MR. JUSTICE REHNQUIST delivered the opinion of the Court.
In 1969 the Interstate Commerce Commission promulgated two "car service rules" that would have the
The country's railroads long ago abandoned the custom of shifting freight between the cars of connecting roads, and adopted the practice of shipping the same loaded car over connecting lines to its ultimate destination. The freight cars of the Nation thus became in essence a single common pool, used by all roads. This practice necessarily required some arrangements for eventual return of a freight car to the lines of the road which owned it, and in 1902 the railroads through their trade association dealt with this and related problems in a code of car-service rules with which the roads agreed among themselves to comply. The effect of the Commission's order now under review is to promulgate two of these rules
No party to this proceeding has questioned that the rules promulgated by the Commission are "rules, regulations, and practices with respect to car service," and therefore the issue before us is whether these rules are "reasonable" as that term is used in the Esch Act. The court below concluded, and the appellees here contend, that for a number of reasons the rules in question do not meet the statutory requirement of reasonableness. Appellees also contend that the findings of the Commission
The record of proceedings before the Commission establishes that the Commission has been increasingly concerned with recurring shortages of freight cars available to serve the Nation's shippers. It found that shortages of varying duration and severity occur both as an annual phenomenon at peak loading periods and also during times of national emergency. The result of these shortages has been that roads were unable to promptly supply freight cars to shippers who had need of them.
Underlying these chronic shortages of available freight cars, the Commission found, was an inadequate supply of freight cars owned by the Nation's railroads. The Commission concluded that one of the principal factors causing this inadequate supply of freight cars was the operation of the national car-pool system. In practice this system resulted in freight cars being on lines other than those of the owning road for long periods of time, since the rules providing for the return of unloaded freight cars in the direction of the lines of the owning road were observed more often than not in the breach. Since the owning road was deprived of the use of its own freight cars for extended periods of time, the Commission found, there was very little incentive for it to acquire new freight cars. In addition, since a road which owned a supply of freight cars inadequate to serve its own on-line shippers could generally, by hook or by crook, arrange to utilize cars owned by other roads, the national car-pool system significantly reduced the normal incentive for a railroad to acquire sufficient equipment to serve its customers. The rules promulgated by the Commission are intended to make those railroads whose undersupply of freight cars contributes to the national shortage more directly feel the
Central to the justification for the Commission's promulgation of these rules is its finding that there was a nationwide shortage of freight car ownership. The court below assumed the correctness of that finding, and we conclude that it was supported by substantial evidence.
Shortly after the Second World War, the Commission conducted an investigation into the adequacy of freight car supply and utilization by the Nation's railroads. The Commission in that proceeding concluded that there was "an inadequacy in freight car ownership by rail carriers as a group." Recognizing that this inadequacy was caused at least in part by the inability of the railroads to acquire new equipment, first during an era of wartime demand and then during an era of post-war boom, the Commission at that time imposed no obligation on the railroads except to require them to file with it their rules and regulations with respect to car service.
In 1963 the Commission began this investigation into the adequacy of car ownership, distribution, and utilization. At the conclusion of the investigatory phase of the proceeding in 1964, the Commission determined that there was a shortage of freight cars in general service. 323 I. C. C. 48 (1964). Formal notification of proposed rulemaking was then issued, and a questionnaire was submitted to the various railroads for the purpose of compiling data on car ownership and use. After these data were gathered, railroads, shippers, and other interested parties were permitted to file verified statements providing further factual material and to adduce
Many railroads and shippers opposed mandatory enforcement of the rules. Some roads and shippers appeared in favor of at least some mandatory enforcement of the rules, arguing that unless some compulsion were used in enforcing them, cars purchased by a railroad for use by its shippers would continue to be detained for inordinately long periods of time by other roads.
After 50 days of hearings, the Trial Examiner issued his report, recommending against mandatory enforcement of the car-service rules. Although the Commission, prior to referring the matter to him, had previously made a definitive finding that a shortage of freight cars existed, the Examiner's report stated that there was no competent evidence in the record developed before him upon which such a determination could be made. The Examiner assigned several reasons for recommending against mandatory enforcement of the rules.
The Commission issued a comprehensive opinion disagreeing with the trial examiner in many respects, and ordering that two of the car-service rules be promulgated as rules of the Commission with sanctions attaching to noncompliance. Finding that "[t]he continuing relocation of cars on owner's lines is of major importance to the maintenance of an adequate car supply,"
After its first order adopting the two rules was issued, the Commission considered claims that there was need for some procedure for exceptions to the mandatory enforcement of the rules. A supplemental order that established another rule that permitted the railroads to seek exception from the Commission's Bureau of Operations, in order to alleviate inequities and hardships.
The court below held that the rules were not "reasonable," as that term is used in the Esch Act, for three reasons. First, although there was a general finding of a nationwide freight car shortage, the court said that a specific shortage on owner lines should have been found in order to justify the promulgation of these rules. Second, it said there should have been a finding as to the financial effects upon the railroads and shippers who would be affected by the rules. Finally, it supported its conclusion that the rules were not "reasonable" by the fact that even though violation of the rules could be enforced by monetary penalties, the Commission nonetheless conceded that obtaining complete compliance with them would be impossible.
The standard of judicial review for actions of the Interstate Commerce Commission in general, Western Chemical Co. v. United States, 271 U.S. 268 (1926),
The finding of the Commission as to a nationwide shortage of freight cars was based primarily on data submitted by the railroads themselves covering the years 1955 through 1964. Over this 10-year period total freight car ownership of Class I railroads dropped 12.4%, and aggregate carrying capacity of those railroads dropped 5%. Over the same period revenue tons originated
The Commission further found that freight car shortages, in the sense that a particular road was unable to promptly supply freight cars to particular shippers who needed them, have occurred chronically, both during peak loading seasons each year and during times of national emergency. It is quite true, as appellees suggest, that inability of the roads to supply cars to shippers at particular times is not conclusive evidence that there is a national shortage of freight car ownership. Conceivably, freight car ownership could be adequate, yet poor utilization of the supply could result in shortages. Nonetheless, the Commission may fairly rely on these chronic shortages in availability of freight cars as one factor upon which to base its conclusion that there was an overall shortage of ownership of freight cars.
The Commission also found that a surprisingly low percentage of freight cars was actually on the tracks of the roads owning the cars at any given time, and that this percentage had been decreasing during the period in question. In March 1966, less than 30% of the railroads' plain box cars were on the line of their owner, and during the preceding year that percentage
One of the means marshaled by the Commission to eliminate such deficiencies was the promulgation of the two rules under attack here. The thrust of these rules is to require that freight cars after unloading be dispatched in the direction of the lines of the owning road.
Thus, the Commission concluded after investigation that the railroads were frequently unable to supply shippers with freight cars. It reasoned from this fact, and from statistics showing a significantly more rapid decline in aggregate carrying capacity than in revenue tons originated, that an underlying and important cause of the unavailability of box cars to shippers was that the Nation's railroads simply did not jointly own a sufficient number of freight cars to adequately serve shippers of goods over their lines. Because of the existence of the national pool of freight cars, whereby roads may service on-line shippers with foreign cars, it was difficult, if not impossible, to relate inadequate ownership statistically to any particular road or roads. The Commission therefore chose to make mandatory two of the car-service rules that would have the effect of aligning more closely than at present the ownership of freight cars on the part of the road with the availability of those freight cars to the owning
Appellees' fundamental substantive contention is that the short-term consequences of the enforcement of these rules will so seriously disrupt established industry practices as to outweigh any possible long-term benefits in service that might accrue from them, and that therefore the rules are not "reasonable" as that term is used in the Esch Act.
It may be conceded that the immediate effect of the Commission's order will be to disrupt some established practices with respect to the handling and routing of freight cars, and on occasion to cause serious inconvenience to shippers and railroads alike. If the Commission were thrusting these regulations upon an admittedly smoothly functioning transportation industry, well supplied with necessary rolling stock and adequately serving all shippers, the rationality of its action might well be open to question.
But such is not the case. The Commission's finding that there are recurring periods of significant length when there is not an adequate freight car supply to service shippers is supported by substantial evidence. While the flexible system of routing freight cars presently in existence may well have short-term advantages both for some shippers and some roads, the Commission could quite reasonably conclude that it has long-term drawbacks as well. The otherwise adverse effect on a road's ability to serve shippers that would result from its owning too few cars is cushioned; the beneficial effect on a road's ability to serve shippers that would result from its owning a sufficient supply of cars is dissipated. The Commission undoubtedly felt that rules designed only to most efficiently utilize the existing inadequate fleet of freight cars would have little or no effect on the nationwide shortage of such cars. Indeed, the appellees stress the concession by the Commission that these rules "are not designed to improve the utilization of freight cars, except insofar as return loading is compatible with the primary objective of increasing availability of cars to the owner." 335 I. C. C., at 294.
But only if we were to hold that Congress, in enacting
Appellees support their claim that the Commission's promulgation of these rules is not "reasonable" under the Esch Act on two grounds not directly related to the rules' claimed adverse effect on the ability of the roads to serve shippers. They attack the absence of a Commission finding as to the financial ability of roads inadequately supplied with freight cars to purchase new ones, and they cite the conceded impossibility of obtaining complete compliance with the rules as additional evidence of their unreasonableness.
The Commission's order does not require any road to purchase any freight cars. It abridges to some extent
The Commission, acceding to the arguments of shippers and railroads on rehearing, agreed that mandatory total compliance with the rules promulgated would be impossible in view of the tremendous number of units involved, and, accordingly a procedure by which exceptions might be applied for was established. How the provision for exceptions will be administered in practice is a matter about which we could only speculate at present. It is well established that an agency's authority to proceed in a complex area such as car-service regulation by means of rules of general application entails a concomitant authority to provide exemption procedures in order to allow for special circumstances. Permian Basin Area Rate Cases, 390 U.S. 747, 784-786 (1968). What bearing any of these factors might have on an action under the provisions of 49 U. S. C. § 1 (17) for the collection of penalties for a violation of the rules in question is a question best decided in such a proceeding. The fact that violation of a rule promulgated under the Esch Car Service Act may be the basis for a proceeding to collect a penalty does not either expand or contract the statutory definition of "reasonable" found in that Act.
What we have said thus far is enough to indicate our view that there is sufficient relationship between the
This Court has held that the Administrative Procedure Act applies to proceedings before the Interstate Commerce Commission. Minneapolis & St. Louis R. Co. v. United States, 361 U.S. 173, 192 (1959). Appellees claim that the Commission's procedure here departed from the provisions of 5 U. S. C. §§ 556 and 557 of the Act. Those sections, however, govern a rulemaking proceeding only when 5 U. S. C. § 553 so requires. The latter section, dealing generally with rulemaking,
Because the proceedings under review were an exercise of legislative rulemaking power rather than adjudicatory hearings as in Wong Yang Sung v. McGrath, 339 U.S. 33 (1950), and Ohio Bell Telephone Co. v. Public Utilities Comm'n, 301 U.S. 292 (1937), and because 49 U. S. C. § 1 (14) (a) does not require a determination "on the record," the provisions of 5 U. S. C. §§ 556 and 557 were inapplicable.
We conclude that the Commission's action in promulgating these rules was substantively authorized by the Esch Act and procedurally acceptable under the Administrative Procedure Act. The judgment of the District Court must therefore be
"(a) Loaded at that junction to or via home rails, or,
"(b) Delivered empty at that junction to home road, except in instances where Rule 6 has been invoked, or unless otherwise agreed by roads involved.
"Rule 2. Foreign empty cars other than those covered in Rule 1 shall be:
"(a) Loaded to or via owner's rails.
"(b) Loaded to a destination closer to owner's rails than is the loading station or delivered empty to a short line or switch loading road for such loading. (Car Selection Chart is designed to aid in so selecting cars for loading.)
"(c) Delivered empty to the home road at any junction subject to Rule 6.
"(d) Delivered empty to the road from which originally received under load, at the junction where received, Except that when handled in road haul service, cars of direct connection ownership may not be delivered empty to a road which does not have a direct connection with the car owner.
"(e) Returned empty to the delivering road when handled only in switching service." Jurisdictional Statement 64.
"Exceptions to the rules (prescribed by the Interstate Commerce Commission for mandatory observance) for the purpose of further improving car supply and utilization, increasing availability of cars to their owners, improving the efficiency of railroad operations, or alleviating inequities or hardships, may be authorized by the Director or Assistant Director of the Bureau of Operations, Interstate Commerce Commission, Washington, D. C." Jurisdictional Statement 172.