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Interstate Commerce Commission

Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC), former independent agency of the U.S. government, established in 1887; it was charged with regulating the economics and services of specified carriers engaged in transportation between states. Surface transportation under the ICC's jurisdiction included railroads, trucking companies, bus lines, freight forwarders, water carriers, oil pipelines, transportation brokers, and express agencies.

The ICC, the first regulatory commission in U.S. history, was established as a result of mounting public indignation in the 1880s against railroad malpractices and abuses (see Granger movement), but until President Theodore Roosevelt, the ICC's effectiveness was limited by the failure of Congress to give it enforcement power, by the Supreme Court's interpretation of its powers, and by the vague language of its enabling act. Beginning with the Hepburn Act (1906), the ICC's jurisdiction was gradually extended beyond railroads to all common carriers except airplanes by 1940. Its enforcement powers to set rates were also progressively extended, through statute and broadened Supreme Court interpretations of the commerce clause of the Constitution, as were its investigative powers for determining fair rates of return on which to base rates. In addition, the ICC was given the task of consolidating railroad systems and managing labor disputes in interstate transport. In the 1950s and 60s the ICC enforced U.S. Supreme Court rulings that required the desegregation of passenger terminal facilities.

The ICC's safety functions were transferred to the Dept. of Transportation when that department was created in 1966; the ICC retained its rate-making and regulatory functions. However, in consonance with the deregulatory movement, the ICC's powers over rates and routes in rails and trucking were curtailed in 1980 by the Staggers Rail Act and Motor Carriers Act. Most ICC control over interstate trucking was abandoned in 1994, and the agency was terminated at the end of 1995. Many of its remaining functions were transferred to the new National Surface Transportation Board.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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