United States v. Brooklyn Eastern District Terminal

Decision Date24 March 1919
Docket NumberNo. 155,155
Citation249 U.S. 296,6 A.L.R. 527,63 L.Ed. 613,39 S.Ct. 283
CourtU.S. Supreme Court

Mr. Assistant Attorney General Frierson, for the United states.

Mr. Henry B. Closson, of New York City, for respondent.

[Argument of Counsel from pages 297-299 intentionally omitted] Mr. Justice BRANDEIS delivered the opinion of the Court.

The Hours of Service Act (Act March 4, 1907, c. 2939, 34 Stat. 1415 [Comp. St. §§ 8677, 8678])1 prohibits any common carrier by railroad en gaged in interstate commerce from requiring or permitting an employe to remain on duty for a longer period than 16 consecutive hours. For alleged violation of this provision, proceedings were brought against the Brooklyn Eastern District Terminal in the District Court of the United States for the Eastern District of New York. The defendant contended that it was not a common carrier; that it was not engaged in interstate commerce by railroad; and that its employes were not 'connected with the movement of any train.' Upon facts which were agreed the trial court entered judgment for the government. The Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the judgment on the ground that, while the Terminal was engaged in interstate commerce and the employment in question was connected with the movement of trains, it was not a common carrier. Brooklyn Eastern District Terminal v. United States, 239 Fed. 287, 152 C. C. A. 275. The case comes here on writ of certiorari (243 U. S. 647, 37 Sup. Ct. 475, 61 L. Ed. 945); and the substantial question before us is whether the Terminal is within the scope of the Hours of Service Act, as being a common carrier. The essential facts are these:

1. The Terminal is a navigation corporation with an authorized capital stock of one hundred thousand dollars ($100,000), incorporated under section 10 of article 3 of the Transportation Corporations Law of the state of New York (Consol. Laws, c. 63) which reads as follows:

'Seven or more persons may become a corporation, for the purpose of building for their own use, equipping, furnishing, fitting, purchasing, chartering, navigating, or owning steam, sail, or other boats, ships, vessels or other property to be used in any lawful business, trade, commerce, or navigation upon the ocean, or any seas, sounds, lakes, rivers, canals, or other waterways, and for the carriage, transportation, or storing or lading, freight, mails, property, or passengers thereon.'

In its certificate of incorporation, the corporate powers and purposes of the defendant are stated as follows:

'The purposes for which it is formed are to build for its own use, equip, furnish, fit, purchase, charter, navigate, and own steam, sail, and other boats, ships, vessels, and other property to be used in the business of carrying, transporting, storing, and lading merchandise in New York Harbor and the waters adjacent thereto and connected therewith and the territory bordering thereon.'

2. The Terminal operates a union freight station at Brooklyn under individual contracts with ten interstate railroads and several steamship companies. From the railroads it receives both carload and less than carload freight and transports the same from their termini to its Brooklyn docks. There, the cars containing such freight are hauled from the car floats by its locomotives and placed for unloading either on its team tracks or at its freight houses. The Terminal receives likewise from shippers both carload and less than carload outgoing freight originating at Brooklyn and consigned to points upon the various railroads with which it has contracts. The cars carrying this outgoing freight are then switched and loaded by its locomotives upon its floats and transported by its tugs to the docks of the several railroads.

3. For its services in handling freight as above set forth the Terminal is paid not by the shipper or consignee, but by the railroad or steamship company upon whose account the transportation service is performed, at the rate of 3 cents per 100 pounds of freight moving to or from points east of the western termini of said railroads, and 4 1/5 cents per 100 pounds on freight moving to or from points beyond such termini. Upon prepaid shipments from shippers not on the credit lists of the railroads it collects from the shipper at Brooklyn the money and charges for the transportation of such freight from that point to its final destination; and also collects from the consignee at Brooklyn the charges for the transportation of such freight from its point of origin to that place, when such charges have not been prepaid. The freight moneys and charges so received by the defendant from shippers or consignees are accounted for and paid over by it without deduction to the railroads or steamship lines upon whose account they are collected.

4. The Terminal does not hold itself out as a common carrier; nor does it file with the Interstate Commerce Commission any tariffs or concurrences with tariffs, or copies of the contracts with the common carriers by whom it is paid for the transportation of freight, as heretofore set forth. The terminal at Brooklyn is designated by such railroads and rail and water lines, in the tariffs filed by them with the Interstate Commerce Commission, as one of their receiving and delivering stations for freight in the port of New York; and through bills of lading to such terminal as such station are issued by them on freight to be delivered there. For all freight originating at Brooklyn bills of lading of the railroad or steamship line to which the freight is to be delivered are there issued to the shipper by one of the defendant's employes, who is duly authorized to issue such bills of lading by the railroad or steamship line by which the freight is to be transported to its final destination or destinations after the same is delivered to such railroad or steamship line by defendant.

5. The tracks of the Terminal which extend from its float bridges to several warehouses, coal pockets, platforms, and team tracks have an aggregate length of 8 1/3 miles. One track connecting its several dock and delivery tracks which is kept clear for operating its switching engines is about one mile in length. The length of haul effected by its locomotives in moving cars between its float bridges and warehouses, platforms, pockets, and team tracks varies from a few yards to nearly a mile. The number of cars so hauled as part of a movement varies from a single car to eight cars. As an incident to such movement its locomotives hauling cars cross a public street in Brooklyn.

6. Defendant owns or hires no cars itself, and no cars, except the ones heretofore mentioned, are ever moved over its tracks. For the use of such cars defendant pays no charges; and except by the switching service heretofore described, it transports freight only by water. It handles interstate and intrastate freight indiscriminately, the larger part being interstate. It transports no passengers.

7. In connection with the movement of one or more cars between the floats and the loading tracks, warehouses, and team or delivery tracks, defendant employs four to eight switching crews during the day and two at night, each crew consisting of a conductor, engineer and two or more brakemen.

The Hours of Service Act declares (in the first section) that:

'The term 'railroad' as used in this act shall include all bridges and ferries used or operated in connection with any railroad, and also all the road in use by any common carrier operating a railroad, whether owned or operated under a contract, agreement, or lease.'

Hence, neither the character of the Terminal's railroad nor its independent ownership excludes it from the scope of the act. But the Terminal contends that it is not subject to the provisions of the statute, since it is not incorporated as a common carrier and does not hold itself out as such; does not file tariffs; and does not undertake to transport property for all who may apply to have their goods transported; but merely transports as agent such freight...

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