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U.S. Supreme Court

United States v. American Trucking Assns., Inc., 310 U.S. 534 (1940)

United States v. American Trucking Associations, Inc.

No. 713

Argued April 26, 1940

Decided May 27, 1940

310 U.S. 534


1. The power of the Interstate Commerce Commission under the Motor Carrier Act, 1935, § 204(a), to establish reasonable requirements with respect to the qualifications and maximum hours of service of employees of motor carriers is confined to those employees whose duties affect safety of operation. Pp. 310 U. S. 546, 310 U. S. 553.

2. When acceptance of the literal meaning of words in a statute leads to results which are absurd or futile or plainly at variance with the policy of the legislation, the legislative purpose will be followed. P. 310 U. S. 543.

3. Even though, superficially, the meaning of statutory words appears plain, aids to their interpretation may be resorted to in pursuit of the purpose. P. 310 U. S. 543.

4. To accept literally the word "employee" in § 204(a) of the Motor Carrier Act would place upon the Interstate Commerce Commission the function of regulating the qualifications of large numbers of employees whose duties do not affect safety of operation, contrary to the settled practice of Congress, evinced in other Acts, with respect to regulation of hours and qualifications of transportation employees, and contrary to the policy of most of the States, as shown by Acts in force when the federal Act was passed. P. 310 U. S. 544.

5. Indication of any intention of Congress, by § 204(a), to grant the Interstate Commerce Commission other than the customary power to secure safety is absent from the legislative history of the Motor Carrier Act. P. 310 U. S. 546.

6. The construction of § 204(a) by the Interstate Commerce Commission and by the Wage and Hour Division of the Department of Labor as relating solely to safety of operation is of great weight. P. 310 U. S. 549.

31 F.Supp. 35, reversed.

APPEAL from a decree of the District Court of three judges commanding the Interstate Commerce Commission to set aside an order by which it declined, for want of jurisdiction,

Page 310 U. S. 535

to determine qualifications and maximum hours of service for all employees of contract and motor carriers subject to the Motor Carrier Act, and commanding it to take jurisdiction and proceed with such determination. The suit was brought against the United States and the Commission, under § 205(h) of the Act, by the above-named Trucking Associations and five common carriers by motor. The Administrator of the Wage and Hour Division of the Department of Labor intervened on the side of the defense.

Page 310 U. S. 538

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