MR. JUSTICE REED delivered the opinion of the Court.
This appeal involves the applicability by the Interstate Commerce Commission of the legal criteria for the issuance of certificates of convenience and necessity for motor truck operation by a railroad which were discussed in the opinion in Interstate Commerce Commission v. Parker, ante, p. 60.
In these applications Legh R. Powell and Henry W. Anderson, Receivers of the Seaboard Air Line Railway Company, sought certificates of convenience and necessity under Sections 206 (a) and 207 (a), Motor Carrier Act, 1935, 49 Stat. 551, as amended by the Transportation Act of 1940, Interstate Commerce Act, part II, 54 Stat. 923, for the operation of motor trucks as auxiliary to and supplemental of the railroad operation of Seaboard. These motor routes were sought to improve the delivery of less-than-carload freight to way stations of the railroad. Fourteen applications are involved.
The Commission set the applications for hearing before joint boards pursuant to its interpretation of § 205 (b), Motor Carrier Act of 1935, as amended, § 20 (c), Transportation Act of 1940. Diverse recommended reports and orders were issued by the joint boards. A number of the applications were consolidated for argument before the Commission; others were dealt with on the exceptions to the joint board reports or by individual hearing. As the Seaboard was the only applicant and the issues were similar, the applications were disposed of as a single proceeding. Seaboard Air Line R. Co., Motor Operations — Gaston-Garnett, S.C., 17 M.C.C. 413; 21 M.C.C. 773; 28 M.C.C. 5; 34 M.C.C. 441.
The Commission granted the applications upon a finding that the proposed motor operations were a specialized type coordinated with rail operations. See Thomson v. United States, 321 U.S. 19. The specially constituted District Court affirmed the order of the Commission against attack because the certificates were granted without regard to their effect on existing motor carriers — a ground considered today in Interstate Commerce Commission v. Parker, supra — and over the additional objections that the joint boards were improperly constituted, that material evidence on the effect of the proposed operations on the existing or over-the-road motor truck service was excluded by the joint boards and the Commission and that the Seaboard was exempted from the tariff provisions of § 217 and the accounts and record provision of § 220 and the regulations thereunder. The appellees asserted
Joint Boards. From the earliest hearing, objection was made to the composition of the joint boards. Section 205 (a), so far as pertinent here, provides:
"The Commission shall, when operations of motor carriers or brokers conducted or proposed to be conducted involve not more than three States, . . . refer to a joint board for appropriate proceedings thereon, any of the following matters arising in the administration of this part with respect to such operations: Applications for certificates, permits, or licenses; . . . The joint board to which any such matter is referred shall be composed solely of one member from each State within which the motor-carrier or brokerage operations involved in such matter are or are proposed to be conducted . . ."
The applications were for short routes of varying lengths up to nearly two hundred miles. Many were contiguous. Some crossed state lines. Others were wholly within a state. The Commission referred each application to a joint board composed of one member from the state or states in which the route involved in the particular application was situated.
As the series of applications cover continuous motor routes for a large portion of the railroad, appellants contend that the Commission should have consolidated these applications, constituted a board and made its reference as though there were only a single application for motor
It will be noted that § 205 (a) requires that applications for certificates be referred to joint boards composed solely of members from the state within which the operations are proposed to be conducted. In these applications the proposal is to conduct operations in a single state or in some instances in two states. The only source of knowledge for the Commission as to proposed operations were the applications. It seems necessary for it, therefore, to rely on the representations in the applications in determining their scope and in designating the joint boards to hear them.
The Commission has so interpreted the act. See Argo & Collier Truck Lines, Common Carrier Application, 27 M.C.C. 563, 566; Atlantic Coast Line R. Co., Extension of Operation, 30 M.C.C. 490, 491-2. These applications did not disclose or propose any interchange or unification of the traffic among the respective routes. Any one of them, or all except one, might have been refused by the Commission. Consequently, the Commission properly referred each application to a board having a member solely from the state or states in which the application proposes to conduct operations.
But the appellant contends that the grant of appellee's applications allows a unified service in three states and that appellee may have intended this result when it filed the several applications. Assuming this to be true, it does not make the Commission's action in the designation of
Excluded Evidence. Appellants throughout the proceedings have sought to introduce evidence both before the joint boards and the Commission as to the economic effect on the existing motor carriers of the proposed railway operation of motor trucks and have persisted in their objections at each stage of the proceedings. The joint boards refused to permit evidence as to conditions on any route except that covered by the application under consideration. Protestants made repeated efforts before the Commission to secure consolidation of the joint board hearings but were unsuccessful. After the grant of the certificates with the limitation of operations to a prior or subsequent movement by rail on July 11, 1939, 17 M.C.C. 413, and February 17, 1940, 21 M.C.C. 773, the proceedings were reopened to consider the modification of the rail movement requirement in prior orders.
We think that it is sufficient to say that the joint boards and the Commission should have admitted evidence of the flow of traffic by truck from points covered in one application to points covered by other applications and evidence of the effect of the motor traffic, developed or prospective on all Seaboard routes for which applications are pending or already granted, on the over-the-road motor carriers. Furthermore other competent and material evidence which the protestants may produce as to the economic effect on the non-rail motor carriers should be received. The applicant will of course be required to furnish needed statistical evidence which is reasonably available to it and will have opportunity to submit evidence upon its own part. This specification of admissible evidence shall not be deemed to restrict the discretion of the Commission or the joint boards in receiving other evidence deemed by them or either of them material to aid in the solution of the issues between the parties.
Appellants have other objections to the order of the Commission which have been considered and a few words need to be said about only two of them. It is objected that the railroad as a motor carrier has been permitted through other proceedings to file illegal tariffs, violative of § 217 of part II of the Interstate Commerce Act, and has been improperly exempted by the Commission from certain accounting requirements of § 220 of the same part
Appellees on their part suggest that the Commission's grant of the requested certificates should be sustained because of laches. The final certificate was issued on November 30, 1942, and this suit was brought October 21, 1943, eleven months later. The appellees' evidence as to change of position in reliance upon the certificate is not impressive. There was no specific proof of the purchase of equipment in reliance on the certificate or of failure to purchase other equipment, such as railroad cars, in reliance on the use of trucks. There was some testimony of minor adjustments in methods of operation. A number of the routes had not been put in operation and others were abandoned. The question of laches was not passed on by the district court.
In view of this evidence, we do not feel the defense of laches should be sustained.
As some trucks are being operated under certificates which were issued on these applications, because of the present war emergency we direct that the mandate herein be stayed until August 1, 1945, to allow opportunity for such steps as the respective parties may deem advisable. See Yonkers v. United States, 320 U.S. 685, 321 U.S. 745; Public Service Commission v. United States, 323 U.S. 675.
MR. JUSTICE BLACK, MR. JUSTICE DOUGLAS and MR. JUSTICE RUTLEDGE concur for the reasons stated in the dissenting opinion in Interstate Commerce Commission v. Parker, ante, p. 74.
"(b) To direct the taking of evidence for the purpose of developing and determining whether the proposed and existing operations by applicant, considered together, and in connection with its transportation policy and the transportation policy of railroads, express companies, water carriers, and railroad associations with which it is associated, will unduly restrain competition; impair sound economic conditions in the independent trucking industry; result in unfair and destructive competitive practices; discriminate against shippers; or otherwise be inconsistent with the provisions of, or the transportation policy declared in, the Interstate Commerce Act, and with the Antitrust Laws."
"(f) To direct the Seaboard Air Line Railway to furnish such statistical information for the record as may be necessary to enable the Commission to determine the extent, quantity, kind and character of traffic which Seaboard Air Line Railway handles subject to restrictions against participation by independent motor carriers, and the quantity, kind and character of traffic which Seaboard Air Line proposes to handle by truck and upon which it relies for support of its application for a certificate of convenience and necessity."