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Opinion of the Court.
During much of the time its net earnings have been but little above its operating expenses. We certainly cannot hold that these rates should be reduced because for a single twelve months, under what may be termed abnormal conditions, this railway earned about 6 per cent. on the money which has been actually invested in its construction. The years when no return has been received must certainly be given some consideration. Upon no other theory could private capital be induced to invest in the construction of railroads.
234 U. S.
"While, however, we adhere to what was said in the previous case, we do think, upon more careful examination, that these rates of the Florida East Coast Railway on pineapples ought to be somewhat revised. They are not consistent with one another, and in our opinion those from the more distant points are too high as compared with rates from nearby points.
"The present rates are in any quantity. About 60 per cent. of these pineapples move from the point of origin in carloads, 40 per cent. in less than carloads. Carload shipments are stripped and loaded by the shipper and are not unloaded at Jacksonville, which probably saves the carrier not far from 2 cents per box. The less-than-carload shipment is loaded by the railway and usually unloaded at the station in South Jacksonville or Jacksonville. In our opinion carload rates should be established which are less than the present any-quantity rates by 3 cents per box.
"The establishment of such carload rates will not of a certainty work a decrease in the net earnings of the carriers. It is a false theory of transportation which seeks to force the shipper to avail himself of a less-than-carload service, which is more expensive to render, for the purpose of increasing the gross revenues of the carrier. The true object should be to perform the service in the most economical manner and to charge for that service reasonable compensation. In the end this makes to the advan
Opinion of the Court.
tage of both the carrier and its patron. The vice-president of the Florida East Coast Railway stated that he had always thought that carload rates should be established and that in his opinion to establish carload rates 3 cents per box less than the present any-quantity rates would not prejudice the net revenues of his company, since he would make up. by saving in operating expenses what he lost in gross income."
The order of the Commission which gave effect to these views entered February 8, 1910, changed gathering charges on pineapples and citrus fruits on the East Coast Line from any-quantity to carload and less-than-carload rates and modified the mileage basis. On attention being directed to the fact that the complaint related only to pineapples, while the order applied to that product and to citrus fruits, the order was modified and restricted to the subject complained of, pineapples. The East Coast Line conformed to the order and indeed shortly after doing so also voluntarily put into effect carload and less-thancarload gathering rates on citrus fruits and vegetables, and although the rates thus fixed were somewhat higher than the rates on pineapples which the Commission had established, they were lower than the citrus fruit and vegetable rates which had been expressly sustained by the Commission. Some months after this was done the same complainant who had filed the previous petitions presented in No. 1168 a second supplemental complaint against the East Coast Line, and new petitions against the Seaboard Air Line and Atlantic Coast Line Railways (No. 3808). So far as the East Coast Line was concerned the complaint was against the citrus fruit and vegetable-gathering rates and asked that they be equalized with or made the same as the pineapple rate. The Florida Railroad Commission intervened and asked the same relief. The Commission in effect granted the prayer of this second supplemental complaint, found the rates of the East Coast Line on
234 U. S.
Opinion of the Court.
citrus fruits and vegetables to be unjust and unreasonable, and directed the putting into operation of a lower stated schedule of gathering rates which was made applicable not only to the East Coast Line but also to the other roads which were parties to the proceeding. And it is this order which the railroad refused to obey and to enjoin the enforcement of which this suit was brought.
Without going into detail it suffices to say that the report of the Commission concerning the action just stated did not purport to question the correctness of its previous findings sustaining the citrus fruit and vegetable rates of the East Coast Line, but was based upon what was deemed to be a change in conditions since the previous decisions. After pointing out that it had previously ordered a change from any-quantity to carload and lessthan-carload rates on pineapples from gathering points to the base point on the East Coast Line and on all fruits and vegetables from base points outward, and that on both the Atlantic Coast Line and the Seaboard Air Line any-quantity rates yet remained from gathering points as to all fruits and vegetables, although such was not the case as to the East Coast Line because of the change which it had voluntarily made, it was said (22 I. C. C. 11, 14, 15):
"No material change has taken place since then (that is, since the previous decisions) so far as this record discloses which would lead to a different conclusion if the same subject were before us today. The volume of business transacted has increased, but the expenses of operation have also increased to an extent which offsets the greater amount of business.
"It appeared in the original case that citrus fruits to some extent, and vegetables to a much greater extent, were shipped in small lots to Jacksonville and there reloaded for movement beyond. It was our impression in
Opinion of the Court.
establishing carload rates from the base point that this would permit the movement in small lots up to the base point and the consolidation at such point, and that the carload movement would in fact be mainly beyond the base point. Such has not been the result. In order to obtain the carload rate beyond the base point it seems to be necessary for the shipper, in actual practice, to present a full carload at the point of origin, and from this it follows that the movement up to the base point at the present time is entirely different from what it was when we approved these any-quantity rates. At that time the loading was by the carrier; now it is mainly by the shipper. The loading of the cars from the point of origin to the base points is much heavier now than formerly. In 1907 the average loading of citrus fruits and pineapples upon the Atlantic Coast Line up to the base point was 215 boxes. In 1910 this loading had increased to 279 boxes. In case of vegetables the increase is even more marked. The number of cars now required to transport the same amount of this traffic from points of origin to base points would be materially less than in 1908. Otherwise stated, it costs the shipper more to handle his business today and it costs the railroad less."
And upon that changed circumstance an order was awarded directing the change from any-quantity to carload and less-than-carload and fixing a rate which was the same as that previously fixed for pineapples. Of course, as the East Coast Line had voluntarily put in carload and less-than-carload rates, it was only affected by this order to the extent that it lowered the traffic charge as contained in the schedule which had been previously voluntarily established.
It is insisted that the order of the Commission was wrongful and that the court below erred in not restraining its enforcement for the following reasons: (a) because the order complained of was rendered without any evidence
Opinion of the Court.
whatever to sustain it; (b) because it confiscated the property of the railway in a two-fold aspect, first, by fixing a rate so unreasonably low as to afford no remuneration to the corporation for the use of its property, and second, because although the Commission in order to justify the rate which it fixed took into account the revenue derived from the extended road, it nevertheless declined to at all consider the value of the extended road and the right to earn a return thereon. We come as briefly as possible to consider these contentions separately.
(a) That there was no evidence whatever tending to sustain the reduction of the rates on citrus fruits and vegetables as to the East Coast Line which the Commission ordered.
While a finding of fact made by the Commission concerning a matter within the scope of the authority delegated to it is binding and may not be reëxamined in the courts, it is undoubted that where it is contended that an order whose enforcement is resisted was rendered without any evidence whatever to support it, the consideration of such a question involves not an issue of fact, but one of law which it is the duty of the courts to examine and decide. (Int. Com. Comm. v. Louis. & Nash. R. R., 227 U. S. 88, 91, 92, and cases cited.)
In view of what we have said concerning the state of the record, the solution of the question must depend upon an examination and analysis of two subjects, the one the reports of the Commission in the previous cases, and the other, the testimony which was before it and the report made in this case. As to the first, in view of the statements made by the Commission in its report in the original case (No. 1168, 14 I. C. C. 476) as to the earning power of the road, the nature of its business and the reasonableness of its rates and the express finding that the citrus fruit and vegetable rates were just and reasonable and should not be changed and the further fact that they were not called in question in the second proceeding it