This appeal requires determination of the power of the Interstate Commerce Commission under the Motor Carrier Act, 1935, to establish reasonable requirements with respect to the qualifications and maximum hours of service of employees of motor carriers, other than employees whose duties affect safety of operation.
After detailed consideration, the Motor Carrier Act, 1935, was passed.
While efficient and economical movement in interstate commerce is obviously a major objective of the Act,
The pertinent portions of the section of the Act immediately under discussion read as follows:
"SEC. 204 (a). It shall be the duty of the Commission —
"(1) To regulate common carriers by motor vehicle as provided in this part, and to that end the Commission may establish reasonable 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.
"(2) To regulate contract carriers by motor vehicle as provided in this part, and to that end the Commission may establish reasonable requirements with respect to uniform systems of accounts, records, and reports, preservation of records, qualifications and maximum hours of service of employees, and safety of operation and equipment.
"(3) To establish for private carriers of property by motor vehicle, if need therefor is found, reasonable requirements to promote safety of operation, and to that end prescribe qualifications and maximum hours of service of employees, and standards of equipment . . ." Shortly after the approval of the Act, the Commission on its own motion undertook to and did fix maximum hours
"SEC. 13 (b). The provisions of section 7 shall not apply with respect to (1) any employee with respect to whom the Interstate Commerce Commission has power to establish qualifications and maximum hours of service pursuant to the provisions of section 204 of the Motor Carrier Act, 1935; . . ."
This exemption brought sharply into focus the coverage of employees by Motor Carrier Act, § 204 (a). Clerical, storage and other non-transportation workers are under this or the Fair Labor Standards Act, dependent upon the sweep of the word employee in this act. The Commission again examined the question of its jurisdiction and in Ex parte No. MC-28
Shortly thereafter appellees, an association of truckmen and various common carriers by motor, filed a petition with the Commission in the present case seeking an exercise of the Commission's jurisdiction under § 204 (a) to fix reasonable requirements "with respect to qualifications and maximum hours of service of all employees of common and contract carriers, except employees whose duties are related to safety of operations; (3) to disregard its report and order in Ex parte MC-28."
In the broad domain of social legislation few problems are enmeshed with the difficulties that surround a determination
In the interpretation of statutes, the function of the courts is easily stated. It is to construe the language so as to give effect to the intent of Congress.
There is, of course, no more persuasive evidence of the purpose of a statute than the words by which the legislature undertook to give expression to its wishes. Often these words are sufficient in and of themselves to determine the purpose of the legislation. In such cases we have followed their plain meaning.
The language here under consideration, if construed as appellees contend, gives to the Commission a power of regulation as to qualifications and hours of employees quite distinct from the settled practice of Congress. That policy has been consistent in legislating for such regulation of transportation employees in matters of movement
The Commission and the Wage and Hour Division, as we have said, have both interpreted § 204 (a) as relating solely to safety of operation. In any case such interpretations are entitled to great weight. This is peculiarly true here where the interpretations involve "contemporaneous contruction of a statute by the men charged with the responsibility of setting its machinery in motion, of making the parts work efficiently and smoothly while they are yet untried and new."
It is important to remember that the Commission has three times concluded that its authority was limited to securing safety of operation. The first interpretation was made on December 29, 1937, when the Commission stated: ". . . until the Congress shall have given us a more particular and definite command in the premises, we shall limit our regulations concerning maximum hours of service to those employees whose functions in the operation of motor vehicles make such regulations desirable because of safety considerations."
It is contended by appellees that the difference in language between subsections (1) and (2) and subsection (3) is indicative of a congressional purpose to restrict the regulation of employees of private carriers to "safety of operation" while inserting broader authority in (1) and (2) for employees of common and contract carriers. Appellants answer that the difference in language is explained by the difference in the powers. As (1) and (2) give powers beyond safety for service, goods, accounts and records, language limiting those subsections to safety would be inapt.
Appellees call our attention to certain pending legislation as sustaining their view of the congressional purpose in enacting the Motor Carrier Act. We do not think it can be said that the action of the Senate and House of Representatives on this pending transportation legislation throws much light on the policy of Congress or the meaning attributed by that body to § 204 (a). Aside from the very pertinent fact that the legislation is still unadopted, the legislative history up to now points only to a hesitation to determine a controversy as to the meaning of the present Motor Carrier Act, pending a judicial determination.
Our conclusion, in view of the circumstances set out in this opinion, is that the meaning of employees in § 204 (a) (1) and (2) is limited to those employees whose activities affect the safety of operation. The Commission has no jurisdiction to regulate the qualifications or hours of service of any others. The decree of the district court is accordingly reversed and it is directed to dismiss the complaint of the appellees.
THE CHIEF JUSTICE, MR. JUSTICE McREYNOLDS, MR. JUSTICE STONE, and MR. JUSTICE ROBERTS are of opinion that the decree should be affirmed for the reasons stated in the opinion of the district court, 31 F.Supp. 35.
Where the term "employee" has been used in statutes without particularized definition it has not been treated by the courts as a word of definite content. See Metcalf & Eddy v. Mitchell, 269 U.S. 514, 520 (consulting engineers performing services for states, municipalities, and water districts held not to be "employees" under statute exempting "officers and employees under . . . any State, . . . or any local subdivision thereof" from the income tax); Waskey v. Hammer, 223 U.S. 85 (mineral surveyor, appointed by the surveyor but paid by private persons, is within prohibition of statute prohibiting "employees in the General Land Office" from purchasing public land); Nashville, C. & St. L. Ry. v. Railway Employees' Dept., 93 F.2d 340 (furloughed railroad workers entitled to priority in rehiring held "employees" within meaning of Railway Labor Act), discussed in 51 Harv. L. Rev. 1299; Latta v. Lonsdale, 107 F. 585 (attorney not "employee" within meaning of statute giving "employees" preference against assets of insolvent corporations); Vane v. Newcombe, 132 U.S. 220 (contractor who built lines for telegraph company not "employee" within statute giving employees liens against corporate property); Malcomson v. Wappoo Mills, 86 F. 192 (same); cf. United States v. Griffith, 55 App. D.C. 123; 2 F.2d 925 (War Department clerk receiving disability compensation held employee of government within common law rule of the District of Columbia that employee of a litigant cannot be a member of jury); see also, Hull v. Philadelphia & Reading Ry. Co., 252 U.S. 475; Louisville, E. & St. L.R. Co. v. Wilson, 138 U.S. 501; Campbell v. Commissioner, 87 F.2d 128; Burnet v. Jones, 50 F.2d 14; Burnet v. McDonough, 46 F.2d 944.
"The regulation of the hours of service of bus and truck operators is far more important from a safety standpoint than the regulation of the hours of service of railroad employees because the danger is greater. . . . This could be accomplished by inserting in section 304 (a) (1) and (2), lines 9 and 15, page 8, following the word `records' in both lines, the words which appear in S. 394, as follows: `qualifications and maximum hours of service of employees.'"
The clause in question came from § 2 (a) (1) of S. 394, 74th Cong., 1st Sess., a subsection otherwise substantially like the corresponding subsection in S. 1629.
Senator Wheeler, Chairman of the Committee on Interstate Commerce and sponsor of the bill, explained the provision on the floor of the Senate: ". . . the committee amended paragraphs (1) and (2) [of § 204] to confer power on the Commission to establish reasonable requirements with respect to the qualifications and maximum hours of service of employees of common and contract carriers, . . . This suggestion came to us, I think, from the chairman of the legislative committee of the Interstate Commerce Commission. . ..
"In order to make the highways more safe, and so that common and contract carriers may not be unduly prejudiced in their competition with peddler trucks and other private operators of motor trucks, a provision was added in subparagraph 3 giving the Commission authority to establish similar requirements with respect to the qualifications and hours of service of the employees of such operators. . . ." 79 Cong. Rec. 5652.