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U.S. Supreme Court

Continental Baking Co. v. Woodring, 286 U.S. 352 (1932)

Continental Baking Co. v. Woodring

No. 677

Argued April 25, 1932

Decided May 23, 1932

286 U.S. 352


1. The use of public highways by private intrastate and interstate carriers of goods by motor may be conditioned by the state upon the carrier's obtaining a license, complying with reasonable regulations, paying a reasonable license fee and a tax, for expenses of highway administration and maintenance and reconstruction of the highways covered by the license, and upon the filing of an insurance policy as security against injuries from the carrier's negligent operations to persons and property other than the passengers and property he carries. P. 286 U. S. 365.

2 In the exercise of its right to demand compensation for the special highway facilities it has provided, and of its power to regulate the use of its highways in the interest of the public safety, a state may properly treat motor vehicles as a special class, because of the special damage to the highways and special dangers to the public attending their operation. Id.

3. The Kansas Motor Vehicle Act taxes motor carriers on a basis of gross ton miles for the use of state highways, but exempts (a) those operating wholly within a city or village and (b) private motor carriers operating "within a radius of twenty-five miles beyond the corporate limits of such city, or any village." In the latter aspect, it is construed as confined to carriers having an established place of business or base of operations within a city or village, and exempting them as to their truck movements there and within the extended zone, but as subjecting them to the tax on mileage outside of the zone. Held that the exemption is not so uncertain as to render the tax void. P. 286 U. S. 366.

4. The Kansas Motor Vehicle Act, the provisions of which apply in part to both common and private carriers using the state highways, but which makes a clear distinction between the two classes in that the former, but not the latter, are required to obtain certificates of public convenience and necessity and are subject to rate regulation, vests authority in a Commission to "regulate and supervise accounts, schedules, service and method of operation," "to prescribe a uniform system and classification of accounts," to require

Page 286 U. S. 353

the filing of reports, etc., and generally to "supervise and regulate" all the carriers to which it applies "in all matters affecting the relationship" between such carriers and "the traveling and shipping public."


(1) Apprehension that the Commission may, under this authority, invade the constitutional rights of private carriers by regulations lawful only in respect of common carriers is not ground for injunction in the absence of any action or threat of action on its part. Smith v. Cahoon, 283 U. S. 553, distinguished. P. 286 U. S. 367.

(2) The provisions as to records, reports, and accounts may, in the case of private carriers, be assumed to relate to the determination of the amount of gross ton mileage tax to which such carriers are properly liable. Id.

(3) The general grant of authority over both private and public carriers in all matters affecting their relationship with the traveling and shipping public should be taken distributively. Id.

5. The declaration of this statute that all powers of the Kansas Public Service Commission over common carriers are thereby made applicable "to all such motor carriers" applies to public, and not to private, carriers. P. 286 U. S. 369.

6. The duty of the Commission under the Act to insist that motor vehicles shall be maintained in a safe and sanitary condition, to prescribe qualifications of operators as to age and hours of service, and to require the reporting of accidents has manifest reference to considerations of safety. Id.

7. A state law regulating motor carriers and taxing them on a mileage basis is not offensive to the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment because it does not extend to those who operate wholly within a city or village and who are subject to the regulations of the municipality. P. 286 U. S. 369.

8. It is also permissible classification to extend such exemption to private carriers, having headquarters or base of operations within the municipality, in respect of the movements of their delivery trucks within a zone surrounding the municipality, because of the slight use by such carriers of the state highways outside of the municipality, and because of the practical difficulty, and the cost, of keeping track of the mileage of the trucks for the purpose of assessing a mileage tax. P. 286 U. S. 370.

9. Fixing the width of the zone in which the state Motor Vehicle Act shall not operate in such cases at 25 miles beyond the municipality was not arbitrary, but a valid exercise of legislative discretion. Id.

Page 286 U. S. 354

10. The provision in the Kansas Motor Vehicle Act that it shall not apply to "the transportation of livestock and farm products to market by the owner thereof or supplies for his own use in his own motor vehicle" is likewise based on permissible clarification. Smith v. Cahoon, 283 U. S. 553, distinguished. Pp. 286 U. S. 371-373.

11. The legislature, in making its classification, was entitled to consider frequency and character of use and to adapt its regulations to the classes of operations which, by reason of their habitual and constant use of the highways, brought about the conditions making regulation imperative and created the necessity for the imposition of a tax for maintenance and reconstruction. P. 286 U. S. 373.

12. The public interest in the transportation of children to and from school justifies exemption of that form of transportation from the statute. Id.

55 F.2d 347 affirmed.

Appeal from a decree of the district court of three judges which dismissed the bill in a suit to restrain enforcement of the Motor Vehicle Act of Kansas.

Page 286 U. S. 357

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