SPROLES V. BINFORD, 286 U. S. 374 (1932)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Sproles v. Binford, 286 U.S. 374 (1932)

Sproles v. Binford

No. 826

Argued April 27, 28, 1932

Decided May 23, 1932

286 U.S. 374


1. A provision of the Motor Vehicle Act of Texas limiting net loads on trucks using the highways to 7,000 pounds was attacked upon the ground that damage to the highways from overweight can be prevented only by fixing a maximum gross load and providing for its proper distribution through axles and wheels to the highway surface, and that the limitation in question is unduly and arbitrarily restrictive of cargo.


(1) The limitation was within the broad discretion of the state legislature, and does not violate the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. P. 286 U. S. 388.

(2) In such matters, the courts are not to apply scientific precision as a criterion of constitutional powers. Id.

2. When the subject lies within the police power of the state, debatable questions as to reasonableness are not for the courts, but for the legislature, which is entitled to form its own judgment, and its action within its range of discretion cannot be set aside because compliance is burdensome. P. 286 U. S. 388.

3. In the absence of national legislation governing the subject, nondiscriminating regulations of the states limiting size and weight of vehicles on their highways may apply (if otherwise valid) to vehicles engaged in interstate commerce, and one state cannot establish standards which would derogate from the equal power of other states to make regulations of their own. P. 286 U. S. 389.

4. Contracts relating to the use of highways are made subject to the power of the state to regulate the weight of vehicles on its highways, and are not protected from such regulation by the contract clause of the Federal Constitution. P. 286 U. S. 390.

5. The Texas statute, supra, exempts "implements of husbandry" from the net load weight limitation. Held that, construed as confined to farm implements and machinery, the movements of which are relatively temporary and infrequent as compared with the ordinary uses of the highways by motor trucks, the exception is consistent with the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. P. 286 U. S. 391.

Page 286 U. S. 375

6. The same statute limits the length of motor vehicles to 35 feet, and of combinations of vehicles to 45 feet. Held consistent with the equal protection clause, as a state has the right to discourage the use of such trains or combinations on the highways. P. 286 U. S. 392.

7. Section 5(b) of the Texas statute, supra, provides that the general limitations as to length of vehicles and weight of load shall not apply, and substitutes more liberal maxima, in the case of vehicles used 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," etc. Held that it is not void for uncertainty, but refers to points at which common carriers customarily receive shipments, of the sort that may be involved, for transportation, or points at which common carriers customarily unload such shipments, and the meaning of "shortest practicable route" is sufficiently clear. P. 286 U. S. 393.

8. The requirement of reasonable certainty in statutes affecting individuals does not preclude the use of ordinary terms to express ideas which find adequate interpretation in common usage and understanding. Id.

9. A classification allowing greater length and load to motor vehicles making short hauls to and from common carriers than to motor trucks generally is consistent with the equal protection clause. P. 286 U. S. 394.

10. The state has the right in such general motor vehicle regulations to foster fair distribution of traffic as between the highways and the railroads, to the end that all necessary facilities shall be maintained and that the public shall not be inconvenienced by inordinate uses of its highways for purposes of gain. Id.

11. Also, the state may constitutionally favor transportation of persons on the highways over transportation of property by applying a load limit to trucks that is not applied to buses. P. 286 U. S. 395.

12. The provision of the Texas Motor Vehicle Act authorizing the Highway Department to grant special permits, for limited periods, "for the transportation over state highways of such overweight or oversize or overlength commodities as cannot be reasonably dismantled" and also for super-heavy and oversize equipment for the transportation of such commodities is not a delegation of legislative power, in violation of § 28, Art. I, of the Texas Constitution. P. 286 U. S. 397.

56 F.2d 189, affirmed.

Page 286 U. S. 376

Appeal by the plaintiffs and interveners from a decree of the district court of three judges dismissing a bill to restrain the enforcement of the Motor Vehicle Act of Texas.

Page 286 U. S. 379

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