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   Chapter 43 FREIGHT TRANSPORTATION BY RAIL

Up To Date Business By Various Characters: 11439

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03


THE ORIGIN OF RAILROAD TRAFFIC ASSOCIATIONS

The performance of the transportation services necessitates the co-operation of carriers. When the government owns and operates the railroads of a country they are managed by a single authority, and the different parts of the railway system are fully co-ordinated; but when the railroads are operated by a large number of independent corporations, co-operation can be secured only by means of traffic associations composed of representatives of the railway companies, and intrusted with the power of making arrangements affecting joint traffic, and settling questions involving the interests of two or more companies.

Two distinct causes brought about the establishment of railway traffic associations. The first cause was the necessity of co-operation to facilitate the joint business of connecting lines. Through tickets, joint fares and rates, through bills of lading, the interchange of cars between connecting roads, and the settlement of joint accounts led to the establishment of co-operative freight lines, car-service associations, claim associations, and various other general and local organisations for the promotion of the joint transportation business.

The other cause of co-operation among the railways was the necessity of regulating competition. This cause first became potent after the process of consolidation had brought about the formation of numerous large railway systems, and had inaugurated the violent competition which led to discriminations in transportation charges, rate wars, and the other evils which have combined to produce "the railway question." The competitive struggles of rival railway systems began to be violent shortly after 1867, and soon led to the formation of railway traffic associations, with enlarged powers. The classification of freight, the determination of rates on competitive traffic, and the apportionment of that traffic, or of the earnings from it, among the competitors became functions of the associations.

THE WORK OF ALBERT FINK

The man who did more than any other person to develop traffic associations and to promote the co-operation of competing railroads was the late Albert Fink. It was his master mind that organised and put into successful operation in 1876 the Southern Railway and Steamship Association. The following year Albert Fink succeeded in organising the great trunk lines connecting the North Atlantic seaboard and the States north of the Ohio River. Though smaller traffic associations similar to these two organisations had been previously established where but few obstacles had to be overcome, it was Fink who first organised traffic associations including all the competing railroads serving large sections of the country.

In discussing the work of traffic associations, which are to-day concerns of really enormous magnitude, railway pooling and the classification of freight especially demand consideration.

RAILROAD POOLING

Railroad pools are agreements entered into by competing carriers, by which the railroads provide for the division with each other of their competitive traffic, or of the earnings from that traffic in accordance with stipulated ratios. Thus there are traffic pools and money pools. During the decade preceding 1887, the year when the present interstate commerce law was enacted, most traffic associations had the pooling feature, and most of the competitive railway traffic was pooled, thus eliminating all competition in rates.

Pooling agreements have never been legal in this country. Being illegal by the common law, they could not be enforced in the courts. Section 4 of the interstate commerce law made it unlawful for the carriers subject to the act to pool their freights or the earnings from their freight traffic, and made it necessary for the traffic associations to reorganise without the pooling agreements. Until March 22, 1897, it was supposed that the associations, without pooling agreements, were legal; but, on that date, in the case of the United States vs. the Trans-Missouri Freight Association, the United States Supreme Court held that the law of July 2, 1890, popularly known as the Sherman anti-trust law, applied to railways, and made it illegal for railway companies to contract with each other to maintain rates. Thus at the present time traffic associations are permitted neither to contain a pooling feature nor to provide arrangements for the enforcement or maintenance of rates, although the charges may be reasonable and be sanctioned by all the carriers interested. The associations may now legally exercise those functions which are connected with the joint business of their members, and they may act as bureaus of information regarding the competitive traffic. They have no power to make or to maintain rates.

TRAFFIC ASSOCIATIONS INCLUDING POOLING SHOULD BE LEGALISED

The best performance of the service of transportation by rail requires the fullest possible co-ordination of the different parts of our transportation system and the largest attainable measure of co-operation among the agents who perform the service. Section 4 of the act of 1887 and the law of July, 1890, as far as the latter relates to railways, are based on an unsound theory. Provision having been made for that kind and measure of governmental regulation of railway rates that will insure reasonable charges, the railways should be permitted to co-operate in rate-making and be given power to pool their competitive business.

CLASSIFICATION OF RAILROAD FREIGHT

There are thousands of varieties of freight offered to the railroads for transportation. If each class of commodities were charged the same freight rate

per ton per mile, the charges upon many articles of prime necessity, such as coal, lumber, and grain, would be so high as to prevent their being moved, while the rates on goods of high value per bulk would be much lower than they could readily pay. Classification must precede the fixing of rate schedules. The railroads are interested in adjusting their charges to services performed in such a manner as to insure the greatest possible amount of traffic at rates that are properly remunerative. The public is interested in having the necessary revenues of the railroads so levied as to make the burdens as light as possible. To accomplish this a careful grouping of commodities is necessary.

The goods are usually classified in five or six large divisions. The official classification referred to below has six classes. The first class consists of articles of high value, the sixth class of bulky commodities of low value, such as iron ore, lumber, grain in bulk, etc. In practice, however, the number of classes is at least doubled. Goods of especially high value are made to pay once and a half, double, treble or quadruple the regular first-class rate. A commodity is also frequently placed in more than one class, the rating of classification being lower for car-load lots than for less than car-load shipments. The classification is further extended by omitting certain articles from the list of those classified. Live stock and coal are illustrations of articles to which so-called "commodity," as distinct from "classification," rates are given. The individual shippers are constantly endeavouring to have their goods given commodity rates, and the effort of the railroad companies is to reduce the number of articles excepted from classification. Commodity tariffs have been a fruitful source of unjust discrimination.

From this description of freight classifications it will be perceived that the main basis upon which the grouping of commodities rests is the relative value of the goods. The gradations cannot, however, be made strictly according to value. The goods are frequently put into a lower class than their value would warrant in order to stimulate their production and shipment or to develop the industries depending upon those articles.

At first each railroad worked out a classification of its own, and there were practically as many classifications as there were railway systems. The disadvantages of this soon became apparent with the development of long-distance traffic. The multiplicity of classifications made it difficult for shippers or purchasers to ascertain in advance what the charges on consignments would be; there was a constant tendency to increase the number of commodity tariffs, and unjust personal and local discriminations were in consequence made more numerous. It became evident that there would be great advantages in having one uniform classification for the whole United States. This ideal has not been reached yet, but the number of classifications has been practically reduced to three-the official, applying to the traffic north of the Potomac and Ohio and west of the Mississippi; the southern, in force among the railroads in the Southern States, and the western, which obtains in the territory west of the Mississippi River. This amalgamation of the classifications has been brought about chiefly by the traffic associations and as the result of the enactment of the interstate commerce law. In order to avoid the discriminations prohibited by that law it was necessary to abandon the system of a separate classification for each railway. It is to be hoped that the attainment of the ideal of uniform classification will not be long delayed.

THE CONDUCT OF THE FREIGHT BUSINESS OF RAILROADS-TRANSPORTATION PAPERS

The manner in which the freight business is conducted affords a good illustration of the high degree of development to which modern business methods have attained. Freight is accepted by each railroad for shipment not only to all points on its own system, but also practically to every railway station in the country, and even to many foreign cities.

A waybill containing the initials of the number of the car used, the name of the consignor, the name and address of the consignee, the description and weight of the articles sent, the freight class and rate of the goods, and the total amount of freight charges, accompanies each shipment and is delivered to the agent at the place to which the goods are shipped.

For the goods thus accepted for transportation, manifests, or "bills of lading," are issued to the consignor, which, like other representatives of property, may be transferred by the owner or may be deposited in a bank subject to draft. Bills of lading are of two general kinds-"straight consignment bills" and "order bills." When a straight consignment bill of lading is issued the goods must be delivered to the consignee or to the person to whom he may order them delivered. An order bill of lading is one that may be transferred upon indorsement. The following concise description of an order bill of lading is taken from the "Book of General Instructions to Freight Agents," issued by the Pennsylvania Railroad Company:

When freight is consigned to "Order" it is, as a rule, for the purpose of securing the payment at destination of a draft for the value of the property. The draft is usually attached to the bill of lading and sent through a bank for collection from the party at destination, who is to be notified of the arrival of the freight. The payment of the draft secures to the payer the possession of the bill of lading, which must be indorsed by the party to whose order the property is consigned.

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