulations of the New Deal here, but luckily I think John talked about them in Crash Course: U.S. History. John, he talks about stuff. But in general, those regulations meant that the federal government would take an active role in regulating certain sectors of the economy, like agriculture and transportation. Sometimes technology played a part. There really wasn’t a need for a Federal Aviation Administration until there were airplanes. The next big wave of government regulation happened in the early 1970s under, of all people, president Nixon. These new regulatory laws were different from their New Deal predecessors in that they focused on the economy as a whole. For example the Occupational Safety and Health Administration dealt with ALL occupations, or at least most of them, and the EPA was created to protect the whole country’s environment. Beginning in the 1980s with Ronald Reagan, or actually before him under Carter, the federal government has undertaken various initiatives to de-regulate the economy, but we already talked about deregulation in our episode on taming the bureaucracy so we don’t need to re-hash that here. The point to remember is that, despite attempts at deregulation, the administrative regulatory state appears to be here to stay. So why do we have an administrative regulatory state now, even though so many people complain about it? Part of the reason has to do with the remarkable staying power of bureaucracies, which are harder to kill than Wolverine. Nowadays the federal government not only has economic goals, goals like increasing prosperity that most of us agree upon, it also has a sense, maybe even a belief that it should try to achieve those goals. This is a long way from the view of the federal government that persisted through the 19th century, one which many people say was handed down by the framers. But times change, and the world and the U.S. has gotten much more complex. Economic concerns take up an increasingly large part of our lives and many of them, especially big macroeconomic policies require big solutions. And for many Americans, but certainly not all of them, the best solution we have is government. Thanks for watching. See you next time. Crash Course Government and Politics is produced in association with PBS Digital Studios. Support for Crash Course: U.S. Government comes from Voqal. Voqal supports nonprofits that use technology and media to advance social equity. Learn more about their mission and initiatives at Crash Course was made with the help of all these occupational safety and health hazards. Thanks for watching.



The ICC was established by the Interstate Commerce Act of 1887, which was signed into law by President Grover Cleveland.[1] The creation of the commission was the result of widespread and longstanding anti-railroad agitation. Western farmers, specifically those of the Grange Movement, were the dominant force behind the unrest, but Westerners generally — especially those in rural areas — believed that the railroads possessed economic power that they systematically abused. A central issue was rate discrimination between similarly situated customers and communities.[2]:42ff Other potent issues included alleged attempts by railroads to obtain influence over city and state governments and the widespread practice of granting free transportation in the form of yearly passes to opinion leaders (elected officials, newspaper editors, ministers, and so on) so as to dampen any opposition to railroad practices.

Various sections of the Interstate Commerce Act banned "personal discrimination" and required shipping rates to be "just and reasonable."

President Cleveland appointed Thomas M. Cooley as the first chairman of the ICC. Cooley had been Dean of the University of Michigan Law School and Chief Justice of the Michigan Supreme Court.[3]

Initial implementation and legal challenges

The Commission had a troubled start because the law that created it failed to give it adequate enforcement powers.

The Commission is, or can be made, of great use to the railroads. It satisfies the popular clamor for a government supervision of the railroads, while at the same time that supervision is almost entirely nominal.

Following passage of the 1887 act, the ICC proceeded to set maximum shipping rates for railroads. However, in the late 1890s several railroads challenged the agency's ratemaking authority in litigation, and the courts severely limited the ICC's powers.[2]:90ff[5]

Expansion of ICC authority

A 1914 cartoon shows railroad companies asking the ICC (depicted as Uncle Sam) for permission to raise rates, while the ghost of a horrified William Henry Vanderbilt looks on.
A 1914 cartoon shows railroad companies asking the ICC (depicted as Uncle Sam) for permission to raise rates, while the ghost of a horrified William Henry Vanderbilt looks on.

Congress expanded the commission's powers through subsequent legislation. The 1893 Railroad Safety Appliance Act gave the ICC jurisdiction over railroad safety, removing this authority from the states, and this was followed with amendments in 1903 and 1910.[6] The Hepburn Act of 1906 authorized the ICC to set maximum railroad rates, and extended the agency's authority to cover bridges, terminals, ferries, sleeping cars, express companies and oil pipelines.[7]

A long-standing controversy was how to interpret language in the Act that banned long haul-short haul fare discrimination. The Mann-Elkins Act of 1910 addressed this question by strengthening ICC authority over railroad rates, This amendment also expanded the ICC's jurisdiction to include regulation of telephone, telegraph and wireless companies.[8]

The Valuation Act of 1913 required the ICC to organize a Bureau of Valuation that would assess the value of railroad property. This information would be used to set rates.[9]

In 1934, Congress transferred the telecommunications authority to the new Federal Communications Commission.[10]

In 1935, Congress passed the Motor Carrier Act, which extended ICC authority to regulate interstate bus lines and trucking as common carriers.[11]

Ripley Plan to consolidate railroads into regional systems

The Transportation Act of 1920 directed the Interstate Commerce Commission to prepare and adopt a plan for the consolidation of the railway properties of the United States into a limited number of systems. Between 1920 and 1923, William Z. Ripley, a professor of political economy at Harvard University, wrote up ICC's plan for the regional consolidation of the U.S. railways.[12] His plan became known as the Ripley Plan. In 1929 the ICC published Ripley's Plan under the title Complete Plan of Consolidation. Numerous hearings were held by ICC regarding the plan under the topic "In the Matter of Consolidation of the Railways of the United States into a Limited Number of Systems".[13]

The proposed 21 regional railroads were as follows:

  1. Boston and Maine Railroad; Maine Central Railroad; Bangor and Aroostook Railroad; Delaware and Hudson Railroad
  2. New Haven Railroad; New York, Ontario and Western Railway; Lehigh and Hudson River Railway; Lehigh and New England Railroad
  3. New York Central Railroad; Rutland Railroad; Virginian Railway; Chicago, Attica and Southern Railroad
  4. Pennsylvania Railroad; Long Island Rail Road
  5. Baltimore and Ohio Railroad; Central Railroad of New Jersey; Reading Railroad; Buffalo and Susquehanna Railroad; Buffalo, Rochester and Pittsburgh Railway; 50% of Detroit, Toledo and Ironton Railroad; 50% of Detroit and Toledo Shore Line Railroad; 50% of Monon Railroad; Chicago and Alton Railroad (Alton Railroad)
  6. Chesapeake and Ohio-Nickel Plate Road; Hocking Valley Railway; Erie Railroad; Pere Marquette Railway; Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad; Bessemer and Lake Erie Railroad; Chicago and Illinois Midland Railroad; 50% of Detroit and Toledo Shore Line Railroad
  7. Wabash-Seaboard Air Line Railway; Lehigh Valley Railroad; Wheeling and Lake Erie Railway; Pittsburgh and West Virginia Railway; Western Maryland Railway; Akron, Canton and Youngstown Railway; Norfolk and Western Railway; 50% of Detroit, Toledo and Ironton Railroad; Toledo, Peoria and Western Railroad; Ann Arbor Railroad; 50% of Winston-Salem Southbound Railway
  8. Atlantic Coast Line Railroad; Louisville and Nashville Railroad; Nashville, Chattanooga and St. Louis Railway; Clinchfield Railroad; Atlanta, Birmingham and Coast Railroad; Mobile and Northern Railroad; New Orleans Great Northern Railroad; 25% of Chicago, Indianapolis and Louisville Railway (Monon Railway); 50% of Winston-Salem Southbound Railway
  9. Southern Railway; Norfolk Southern Railroad; Tennessee Central Railway (east of Nashville); Florida East Coast Railway; 25% of Chicago, Indianapolis and Louisville Railway (Monon Railway)
  10. Illinois Central Railroad; Central of Georgia Railway; Minneapolis and St. Louis Railway; Tennessee Central Railway (west of Nashville); St. Louis Southwestern Railway (Cotton Belt Railway); Atlanta and St. Andrews Bay Railroad
  11. Chicago and North Western Railway; Chicago and Eastern Illinois Railway; Litchfield and Madison Railway; Mobile and Ohio Railroad; Columbus and Greenville Railway; Lake Superior and Ishpeming Railroad
  12. Great Northern-Northern Pacific Railway; Spokane, Portland and Seattle Railway; 50% of Butte, Anaconda and Pacific Railway
  13. Milwaukee Road; Escanaba and Lake Superior Railroad; Duluth, Missabe and Northern Railway; Duluth and Iron Range Railroad; 50% of Butte, Anaconda and Pacific Railway; trackage rights on Spokane, Portland and Seattle Railway to Portland, Oregon.
  14. Burlington Route; Colorado and Southern Railway; Fort Worth and Denver Railway; Green Bay and Western Railroad; Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad; 50% of Trinity and Brazos Valley Railroad; Oklahoma City-Ada-Atoka Railway
  15. Union Pacific Railroad; Kansas City Southern Railway
  16. Southern Pacific Railroad
  17. Santa Fe Railway; Chicago Great Western Railway; Kansas City, Mexico and Orient Railway; Missouri and North Arkansas Railway; Midland Valley Railroad; Minneapolis, Northfield and Southern Railway
  18. Missouri Pacific Railroad; Texas and Pacific Railway; Kansas, Oklahoma and Gulf Railway; Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad; Denver and Salt Lake Railroad; Western Pacific Railroad; Fort Smith and Western Railroad
  19. Rock Island-Frisco Railway; Alabama, Tennessee and Northern Railroad; 50% of Trinity and Brazos Valley Railroad; Louisiana and Arkansas Railway; Meridian and Bigbee Railroad
  20. Canadian National; Detroit, Grand Haven and Milwaukee Railway; Grand Trunk Western Railway
  21. Canadian Pacific; Soo Line; Duluth, South Shore and Atlantic Railway; Mineral Range Railroad [1]

Terminal railroads proposed

There were 100 terminal railroads that were also proposed. Below is a sample:

  1. Toledo Terminal Railroad; Detroit Terminal Railroad; Kankakee & Seneca Railroad
  2. Indianapolis Union Railway; Boston Terminal; Ft. Wayne Union Railway; Norfolk & Portsmouth Belt Line Railroad
  3. Toledo, Angola & Western Railway
  4. Akron and Barberton Belt Railroad; Canton Railroad; Muskegon Railway & Navigation
  5. Philadelphia Belt Line Railroad; Fort Street Union Depot; Detroit Union Railroad Depot & Station; 15 other properties throughout the United States
  6. St. Louis & O'Fallon Railway; Detroit & Western Railway; Flint Belt Railroad; 63 other properties throughout the United States
  7. Youngstown & Northern Railroad; Delray Connecting Railroad; Wyandotte Southern Railroad; Wyandotte Terminal Railroad; South Brooklyn Railway

Plan rejected

Many small railroads failed during the Great Depression of the 1930s. Of those lines that survived, the stronger ones were not interested in supporting the weaker ones.[13] Congress repudiated Ripley's Plan with the Transportation Act of 1940, and the consolidation idea was scrapped.[14]

Racial integration of transport

Although racial discrimination was never a major focus of its efforts, the ICC had to address civil rights issues when passengers filed complaints.


  • April 28, 1941 - In Mitchell v. United States, the United States Supreme Court rules that discrimination in which a colored man who had paid a first class fare for an interstate journey was compelled to leave that car and ride in a second class car was essentially unjust, and violated the Interstate Commerce Act.[15] The court thus overturns an ICC order dismissing a complaint against an interstate carrier.
  • June 3, 1946 - In Morgan v. Virginia, the Supreme Court invalidates provisions of the Virginia Code which require the separation of white and colored passengers where applied to interstate bus transport. The state law is unconstitutional insofar as it is burdening interstate commerce, an area of federal jurisdiction.[16]
  • June 5, 1950 - In Henderson v. United States, the Supreme Court rules to abolish segregation of reserved tables in railroad dining cars.[17] The Southern Railway had reserved tables in such a way as to allocate one table conditionally for blacks and multiple tables for whites; a black passenger traveling first-class was not served in the dining car as the one reserved table was in use. The ICC ruled the discrimination to be an error in judgement on the part of an individual dining car steward; both the United States District Court for the District of Maryland and the Supreme Court disagreed, finding the published policies of the railroad itself to be in violation of the Interstate Commerce Act.
  • September 1, 1953 - In Sarah Keys v. Carolina Coach Company, Women's Army Corps private Sarah Keys, represented by civil rights lawyer Dovey Roundtree, becomes the first black to challenge the "separate but equal" doctrine in bus segregation before the ICC. While the initial ICC reviewing commissioner declined to accept the case, claiming Brown v. Board of Education (1954) "did not preclude segregation in a private business such as a bus company," Roundtree ultimately prevailed in obtaining a review by the full eleven-person commission.[18]
  • November 7, 1955 – ICC bans bus segregation in interstate travel in Sarah Keys v. Carolina Coach Company.[19] This extends the logic of Brown v. Board of Education, a precedent ending the use of "separate but equal" as a defence against discrimination claims in education, to bus travel across state lines.
  • December 5, 1960 - In Boynton v. Virginia, the Supreme Court holds that racial segregation in bus terminals is illegal because such segregation violates the Interstate Commerce Act.[20] This ruling, in combination with the ICC's 1955 decision in Keys v. Carolina Coach, effectively outlaws segregation on interstate buses and at the terminals servicing such buses.
  • September 23, 1961 - The ICC, at Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy's insistence, issues new rules ending discrimination in interstate travel. Effective November 1, 1961, six years after the commission's own ruling in Keys v. Carolina Coach Company, all interstate buses required to display a certificate that reads: "Seating aboard this vehicle is without regard to race, color, creed, or national origin, by order of the Interstate Commerce Commission."

Relationship between regulatory body and the regulated

A friendly relationship between the regulators and the regulated is evident in several early civil rights cases. Throughout the South, railroads had established segregated facilities for sleeping cars, coaches and dining cars. At the same time, the plain language of the Act (forbidding "undue or unreasonable preference" as well as "personal discrimination") could be read as an implied invitation for activist regulators to chip away at racial discrimination.

It shall be unlawful for any common carrier subject to the provisions of this part to make, give, or cause any undue or unreasonable preference or advantage to any particular person, company, firm, corporation, association, locality, port, port district, gateway, transit point, region, district, territory, or any particular description of traffic, in any respect whatsoever; or to subject any particular person, company, firm, corporation, association, locality, port, port district, gateway, transit point, region, district, territory, or any particular description of traffic to any undue or unreasonable prejudice or disadvantage in any respect whatsoever. . .[21]

In at least two landmark cases, however, the Commission sided with the railroads rather than with the African-American passengers who had filed complaints. In both Mitchell v. United States (1941) and Henderson v. United States, the Supreme Court took a more expansive view of the Act than the Commission.[15][17] In 1962, the ICC banned racial discrimination in buses and bus stations, but it did not do so until several months after a binding pro-integration Supreme Court decision Boynton v. Virginia and the Freedom Rides (in which activists engaged in civil disobedience to desegregate interstate buses).


A Puck magazine cartoon from 1907 depicting two large bears named "Interstate Commerce Commission" and "Federal Courts" attacking Wall Street.
A Puck magazine cartoon from 1907 depicting two large bears named "Interstate Commerce Commission" and "Federal Courts" attacking Wall Street.

The limitation on railroad rates in 1906-07 depreciated the value of railroad securities, a factor in causing the panic of 1907.[22]

Some economists and historians, such as Milton Friedman assert that existing railroad interests took advantage of ICC regulations to strengthen their control of the industry and prevent competition, constituting regulatory capture.[23]

Economist David D. Friedman argues that the ICC always served the railroads as a cartelizing agent and used its authority over other forms of transportation to prevent them, where possible, from undercutting the railroads.[24]


Congress passed various deregulation measures in the 1970s and early 1980s which diminished ICC authority, including the Railroad Revitalization and Regulatory Reform Act of 1976 ("4R Act"), the Motor Carrier Act of 1980 and the Staggers Rail Act of 1980. Senator Fred R. Harris of Oklahoma was a strong supporter of abolishing the Commission.[25] In December 1995, with most of the ICC's powers had been eliminated or repealed, Congress finally abolished the agency with the ICC Termination Act of 1995.[26] Final Chair Gail McDonald oversaw transferring its remaining functions to a new agency, the U.S. Surface Transportation Board (STB), which reviews merger/acquisitions, rail line abandonments and railroad corporate filings.

ICC jurisdiction on rail safety (hours of service rules, equipment and inspection standards) was transferred to the Federal Railroad Administration pursuant to the Federal Railroad Safety Act of 1970.[27]

Motor carriers (bus lines, trucking companies) are now regulated by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), within the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT). Prior to its abolition, the ICC issued identification numbers to motor carriers for which it issued licenses. These identification numbers were generally in the form of "ICC MC-000000". When the ICC was dissolved, the function of licensing interstate motor carriers was transferred to FMCSA. All motor carriers with federal licenses now have a USDOT number such as "USDOT 000000".


The ICC served as a model for later regulatory efforts. Unlike, for example, state medical boards (historically administered by the doctors themselves), the seven Interstate Commerce Commissioners and their staffs were full-time regulators who could have no economic ties to the industries they regulated. Since 1887, some state and other federal agencies adopted this structure. And, like the ICC, later agencies tended to be organized as multi-headed independent commissions with staggered terms for the commissioners. At the federal level, agencies patterned after the ICC included the Federal Trade Commission (1914), the Federal Communications Commission (1934), the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (1934), the National Labor Relations Board (1935), the Civil Aeronautics Board (1940), Postal Regulatory Commission (1970) and the Consumer Product Safety Commission (1975).

In recent decades, this regulatory structure of independent federal agencies has gone out of fashion. The agencies created after the 1970s generally have single heads appointed by the President and are divisions inside executive Cabinet Departments (e.g., the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (1970) or the Transportation Security Administration (2002)). The trend is the same at the state level, though it is probably less pronounced.

International influence

The Interstate Commerce Commission had a strong influence on the founders of Australia. The Constitution of Australia provides (§§ 101-104; also § 73) for the establishment of an Inter-State Commission, modeled after the United States' Interstate Commerce Commission. However, these provisions have largely not been put into practice; the Commission existed between 1913–1920, and 1975–1989, but never assumed the role which Australia's founders had intended for it.

See also


  1. ^ United States. Interstate Commerce Act of 1887, Pub.L. 49–104, 24 Stat. 379, enacted February 4, 1887.
  2. ^ a b Sharfman, I. Leo (1915). Railway Regulation. Chicago: LaSalle Extension University.
  3. ^ "Thomas McIntyre Cooley; 1824-1898". Thomas M. Cooley Law School. Lansing, MI: Western Michigan University. Retrieved 2017-02-25.
  4. ^ Thomas Frank, "Politics will undermine regulation plan" Marketplace, American Public Media, June 18, 2009.
  5. ^ U.S. Supreme Court. Interstate Commerce Commission v. Cincinnati, New Orleans and Texas Pacific Railway Co., 167 U.S. 479 (1897).
  6. ^ Safety Appliance Act of Mar. 2, 1893, 52nd Congress, 2nd session, ch. 196, 27 Stat. 531. Safety Appliance Act of March 2, 1903, 57th Congress, 2nd session, ch. 976, 32 Stat. 943. Safety Appliance Act of April 14, 1910, 61st Congress, 2nd session, ch. 160, 36 Stat. 298.
  7. ^ United States. Hepburn Act of 1906, 59th Congress, Sess. 1, ch. 3591, 34 Stat. 584, approved 1906-06-29.
  8. ^ Mann-Elkins Act of 1910, 61st Congress, ch. 309, 36 Stat. 539, approved 1910-06-18.
  9. ^ Valuation Act, 62nd Congress, ch. 92, 37 Stat. 701, enacted 1913-03-01.
  10. ^ Communications Act of 1934, 73rd Congress, ch. 652, Public Law 416, 48 Stat. 1064, June 19, 1934. 47 U.S.C. Chapter 5.
  11. ^ Motor Carrier Act of 1935, 49 Stat. 543, ch. 498, approved 1935-08-09.
  12. ^ Miranti, Jr., Paul J. (1996). "Ripley, William Z. (1867-1941)". In Chatfield, Michael; Vangermeersch, Richard (eds.). History of Accounting: An International Encyclopedia. New York: Garland Publishing. pp. 502–505. ISBN 978-0-815-30809-6.
  13. ^ a b Kolsrud, Gretchen S., et al (1975). "Review of Recent Railroad Merger History." Appendix B of A Review of National Railroad Issues. Washington: U.S. Office of Technology Assessment. NTIS Document No. PB-250622.
  14. ^ Transportation Act of 1940, Sept. 18, 1940, ch. 722, 54 Stat. 898.
  15. ^ a b Mitchell v. United States, 313 U.S. 80 (1941).
  16. ^ Morgan v. Virginia, 328 U.S. 373 (1946)
  17. ^ a b Henderson v. United States, 339 U.S. 816 (1950).
  18. ^ Challenging the System: Two Army Women Fight for Equality Archived 2009-01-25 at the Wayback Machine, Judith Bellafaire Ph.D., Curator, Women In Military Service For America Memorial Foundation
  19. ^ Sarah Keys v. Carolina Coach Company, 64 MCC 769 (1955).
  20. ^ Boynton v. Virginia, 364 U.S. 454 (1960).
  21. ^ Interstate Commerce Act, 54 Stat. 902, 49 U.S.C. § 3(1).
  22. ^ Edwards, Adolph (1907). The Roosevelt Panic of 1907. New York: Anitrock. p. 66.
  23. ^ Friedman, Milton; Friedman, Rose (1990). Free to Choose: A Personal Statement. New York: Harcourt. p. 194. ISBN 978-0-15-633460-0.
  24. ^ Friedman, David D. (1989). The Machinery of Freedom. LaSalle, Illinois: Open Court Publishing. p. 41. ISBN 0-8126-9069-9.
  25. ^ Walker, Jesse (2009-11-01) Five Faces of Jerry Brown, The American Conservative.
  26. ^ ICC Termination Act of 1995, Pub.L. 104–88, 109 Stat. 803, enacted December 29, 1995.
  27. ^ United States. Federal Railroad Safety Act of 1970. Pub.L. 91–458 Approved 1970-10-16.


  • Stone, Richard D. (1991). The Interstate Commerce Commission and the railroad industry: a history of regulatory policy. New York: Praeger. ISBN 978-0-275-93941-0.
  • White, Richard (2011). Railroaded: The Transcontinentals and the Making of Modern America. W. W. Norton & Company. ISBN 978-0-393-06126-0.

External links

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