Sproles v. Binford, No. 826

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtHUGHES
Citation76 L.Ed. 1167,286 U.S. 374,52 S.Ct. 581
PartiesSPROLES et al. v. BINFORD et al
Docket NumberNo. 826
Decision Date23 May 1932

286 U.S. 374
52 S.Ct. 581
76 L.Ed. 1167
SPROLES et al.


BINFORD et al.

No. 826.
Argued April 27, 28, 1932.
Decided May 23, 1932.

[Syllabus from pages 374-376 intentionally omitted]

Page 376

Messrs. Charles I. Francis, of Wichita Falls, Tex., Frank H. Rawlings, of Fort Worth, Tex., LaRue Brown, of Boston, Mass., and J. B. Dudley, of Oklahoma City, Okl., for appellants.

[Argument of Counsel from pages 376-378 intentionally omitted]

Page 379

Messrs. John H. Crooker and R. C. Fulbright, both of Houston, Tex., for intervener-appellant.

Mr. Elbert Hooper, of Austin, Tex. (Messrs. James V. Allred, Atty. Gen., T. S. Christopher, Asst. Atty. Gen., J. H. Tallichet and W. M. Streetman, both of Houston, Tex., and A. L. Reed, of Dallas, Tex., on the brief), for appellees.

Mr. Chief Justice HUGHES delivered the opinion of the Court.

The District Court, composed of three judges, entered a final decree dismissing the bill of complaint which sought to restrain the enforcement of the Motor Vehicle

Page 380

Act of Texas, House Bill No. 336, chapter 282, 42d Texas Legislature (Vernon's Ann. P. C. art. 827a). 56 F.(2d) 189. The decree was entered on pleadings and proofs, and the complainants and interveners appeal. The act was assailed upon the ground that certain of its provisions violate the due process and equal protection clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment, and also the commerce and contract clauses (article 1, § 8, cl. 3, section 10, cl. 1) of the Federal Constitution. The statute is an amendatory act and the provisons in question are found in sections 2, 3, 5, and 7 (Vernon's Ann. P. C. Tex. art.827a, §§ 2, 3, 5, and 5(b).

Section 21 prohibits the operation on any highway of any 'vehicle,' as defined, exceeding stated limitations of size, or any vehicle not constructed or equipped as required, and also the transportation of any load exceeding the dimensions and weights prescribed. The state highway department may grant permits, for ninety days, for the transportation 'of such overweight or oversize or overlenght commodities as cannot be reasonably dismantled,' or for the operation 'of super-heavy and oversize equipment' for the transportation of such commodities, provided that hauls under these permits shall be made 'by the shortest practicable route.'

Page 381

Section 32 limits the width of a vehicle including load, to 96 inches, the height to 12 1/2 feet, the length to 35 feet, and the length of a combination of vehicles, coupled together, to 45 feet. It forbids the transportation as a load, or as part of a load, of any commodity in containers having more than 30 cubic feet and weighing more than 500 pounds, where there are more than 14 of such containers carried as a load on 'any such vehicle or com-

Page 382

bination,' no load of any such containers to be carried in excess of 7,000 pounds. There are exempted from the limitation as to size 'implements of husbandry, including machinery used solely for the purpose of drilling water wells, and highway building and maintenance machinery temporarily propelled or moved upon the public highways.'

Section 53 prohibits any 'commercial motor vehicle' (which the act defines as one designed or used for the transportation of property), truck-tractor, or trailer from operating outside of an incorporated city or town with a load exceeding 7,000 pounds 'on any such vehicle or train or combination of vehicles,' and provides further that no motor vehicle (which includes passenger buses) shall operate outside a city or town with a greater weight than 600 pounds 'per inch width of tire upon any wheel concentrated upon the surface of the highway.'

Page 383

Section 74 inserts a paragraph to be known as section 5(b) of the amended statute, providing that the foregoing limitations as to length of vehicle or combination of vehicles and weight of loads, and height of vehicle with load, shall not apply to vehicles 'when used only to transport property from point of origin to the nearest practicable common carrier receiving or loading point or from a common carrier unloading point by way of the shortest practicable route to destination, provided said vehicle does not pass a delivery or receiving point of a common carrier equipped to transport said load,' or when used to transport property 'from the point of origin to point of destination' when the latter is less distant from the point of origin 'than the rearest practicable common carrier receiving or loading point equipped to transport such load.' This provision is subject to the limitation that, except by special permit, as provided in the act, the length of such vehicles shall not exceed 55 feet, or the weight of such loads 14,000 pounds, and also that the requirement as to the 'weight per inch width of tire' shall still be applicable.

The District Court made comprehensive findings. These set forth the various interests of the complainant and interveners (common carriers and contract carriers, in intrastate and interstate commerce, and manufacturers and distributors of commodities), their large investments, the extent of their operations in highway transportation, the character and uses of their equipment, and the losses

Page 384

to which they would be subjected by requirements of the statute. Other findings may be summarized as follows:

Of all the registered vehicles on the highways, including trucks, buses and automobiles, less than four-tenths of one per cent. have a rated carrying capacity of more than 7,000 pounds; not more than 5,500 trucks, out of a total of 206,000, have such a capacity and are affected by the prescribed load limit. There are approximately 200,000 miles of state and county highways in Texas and less than 20,000 miles of these are state designated highways, the improvement of which represents a public investment of more than $250,000,000. The annual maintenance cost of state designated highways for the past three years averaged $12,000,000 and that of the more than 180,000 miles of county highways 'is many millions of dollars annually.' In enacting the statute, 'the Legislature of Texas found as a fact that 7,000 pounds load weight, plus the weight of the vehicle, is the maximum load that should be allowed to pass over the Texas highways, taking into consideration the manner of past and present construction, probable future construction, cost of maintenance, strength of bridges, condition of traffic, etc.,' and this finding of the Legislature is supported by the preponderance of the evidence before the court.

Page 385

There are highways of concrete and other rigid and semirigid type of construction, and also bridges, capable of carrying a greater load than 7,000 pounds, but these do not form a regularly connected system and are scattered throughout the state. There are all types of roads, 'ranging from dirt, gravel, shell, asphalt and bitulithic to concrete and brick highways' of varying degrees of strength; the operations of complainant and interveners, and others similarly circumstanced, are conducted over all these types of highways, and bridges, except in some instances where operations may be over a regular route. The statute was enacted in the interest of the whole state, and the state highway system in particular, and the operations of complainant and interveners constitute a very small portion of the traffic which the highways bear.

The number of trucks in use in Texas has increased 300 per cent. in the last six years; official registrations show an increase from 65,536 in 1924 to 206,527 in 1930, not including the large increase in interstate truck traffic; and this increase in 'truck density' justifies the dimensional and weight restrictions of the statute in the interest of public safety and convenience and highways protection. In 1930, there were only 900 passenger buses operating over the Texas highways, representing less than .004 of one per cent. of the total number of vehicles; these passenger buses, while similar in many respects in construction to trucks carrying freight, are specially equipped to haul passengers, operate under regulations of the railroad commission and under conditions wholly different from those of trucks; that the differnce between these two types of vehicles and the number of each type, and in their operation, is ample justification for legislative classification. Excessive loads on trucks are damaging the highways and the limitation of the net load to 7,000 pounds will cause a saving to the state in maintenance costs. Heavily loaded trucks cause accidents and reduced loads will result in greater safety.

Page 386

On account of the width of traffic lanes, vehicles of greater width or length than that prescribed by the statute are hazardous for passing traffic, and the hazard will be materially reduced by a lighter load and a lesser width and length. There are low underpasses and bridge portals in Texas making necessary the prescribed height limit of 12 1/2 feet; a low center of gravity makes a truck less likely 'to topple over or spill on the highway,' and for that reason less dangerous.

In order to carry on the business of farming, 'implements of husbandry, plows, threshing machines, hay presser, etc.,' must be moved from one place to another. The same is true of machinery for water well drilling and highway construction. The uses of the highways for this sort of transportation are temporary only and essential to the public welfare.

The average distance traveled by trucks carrying property from points of origin to common carrier receiving points, or from common carrier unloading points to destination, is from four to eight miles; these hauls are universally short. Such operations are confined to small areas and greatly reduce the danger of traffic congestion or highway injury incident to truck transportation. Those persons coming under the exception permitted by section 7 (section 5(b) of the act transport...

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    • United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Pennsylvania)
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    ...Grain & Elevator Co., 287 U.S. 77, 53 S. Ct. 42, 77 L.Ed. 175 (1932) ("reasonable variations shall be permitted"); Sproles v. Binford, 286 U.S. 374, 52 S.Ct. 581, 76 L.Ed. 1167 (1932) ("shortest practicable route"); Bandini Petroleum Co. v. Superior Court, 285 U.S. 8, 52 S.Ct. 103, 76 L.Ed.......
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    ...the use on the public roads of vehicles and loads of such size as will destroy the roads or break down the bridges, Sproles v. Binford, 286 U.S. 374, 52 S.Ct. 581, 76 L.Ed. 1167; and it is settled by numerous decisions that, as to vehicles and loads which do not destroy the roads and bridge......
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    ...U.S. 251, 35 S.Ct. 551, 59 L.Ed. 939; Continental Ins. Co. v. United States, 259 U.S. 156, 42 S.Ct. 540, 66 L.Ed. 871; Sproles v. Binford, 286 U.S. 374, 52 S.Ct. 581, 76 L.Ed. 1167; Federal Radio Commission v. Nelson Bros. Bond & Mortgage Co., 289 U.S. 266, 53 S.Ct. 627, 77 L.Ed. 1166, 89 A......
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    ...a criterion of constitutional authority, would be to make impossible the practical exercise of power. Compare Sproles v. Binford, 286 U.S. 374, 388, 389, 52 S.Ct. 581, 76 L.Ed. 1167; Stanley v. Public Utilities Commission of Maine, 295 U.S. 76, 55 S.Ct. 628, 79 L.Ed. —-, decided April 15, 1......
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    ...Dept. v. Barnwell Bros., 303 U.S. 177 58 S.Ct. 510; Maurer v. Hamilton, 309 U.S. 598 60 S.Ct. 726, 84 L. Ed. 969; Sproles v. Binford, 286 U.S. 374 52 S.Ct. 581, 76 L.Ed. 1167. The regulation of highways `is akin to quarantine measures, game laws, and like local regulations of rivers, harbor......
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