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“5. Copies of all rate sheets, tariffs and circular orders issued, and all contracts and agreements between railroad com. panies as to the rates of freight and passenger tariffs, and all arrangements and agreements whatever as to the divisions of earnings of any kind by competing or connecting lines of rail. roads doing business in this State shall be submitted to the Commission for inspection, revision and approval, that it may be seen whether they are in violation of law, or of the rules and regulations of said Commission."
These visits and examinations disclosed the fact that, with few exceptions, general rule No. 4, had not been properly observed by the railroad companies. Scarcely an effort was made at any stations to observe the law. Even after notice that if the same was not done, application to the courts would be made to compel a compliance, it was not done, and accordingly the Commission placed the matter in the hands of the Attorney-General to enforce before the courts by mandamus, the observance of the rule. There was a similar neglect on the part of several railroad companies in regard to the submitting to the Commission, tariffs, rate sheets, circular orders, etc., issued by them, and similar action was taken by the Commission to secure an observance of the statute and the rules and regulations of the Commission.
Some of the companies did not raise any question or objec. tion to the proceeding, but as soon as the alternative writ of mandamus was served upon them, promptly complied with the law by posting schedules and submitting their rate sheets, circular orders, etc., to the Commission. The suits against two companies are still pending before the Supreme Court.
ANNUAL AND MONTHLY REPORTS OF RAILROAD COMPANIES.
General rule No. 2 of the Commission requires each railroad company to file in the office of the Commission, by the last day of each month, a report of its earnings and operating expenses for the preceding month ; also, on or before the 1st day of October of each year, air annual report of its earnings, operating expenses, and general operations for the preceding year ending June 30th. These were required to be made according to forms prescribed by the Commission. Most of the roads complied with these rules with reasonable regularity, but some did not, and, notwithstanding the repeated reminders of the Commission that if these reports were not made, an appeal would be made to the courts, persisted in their neglect to do so, and accordingly suits were instituted to compel a compliance with the rules aforesaid. As was the case in the other mandamus suits, most of the roads made no resistance and back reports were duly filed, and those that have fallen due since have been made with reasonable promptitude.
LITIGATION. Since the organization of the Commission, and before the period embraced in this report, a number of suits were insti. tuted by the Commission, through the Attorney-General, for violation of the schedules of passenger and freight rates, some of which are still pending. As to the disposition of these cases and their present status, as well as of those which have been instituted during the time embraced in this report, the Commission respectfully refer to the annual report of the Attorney-General.
With the exception of the cases of the Dunnellon Phosphate Co. vs. the F. C. & P. R. R. Co. claiming overcharges on shipments of phosphate rock, and one other of a like nature against the same company, which the company refused to refund on the ground that they were interstate shipments, no suit whatever has been ordered by the Commission to be instituted against any railroad company in this State, within the last twelve months, for a refusal to refund overcharges on freights or passenger fares. In every other instance the railroad companies have with commendable promptitude refunded any overcharge that was found by the Commission to have been made.
VIOLATIONS OF THE INTERSTATE COMMERCE LAW. Chapter 3863, Laws of Florida, approved June 4, 1889, pro vides as follows: “That whenever it shall appear to the Railroad Commissioners of this State, appointed under Chapter 3746 of the Laws of Florida, that any railroad company or companies chartered, or otherwise, or any receiver, or other person or persons doing business as a common carrier, or common carriers, from any point in this State to any point outside the limits of this State, or otherwise engaged, either alone or in connection with others, in the transportation of freight or passengers, which falls under the denomination of interstate commerce, from any point in the State of Florida to any point outside the limits of said State, is charging or receiving more than a fair and reasonable rate of compensation for the service rendered, or is guilty of any unreasonable or unjust charge for the transportation of freight or passengers, or of any other violation of the interstate commerce law, which comes under the jurisdiction of the Interstate Commerce Commission, affecting interests of the people of Florida, it shall be the duty of the said Railroad Commissioners of the State of Florida to petition the Interstate Commerce Commissioners of the United States, for the regulation and control of the offending rail. road company or companies, or other person or persons doing business as common carriers, by the application of the provisions of tbe interstate commerce law of the United States, entitled “An Act to Regulate Commerce,” approved February 4, 1887, and the amendments thereto, and to take all necessary and expedient measures to secure to the people of Florida the full benefit of the interstate commerce law in the regulation and control of interstate commerce."
Reference has already been made to the fact that in the opinion of the Commission the S., F. & W. and the F. C. & P. R. R. companies had violated the interstate commerce law, and of the action taken hy this Commission and the Interstate Commerce Commission thereon. (See also Appendix, p. 215.)
Early last fall, as soon as the season for shipping oranges had begun, the rate on oranges and lemons from basing points in this State to l hiladelphia, New York, Boston and other eastern cities, was increased by the different lines engaged in the traffic, ten cents per box, over the rate which said lines respectively, had charged for the same service for the several preceding years. As soon as that fact became known to the Commission they immediately set to work pursuant to the duty imposed upon them by the statute, to prepare, and they did prepare and file with the Interstate Commerce Commission a petition protesting against said increase. In this the Commission had and still have the active co-operation of the Florida Fruit Exchange, and as they are advised, the orange growers generally.
A copy of the petition, the answers of such of the carriers as have answered, and the correspondence in connection with the case are fully set forth in the Appendix hereto, (p. 148) to which reference is made. These present the matter in fuller detail and in a more satisfactory manner than any mere paraphrase of them here could do.
The Commission takes great pleasure in recording the fact that none of the gathering roads in this State have raised the rates to the basing points, but, on the contrary, as the Commission believes, have some of them at least) protested against the increase referred to.
Section 13 of the act to regulate commerce, after stating who may make complaints to the Interstate Commerce Commission, and the manner in which they shall be investigated by that body, has this clause: “Said Commission shall in like manner investigate any complaint forwarded by the Railroad Commissioner or Railroad Commission of any State or Territory, at the request of such Commissioner or Commission, institute any inquiry on its own motion in the same manner and to the same effect as though complaint had been made." Under that clause the strawberry growers of Starke and Lawtey, represented by J. M. Rising and others, prepared a petition to the Interstate Commerce Commission against the Savannah, Florida and Western Railway Company and other carriers by rail and water connected with it, in transporting strawberries from certain basing points in this State to Philaphia, New York and other eastern cities, alleging that the rates on strawberries were excessive, unjust and unreasonable, and in violation of the interstate commerce law, and praying that they be reduced to a reasonable rate, and asked this Commission to forward the same to the Interstate Commerce Commission, which was done. The Commission is informed that a like petition by a strawberry grower at Hammock near Gainesville, against the same carriers, has been filed with the Interstate Commerce Commission.
As will be seen by reference to the Appendix, just cited, this Commission requested the Interstate Commerce Commission to visit this State and hold the investigation of these several complaints at Jacksonville, and that in response thereto they have consented to do so if practicable.
Circular No. 40 was issued with a view to eliciting from the traffic managers of Florida roads suggestions as to the adoption, amendment or rejection of the Uniform Classification No. 1.
This is an arrangement of the various articles of freight entering into the commerce of the country, into a proposed classification, the ohject being to substitute it for all the other freight classifications in use in the country, of which there are several. Much of the dissatisfaction, irregularity and uncertainty arising in connection with long distance interstate traffic, has been in consequence of the differences in classifications of freight in force in various sections of the country. It is conceded that if a uniform classification can be put in force all over the United States, which shall be just and fair to all the traffic in it, a long ep towards the removal of many causes of complaint both as between carriers and as against them, will have been made. And this subject will likely be considered at the approaching conference of the railroad commissioners which is to assemble in Washington March 3.
In our two previous reports, reference has been made to these conferences. It has been agreed to by the various state boards, the interstate commissioners, and the American Association of Railway Accounting Officers, who have heretofore twice met together, that there shall be held, annually, conferences to consider various matters of great importance, including the subject of freight classification, all of which has been referred to at some length in our previous reports. An order
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has been passed by this board designating one of their number to attend said conference.
If a uniform freight classification can be put in force throughout the whole country which shall be fairly adjusted to the necessities of its commerce, not only will many of the uncertainties with regard to the actual rates in force be removed, but overcharges will become less frequent, and much of the delay in the adjustment of claims arising therefrom w.ll be ob. viated. Moreover, when once there is uniformity in classification, the basis for the determination, approximately, at least, of reasonable rates will have been laid. Under any circumstances, and even with uniform classification, rates will vary of course; but with a common classification everywhere, it would not be long before it would appear that the different freight schedules studied a whole, would be a guide for those charged with the revision or supervision of rates.
STATISTICS. Heretofore in preparing our reports we have been unable to include such statistics as we desired to compile and present, and we have expressed our regrets thereat, and have given the reasons for our failure to show statistical data. pendix hereto will be found certain tables showing mileage, earnings, expenses, capitalization and other details which we bave been able to obtain and to compile. But even this exhibit is not as full and complete as we would prefer to make, though it is the best tabulation practicable of the returns made by tue roads to the commission.
The organization of railroad commissions in a majority of the states, and of the Interstate Commerce Commission, have resulted in giving prominence to the desirability, and even the necessity of uniformity in railroad accounting, both with respect to system and the fiscal year. Railroad commissioners universally, and more especially where they are charged with duties including the supervision of rates, in order to the most intelligent exercise of their functions, should have an accurate knowledge of the details of the matters over which they must exercise authority, and concerning which they naturally assume responsibility. Hence there has been a somewhat general effort not only by boards of commissioners, but by the legislative authority, and in most cases by the railroads, to inaugurate a system of reporting by railroads, according to a common form and to a common date. To do this requires that railroads shall keep accounts in uniformity, and that the fiscal year of the corporations shall end at a common date. In a conference of the state boards, the Interstate Commerce Commission and a number of railroad accounting officers, a form