|Formed||February 4, 1887|
|Dissolved||January 1, 1996|
28th Governor of New York
22nd & 24th President of the United States
The Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) was a regulatory agency in the United States created by the Interstate Commerce Act of 1887. The agency's original purpose was to regulate railroads (and later trucking) to ensure fair rates, to eliminate rate discrimination, and to regulate other aspects of common carriers, including interstate bus lines and telephone companies. Congress expanded ICC authority to regulate other modes of commerce beginning in 1906. Throughout the 20th century, several of ICC's authorities were transferred to other federal agencies. The ICC was abolished in 1995, and its remaining functions were transferred to the Surface Transportation Board.
The Commission's five members were appointed by the President with the consent of the United States Senate. This was the first independent agency (or so-called Fourth Branch ).
The ICC was established by the Interstate Commerce Act of 1887, which was signed into law by President Grover Cleveland.  The creation of the commission was the result of widespread and longstanding anti-railroad agitation. Western farmers, specifically those of the Grange Movement, were the dominant force behind the unrest, but Westerners generally — especially those in rural areas — believed that the railroads possessed economic power that they systematically abused. A central issue was rate discrimination between similarly situated customers and communities.  : 42ff Other potent issues included alleged attempts by railroads to obtain influence over city and state governments and the widespread practice of granting free transportation in the form of yearly passes to opinion leaders (elected officials, newspaper editors, ministers, and so on) so as to dampen any opposition to railroad practices.
Various sections of the Interstate Commerce Act banned "personal discrimination" and required shipping rates to be "just and reasonable."
President Cleveland appointed Thomas M. Cooley as the first chairman of the ICC. Cooley had been Dean of the University of Michigan Law School and Chief Justice of the Michigan Supreme Court. 
The Commission had a troubled start because the law that created it failed to give it adequate enforcement powers.
The Commission is, or can be made, of great use to the railroads. It satisfies the popular clamor for a government supervision of the railroads, while at the same time that supervision is almost entirely nominal.— Richard Olney, private attorney, in a letter to Charles Elliott Perkins, President of the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad, December 28, 1892. 
Following the passage of the 1887 act, the ICC proceeded to set maximum shipping rates for railroads. However, in the late 1890s, several railroads challenged the agency's ratemaking authority in litigation, and the courts severely limited the ICC's powers.  : 90ff 
Congress expanded the commission's powers through subsequent legislation. The 1893 Railroad Safety Appliance Act gave the ICC jurisdiction over railroad safety, removing this authority from the states, and this was followed with amendments in 1903 and 1910.  The Hepburn Act of 1906 authorized the ICC to set maximum railroad rates, and extended the agency's authority to cover bridges, terminals, ferries, sleeping cars, express companies and oil pipelines. 
A long-standing controversy was how to interpret language in the Act that banned long haul-short haul fare discrimination. The Mann-Elkins Act of 1910 addressed this question by strengthening ICC authority over railroad rates. This amendment also expanded the ICC's jurisdiction to include regulation of telephone, telegraph and wireless companies. 
The Valuation Act of 1913 required the ICC to organize a Bureau of Valuation that would assess the value of railroad property. This information would be used to set rates.  The Esch-Cummins Act of 1920 expanded the ICC's rate-setting responsibilities, and the agency in turn required updated valuation data from the railroads.  The enlarged process led to a major increase in ICC staff, and the valuations continued for almost 20 years.  The valuation process turned out to be of limited use in helping the ICC set rates fairly.  
In 1934, Congress transferred the telecommunications authority to the new Federal Communications Commission. 
In 1935, Congress passed the Motor Carrier Act, which extended ICC authority to regulate interstate bus lines and trucking as common carriers. 
The Transportation Act of 1920 directed the Interstate Commerce Commission to prepare and adopt a plan for the consolidation of the railway properties of the United States into a limited number of systems. Between 1920 and 1923, William Z. Ripley, a professor of political economy at Harvard University, wrote up ICC's plan for the regional consolidation of the U.S. railways.  His plan became known as the Ripley Plan. In 1929 the ICC published Ripley's Plan under the title Complete Plan of Consolidation. Numerous hearings were held by ICC regarding the plan under the topic "In the Matter of Consolidation of the Railways of the United States into a Limited Number of Systems". 
The proposed 21 regional railroads were as follows:
There were 100 terminal railroads that were also proposed. Below is a sample:
Many small railroads failed during the Great Depression of the 1930s. Of those lines that survived, the stronger ones were not interested in supporting the weaker ones.  Congress repudiated Ripley's Plan with the Transportation Act of 1940, and the consolidation idea was scrapped. 
Although racial discrimination was never a major focus of its efforts, the ICC had to address civil rights issues when passengers filed complaints.
A friendly relationship between the regulators and the regulated is evident in several early civil rights cases. Throughout the South, railroads had established segregated facilities for sleeping cars, coaches and dining cars. At the same time, the plain language of the Act (forbidding "undue or unreasonable preference" as well as "personal discrimination") could be read as an implied invitation for activist regulators to chip away at racial discrimination.
It shall be unlawful for any common carrier subject to the provisions of this part to make, give, or cause any undue or unreasonable preference or advantage to any particular person, company, firm, corporation, association, locality, port, port district, gateway, transit point, region, district, territory, or any particular description of traffic, in any respect whatsoever; or to subject any particular person, company, firm, corporation, association, locality, port, port district, gateway, transit point, region, district, territory, or any particular description of traffic to any undue or unreasonable prejudice or disadvantage in any respect whatsoever. . . 
In at least two landmark cases, however, the Commission sided with the railroads rather than with the African-American passengers who had filed complaints. In both Mitchell v. United States (1941) and Henderson v. United States, the Supreme Court took a more expansive view of the Act than the Commission.   In 1962, the ICC banned racial discrimination in buses and bus stations, but it did not do so until several months after a binding pro-integration Supreme Court decision Boynton v. Virginia and the Freedom Rides (in which activists engaged in civil disobedience to desegregate interstate buses).
The limitation on railroad rates in 1906-07 depreciated the value of railroad securities, a factor in causing the panic of 1907. 
Some economists and historians, such as Milton Friedman assert that existing railroad interests took advantage of ICC regulations to strengthen their control of the industry and prevent competition, constituting regulatory capture. 
Economist David D. Friedman argues that the ICC always served the railroads as a cartelizing agent and used its authority over other forms of transportation to prevent them, where possible, from undercutting the railroads. 
In March 1920, the ICC had Eben Moody Boynton, the inventor of the Boynton Bicycle Railroad, committed as a lunatic to an institution in Washington, D.C.  Boynton's monorail electric light rail system, it was reported, had the potential to revolutionize transportation, superseding then-current train travel.  ICC officials said that they had Boynton committed because he was "worrying them to death" in his promotion of the bicycle railroad.  Based on his own testimony and that of a Massachusetts congressman,  Boynton won release on May 28, 1920, overcoming testimony of the ICC's chief clerk that Boynton was virtually a daily visitor at ICC offices, seeking Commission adoption of his proposal to revolutionize the railroad industry. 
Congress passed various deregulation measures in the 1970s and early 1980s which diminished ICC authority, including the Railroad Revitalization and Regulatory Reform Act of 1976 ("4R Act"), the Motor Carrier Act of 1980 and the Staggers Rail Act of 1980. Senator Fred R. Harris of Oklahoma strongly advocated the abolition of the Commission.  [ better source needed ] In December 1995, when most of the ICC's powers had been eliminated or repealed, Congress finally abolished the agency with the ICC Termination Act of 1995.  Final Chair Gail McDonald oversaw transferring its remaining functions to a new agency, the U.S. Surface Transportation Board (STB), which reviews mergers and acquisitions, rail line abandonments and railroad corporate filings.
ICC jurisdiction on rail safety (hours of service rules, equipment and inspection standards) was transferred to the Federal Railroad Administration pursuant to the Federal Railroad Safety Act of 1970. 
Before the ICC was abolished motor carriers (bus lines, trucking companies) had safety regulations enforced by the Office of Motor Carriers (OMC) under the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA.) The OMC inherited many of the "Economic" regulations enforced by the ICC in addition to the safety regulations imposed on motor carriers. In January 2000 the OMC became the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), within the U.S. Department of Transportation. Prior to its abolition, the ICC gave identification numbers to motor carriers for which it issued licenses. The identification numbers were generally in the form of "ICC MC-000000". When the ICC was dissolved, the function of licensing interstate motor carriers was transferred to FMCSA. All interstate motor carriers that transport freight moving across state lines have a USDOT number, such as "USDOT 000000." There are private carriers, e.g. Walmart that move their own freight requiring only a USDOT number, and carriers with authority that haul freight for hire that are still required to have a USDOT number and a Motor Carrier (MC) number that replaced the ICC numbers. 
The ICC served as a model for later regulatory efforts. Unlike, for example, state medical boards (historically administered by the doctors themselves), the seven Interstate Commerce Commissioners and their staffs were full-time regulators who could have no economic ties to the industries they regulated. Since 1887, some state and other federal agencies adopted this structure. And, like the ICC, later agencies tended to be organized as multi-headed independent commissions with staggered terms for the commissioners. At the federal level, agencies patterned after the ICC included the Federal Trade Commission (1914), the Federal Communications Commission (1934), the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (1934), the National Labor Relations Board (1935), the Civil Aeronautics Board (1940), Postal Regulatory Commission (1970) and the Consumer Product Safety Commission (1975).
In recent decades, this regulatory structure of independent federal agencies has gone out of fashion. The agencies created after the 1970s generally have single heads appointed by the President and are divisions inside executive Cabinet Departments (e.g., the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (1970) or the Transportation Security Administration (2002)). The trend is the same at the state level, though it is probably less pronounced.
The Interstate Commerce Commission had a strong influence on the founders of Australia. The Constitution of Australia provides (§§ 101-104; also § 73) for the establishment of an Inter-State Commission, modeled after the United States' Interstate Commerce Commission. However, these provisions have largely not been put into practice; the Commission existed between 1913–1920, and 1975–1989, but never assumed the role which Australia's founders had intended for it.
The Elkins Act is a 1903 United States federal law that amended the Interstate Commerce Act of 1887. The Act authorized the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) to impose heavy fines on railroads that offered rebates, and upon the shippers that accepted these rebates. The railroad companies were not permitted to offer rebates. Railroad corporations, their officers, and their employees, were all made liable for discriminatory practices.
The Hepburn Act is a 1906 United States federal law that expanded the jurisdiction of the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) and gave it the power to set maximum railroad rates. This led to the discontinuation of free passes to loyal shippers. In addition, the ICC could view the railroads' financial records, a task simplified by standardized bookkeeping systems. For any railroad that resisted, the ICC's conditions would remain in effect until the outcome of legislation said otherwise. By the Hepburn Act, the ICC's authority was extended to cover bridges, terminals, ferries, railroad sleeping cars, express companies and oil pipelines.
The Mann–Elkins Act, also called the Railway Rate Act of 1910, was a United States federal law that strengthened the authority of the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) over railroad rates. The law also expanded the ICC's jurisdiction to include regulation of telephone, telegraph and wireless companies, and created a commerce court.
The Transportation Act, 1920, commonly known as the Esch–Cummins Act, was a United States federal law that returned railroads to private operation after World War I, with much regulation. It also officially encouraged private consolidation of railroads and mandated that the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) ensure their profitability. The act was named after Rep. John J. Esch and Sen. Albert B. Cummins.
The United States Department of Transportation is one of the executive departments of the U.S. federal government. It is headed by the secretary of transportation, who reports directly to the president of the United States and is a member of the president's Cabinet.
The Staggers Rail Act of 1980 is a United States federal law that deregulated the American railroad industry to a significant extent, and it replaced the regulatory structure that had existed since the Interstate Commerce Act of 1887.
The Railroad Revitalization and Regulatory Reform Act of 1976, often called the "4R Act," is a United States federal law that established the basic outlines of regulatory reform in the railroad industry and provided transitional operating funds following the 1970 bankruptcy of Penn Central Transportation Company. The law approved the "Final System Plan" for the newly created Conrail and authorized acquisition of Northeast Corridor tracks and facilities by Amtrak.
The Safety Appliance Act is a United States federal law that made air brakes and automatic couplers mandatory on all trains in the United States. It was enacted on March 2, 1893, and took effect in 1900, after a seven-year grace period. The act is credited with a sharp drop in accidents on American railroads in the early 20th century.
Boynton v. Virginia, 364 U.S. 454 (1960), was a landmark decision of the US Supreme Court. The case overturned a judgment convicting an African American law student for trespassing by being in a restaurant in a bus terminal which was "whites only". It held that racial segregation in public transportation was illegal because such segregation violated the Interstate Commerce Act, which broadly forbade discrimination in interstate passenger transportation. It moreover held that bus transportation was sufficiently related to interstate commerce to allow the United States federal government to regulate it to forbid racial discrimination in the industry.
Wooden railroads, called wagonways, were built in the United States starting from the 1720s. A railroad was reportedly used in the construction of the French fortress at Louisburg, Nova Scotia, in New France in 1720. Between 1762 and 1764, at the close of the French and Indian War (1756–1763), a gravity railroad called Montresor's Tramway was built by British military engineers up the steep riverside terrain near the Niagara River waterfall's escarpment at the Niagara Portage in Lewiston, New York.
The Surface Transportation Board (STB) of the United States is a federal, bipartisan, independent adjudicatory board. The STB was established on January 1, 1996, to assume some of the regulatory functions that had been administered by the Interstate Commerce Commission when the ICC was abolished. Other ICC regulatory functions were either eliminated or transferred to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration or Bureau of Transportation Statistics within DOT.
United States v. American Trucking Associations, 310 U.S. 534 (1940), was a landmark United States Supreme Court in which the court held the Motor Carrier Act of 1935 did not permit federal agencies to regulate employees whose duties did not affect safety and operation.
The Interstate Commerce Act of 1887 is a United States federal law that was designed to regulate the railroad industry, particularly its monopolistic practices. The Act required that railroad rates be "reasonable and just," but did not empower the government to fix specific rates. It also required that railroads publicize shipping rates and prohibited short haul or long haul fare discrimination, a form of price discrimination against smaller markets, particularly farmers in Western or Southern Territory compared to the Official Eastern states. The Act created a federal regulatory agency, the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC), which it charged with monitoring railroads to ensure that they complied with the new regulations.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is an agency in the United States Department of Transportation that regulates the trucking industry in the United States. The primary mission of the FMCSA is to reduce crashes, injuries and fatalities involving large trucks and buses.
United States v. Florida East Coast Railway Co., 410 U.S. 224 (1973), was a case decided by the United States Supreme Court.
Southern Railway Company v. United States, 222 U.S. 20 (1911), was a decision by the United States Supreme Court which held that under the Commerce Clause, the U.S. Congress can regulate safety on intrastate rail traffic because there is a close and substantial connection to interstate traffic.
Sarah Keys v. Carolina Coach Company, 64 MCC 769 (1955) is a landmark civil rights case in the United States in which the Interstate Commerce Commission, in response to a bus segregation complaint filed in 1953 by a Women's Army Corps (WAC) private named Sarah Louise Keys, broke with its historic adherence to the Plessy v. Ferguson separate but equal doctrine and interpreted the non-discrimination language of the Interstate Commerce Act as banning the segregation of black passengers in buses traveling across state lines.
George W. Bush & Sons Co. v. Malloy, 267 U.S. 317 (1925), was a decision by the United States Supreme Court, which held that the state statute under which the Maryland Public Service Commission (PSC) issued certificates of public convenience and necessity to common carriers engaged in interstate commerce violated the Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution.
The Valuation Act is a 1913 United States federal law that required the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) to assess the value of railroad property. This information would be used to set rates for the transport of freight.
Transportation in the United States is governed by laws and regulations of the federal government. The Department of Transportation is responsible for carrying out federal transportation policy, and the Department of Homeland Security is responsible for security in transportation.
Except to take up incredible amounts of space on library shelves, the reports of the valuation agency never served any visible purpose.