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seen that the aggregate freight charges under these tariffs for the transportation of 10 gallons of cream shipped in the manner described, including the return movement of the empty receptacles, would be approximately $4.35.
Since the hearing was had in this case the defendant has reissued its commodity tariff No. 3377, effective May 20, 1908, transferring cream from second to fourth class, reducing the rate from $2.50 to $2 per 100 pounds. Under this tariff, therefore, the total charges on the gross weight of the shipment, including the return of the empty receptacles, would be $3.27, as against $4.05 under the tariff now in effect.
The volume of the cream traffic moving between Columbia and Jacksonville is small and would not be attractive to the railroads even if it could be safely handled by freight for this distance, which is 646 miles via the Louisville & Nashville to Montgomery, Ala., and thence via the Atlantic Coast Line to Jacksonville, the route over which this traffic is carried.
Ordinarily the railroads only engage in the transportation of milk and cream for comparatively short distances and then, for the most part, where the volume of the traffic warrants the operation of special milk trains. The cream traffic alone is seldom, if ever, sufficient
, in volume to make it attractive to the railroads, and it is doubtful whether as a practical matter cream could be satisfactorily transported by freight train a distance of 646 miles in this territory.
Prior to 1900 complainant shipped cream via the Clyde Line from New York, but discontinued doing so for the reason that the daily express service was preferable, since it obviated the necessity of buying several days' supply at one time and keeping the same in stock, in consequence of which and the longer time in transit it was subject to deterioration. All cream shipped from New York is previously shipped there from other points. As a practical matter only wholesale dealers can profitably handle cream shipped in this way from New York, and so far as the small dealers at Jacksonville are concerned the New York market affords no competition with Columbia.
A contract between the express company and the railroad companies over whose lines it operates providing that the former shall not charge less than a certain percentage over the railroad rate applying on the same commodity between the same points can not be considered as a controlling factor in' passing upon the reasonableness of the express rate. Ordinarily the railroads engage in the transportation of commodities which move in large volume and do not attempt to provide facilities or to name rates which would encourage the shipment by freight of smaller articles infrequently the subject of transportation. This is especially true of perishable commodities requiring quick movement, so that the express company is left free to take care of this class of traffic. It is therefore not improbable that occasional shipments of this character could not be handled as cheaply by the railroad, which has not been warranted by past experience in providing necessary facilities therefor. The Commission will of course notice the railroad rate as affording a basis of comparison, but the law requires that the several classes of common carriers subject to its provisions shall fix just and reasonable charges for transportation services, and the authority of the Commission to prescribe a reasonable rate when invoked in a proper case is not restricted by the terms of any agreement between the express company and the railroad company.
The main reasons alleged in justification of the increased rate are, first, that it was necessary in order to make the rates applying over the entire system on a logical and consistent basis, and, second, in order to compensate the express company for handling the extra weight of the ice and tub.
In our view, it is not sufficient for a carrier when called upon to justify a rate, the reasonableness of which is questioned, to assert that its rates generally are fair and just and that no change may properly be made in any particular rate because it would disturb the integrity of the system as a whole and produce inconsistencies. This proposition is too general and theoretical for acceptance by us in the application of the requirements of the law to a practical situation. The Commission has authority under the law to make an order only concerning the rates involved in a proceeding before it. It is not practicable in such a proceeding to investigate and pass upon the reasonableness of the entire system of rates maintained by a carrier. In dealing with a particular rate it is of course the purpose of the Commission to consider such other rates as afford a basis for comparison, but where a given rate is found to be unreasonable the Commission will not hesitate to order such rate reduced, although the reduction might disarrange the relative adjustment existing between this and other rates.
It is conceded by the express companies that a rate of 15 cents per gallon would afford reasonable remuneration for the service performed in transporting the net weight of the can and cream from Columbia to Jacksonville. That rate was voluntarily fixed by the defendant and remained in effect for such length of time as to create a presumption that it was reasonably remunerative. We will assume that this rate was established without anticipation of the necessity for handling the cream in a tub packed with ice, although it is doubtful if a single shipment ever went through uniced. The rate of $1.50 applied to the 10-gallon can of cream weighing 122 pounds yields a rate per pound, approximately, of 17 cents. At this rate the 88 pounds consisting of ice and tub would yield a revenue of $1.10, which, added to the $1.50 charge for the cream and can, makes a total charge of $2.60.
It is the opinion of the Commission, upon full hearing and consideration of all the facts, circumstances, and conditions surrounding this transportation, that the rate herein complained of is unreasonable and unjust to the extent that it results in the exaction of charges in excess of $2.75 for the carriage of 10 gallons of cream shipped in a tub of sufficient size to permit of necessary refrigeration and the return of the empty can and tub, and it is our conclusion that the reasonable and just rate to be hereafter charged as a maximum should not exceed that amount as an aggregate charge for the movement of the cream and the return movement of the empty receptacles incident thereto. An order will be entered in accordance with these conclusions.
13 I. C. C. Rep.
BENTON TRANSIT COMPANY.
BENTON HARBOR-ST. JOE RAILWAY & LIGHT COMPANY.
Submitted May 6, 1908. Decided May 11, 1908.
1. The withdrawal of lake-and-rail rates for the winter during the period of closed navi
gation with the intention of restoring them with the opening of navigation in the spring is not sufficient to take from the jurisdiction of the Commission a rail line which, like the defendant, lies wholly within one state, because during that limited time it has no connections by which it can actually engage in interstate
traffic. 2. The complaint in this case was filed the day after certain interstate rates had been
suspended for the winter; but it appeared, when the complaint came on for hearing, that the rates had been restored. Upon objection made that the Commission was without jurisdiction to proceed except upon a new or amended complaint; Held, That the point was not well taken; and that, having jurisdiction when the complaint came on to be heard the Commission, being an administrative body, ought not to delay the hearing upon a purely technical objec
tion that does not reach the merits of the controversy. 3. Whether a satisfactory through route exists depends upon the facts and circum
stances of each case. While the three steamboats of the Graham & Morton Line, with which the defendant now has through routes and joint rates for the transportation fruit from certain points in the state of Michigan by rail to Benton Harbor and thence across Lake Michigan to Chicago, can doubtless carry all the fruits produced in the territory in question, its ability satisfactorily to handle the traffic is to be measured by the least adequate of its facilities. And if it can not promptly deliver the traffic over its wharf at Chicago, and thus causes delays that result in financial losses to shippers, the through route by that line
can not be said to be satisfactory. H. L. Southworth and John E. W. Wayman for complainant. Humphrey S. Gray for defendant.
REPORT OF THE COMMISSION. HARLAN, Commissioner:
In the territory proximate to Benton Harbor and St. Joseph in the state of Michigan there is an extensive cultivation of raspberries, strawberries, melons, cantaloupes, cherries, peaches, and other fruits for which the city of Chicago offers a large market. The shipments from those ports across the lake ordinarily amount to a million and a half or two million packages during each fruit season. A substantial portion of the traffic is carried by the complainant from its wharf at Benton Harbor to its wharf in Chicago. But shippers at inland points who prefer that line now have to pay the local rates in and out of Benton Harbor, while shippers who use the Graham & Morton Line, the only other water line that participates in the traffic, have the benefit of through routes and joint rates. The complainant therefore desires the restoration of the through routes and joint rates which the defendant formerly accorded to it; and to that end it has filed its petition praying for an order requiring the defendant to join with it in reestablishing them. The facts and circumstances shown of record are to some extent unusual and for that reason it is desirable to outline the controversy at some length.
Until a few years ago the steamboat companies gathered the fruit from the outlying farms to their wharves at Benton Harbor in large wagons locally known as fruit "schooners.” Part of this expense was borne by the farmers and part was absorbed by the boat lines. Later the defendant, the Benton Harbor & St. Joe Railway & Light Company, originally organized for the purpose of furnishing light and a street-car service for the two communities referred to, reached the conclusion that it would be profitable to provide facilities for moving the fruit by rail from the country producing points to the wharves. It accordingly extended its road about 14 miles into the fruitproducing district to a town called Eau Claire. The line was completed in time to enable the defendant to engage in the transportation to Chicago of the fruit grown during the season of 1906. A spur was projected from its street-car tracks on Main street in Benton Harbor through Water street into the covered dock of the Graham & Morton Line. From a near-by point, apparently on the same spur, fruit was also unloaded during that season and carried to the steamboat of the complainant.
With both water lines the defendant established through routes and joint rates to Chicago from points where the country highways cross its line between Eau Claire and Benton Harbor. These crossroad points were put in one group and the water rate from port to port was extended so as to include all the inland points on the defendant's line. By agreement among themselves the defendant retained 40 per cent of the joint through rate and the boat lines 60 per cent. The arrangement seemed to result in economies to all concerned. The boat lines and the farmers were saved a large part of the expense of laboriously concentrating the fruit at the wharves in wagons. The producers were enabled to pick their fruit in the late afternoon and have it taken by the defendant at once to the ports, where it was loaded upon the boats and delivered in the best condition on the wharves at