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year since that time this important organization has voiced the opinions and demands of the States they represent for such uniformity.
At their first convention, commenting on the work then in progress by the uniform classification committee, they resolved in favor of a "still further advance toward uniform classification of freight."
In 1890 they declared "that the public interest will be best served by the adoption of a classification which shall be uniform for our whole country."
In 1892 and 1893 they further resolved to present the subject to the Interstate Commerce Commission, as one worthy of their "persistent and continued effort," as "the end in view can only be attained by the exercise of Federal authority."
In 1895 it was resolved to authorize their committee to invite the various traffic associations of the United States and Canada to a conference, which was held, as above stated, in the city of New York, October 23, 1895. But aside from the unanimous expression of opinion that uniformity was desirable, and had been for years recognized by carriers as necessary, little was accomplished. The committee reported certain resolutions to their next convention of railroad commissioners, which were adopted, recommending that the railroad companies prepare a uniform classification, failing which within reasonable time that the necessary legislation should be asked of Congress, requiring the Interstate Commerce Commission to prepare and enforce such classification. Such a bill was favorably reported by the Senate Committee on Interstate Commerce in 1896, and a similar measure having been introduced in the present Congress, where it is now pending, the convention of railroad commissioners, at their last annual meeting held at St. Louis in May, 1897, recommended its passage.
In the discussion of the difficulties attending the arrangement of any common classification of articles of freight, which will be satisfactory and adaptable to the whole country, it has long been customary to speak of the six thousand articles to be arranged, just as the customs tariff is said to cover four thousand rates. These numbers mean little or nothing, as everything offered for transportation must necessarily bear some rate; the actual number, therefore, is nearer millions than thousands. In the classifications submitted to the board of trade in Great Britain, under the railway and canal traffic act of 1888, there were less than two thousand articles. These schedules were rejected by the board of trade, who submitted to Parliament, and had confirmed, classifications of their own with nearly two thousand five hundred items.
The classifications now in use in this country, embracing from five thousand to seven thousand items, get their increase largely from repetitions. For example, acids in both the official and western classifications occurs five times in as many different classes, depending on the method of shipment, as in glass, carboys, iron drums, or tank cars.
The official classification contains nominally six classes; the Western ten, and the Southern twelve. The uniform classification which was recommended by the joint committee contained eleven; the classification of the roads of Great Britain contains eight. These numbers, however, are somewhat misleading, for there are actually more classes than these in each system. For instance, the proposed uniform classification, while nominally containing only eleven classes, has in reality several more; since for rates on shipments of less than carloads it has not only the first five classes, but in addition thereto has one and onehalf, double, two and a half, three and four times first class; and these are practically as distinct classes as the others, making in reality ten classes for less than carload lots, while for carload lots the eleven numbered classes are used.
To establish theoretical and to some extent arbitrary classes, whether they number six or twenty-five, and to thereby provide rates for all articles which will yield the necessary revenues for the carriers, do full justice to local interests and the whole country, and satisfy the reasonable demands of shippers everywhere, is a task of great magnitude and presents many obvious and serious difficulties. It is scarcely to be wondered that railway officials, while generally admitting the necessity of a uniform classification, have shrunk from the effort to accomplish it, and been content to endure the embarrassments, confusion, and injustice resulting from diverse systems. In the nature of the case there must be concessions and compromises, for it would be too much to expect that such a change in transportation methods could be effected without some friction and some losses.
But these difficulties are not insurmountable to men of long experience in work of this sort, and it is believed that the great mass of freight articles could be fairly grouped by them in a single classification. They would take into account whether commodities were crude, rough, or finished; liquid or dry; knocked down or set up; loose or in bulk, nested or in boxes, or otherwise packed; if vegetables, whether green or dry, desiccated or evaporated; the market value and shippers' representations as to their character; the cost of service, length and direction of haul; the season and manner of shipment; the space occupied and weight; whether in carload or less than carload lots; the volume of annual shipments to be calculated on; the sort of car required, whether flat, gondola, box, tank, or special; whether ice or heat must be furnished; the speed of trains necessary for perishable or otherwise rush goods; the risk of handling, either to the goods themselves or other property; the weights, actual and estimated; the carrier's risk or owner's release from damage or loss. All these circumstances, bewildering as they appear to a layman, are comparatively simple to the expert; and the considerations which have retarded the adoption of a uniform classification have had little to do with difficulties of this description.
To illustrate the necessity for unity and the confusion arising from its absence, take at random half a dozen articles bearing the same rate in one of the classifications, and follow them through the other classifications. Of course, since the number of classes is different in the three classifications, it would hardly be expected that those articles would be found in the same classes in each, but there are such wide differences in many cases as to lead one to doubt whether present classifications are not more the result of chance than of system. For instance, excelsior, spring beds (K. D.), sawdust, and leather belting are all in the second class of the official classification, when shipped in less than carload lots. In the western only the belting and beds are second class, excelsior is third, and sawdust fourth; while in the southern beds are first class, belting second class, excelsior fifth class, and sawdust sixth.
As the classifications are now operated, the official covers principally the territory north of the Potomac and Ohio rivers and west to a line from Chicago to St. Louis and Cairo. The southern classification is in use in the territory south of the Ohio and Potomac and cast of the Mississippi, while the western classification practically covers the balance of the United States. The Illinois State classification affects interstate traffic slightly along the southern border of Wisconsin, where some rates are based on those from Chicago to Illinois points.
Since the passage of the interstate-commerce law, no practical advance has been made toward unification, except as the result of the absorption of sundry lines having independent classifications by those using the three principal classifications above named. As the situation stands at present, it would seem that the objections of certain associations, or the roads composing them, which now prevent consolidation, are based upon the resultant wiping out of existing breaking points for rate making at the boundary crossings of adjoining associations. The apprehension is that, if these boundaries are wiped out, through rates will yield much less revenue than under the prevailing system, and that rate wars in one section might extend over the whole country, whereas under present conditions such wars are generally confined to the territories in which they originate.
Some roads also are said to object on account of the wide difference between carload and less than carload rates allowed in other classifications than their own, while other roads and associations apparently fear that under any new arrangement they would not retain the authority and influence to which they claim to be entitled by reason of the volume of their business. If these are all the objections, and they cover substantially everything which has reached the public, it would seem that there must be some practicable method of overcoming the difficulty. It is evident that the carriers themselves, by mutual concessions and through voluntary and harmonious action, can accomplish this reform with much less loss, embarrassment, and friction than will presumably
result if Congress or some delegated tribunal establishes a classification for them, though a method similar to the latter has apparently worked well in Great Britain. There the roads were required to file their classifications and schedules of maximum rates with the board of trade for approval. They complied with this requirement, but the board declined to approve the classifications and schedules submitted, and sent to the roads arrangements and rates of their own, against which the carriers protested, on the ground that they would lose thousands of pounds by their adoption. But the classifications of the board of trade were submitted to Parliament and approved by that body, so that practically the English roads had nothing to do with making the classifications now in use in that country. As a matter of fact, the board of trade was conservative and attempted nothing revolutionary. They were mindful of the interests of the carriers and even of their convenience, as shown by the selection of eight classes as the basis of the scheme they recommended, not because eight was better than some other number, but simply because-having been previously in use-it was better understood.
The roads of the United States are in no danger from any tribunal to which Congress may delegate the authority to consolidate the classifications. Certainly no disposition has ever been manifested by this Commission to interfere with or even unduly hasten the work of unification.
Many of the complaints before the Commission are based upon discriminations and injustices arising from the different classifications in use in the United States. Whenever the Commission has referred to this subject in its decisions of cases formally heard, while always urging action upon the railroads as the proper source of any scheme of consolidation, it has always declined in those proceedings to interfere with the existing classifications. In the case of John H. Martin v. The Southern Pacific and others (2 I. C. C., 1), decided May 17, 1888, the Commission said:
Believing that an effort is being made in good faith to reduce the local tariffs of the transcontinental lines, to simplify and combine the classifications in use upon through and local business in accordance with the requirements of the law and the views of the Commission, it is considered best to leave the matter for the present in the hands of the carriers, and allow an opportunity for them to complete the work in which they are engaged.
In the matter of the tariffs and classifications of the Atlanta and West Point and twenty-seven other railroad companies, March 30, 1889 (3 I. C. C., 19), the Commission again said:
This subject is now under consideration by a standing committee on uniform classification, organized by selection from the railroads and associations in all parts of the United States, which is working in the direction of uniformity throughout the entire country with, as is represented, a reasonable prospect of success. Whatever may be the outcome of this effort, lines now using cumbrous and detailed exception sheets may and should at once enter upon tlie work of reducing them to that direct and simple form which the Commission has so often recommended.
And in the case of James McMillan & Co. v. The Western Classification Committee, November 7, 1890 (4 I. C. C., 276), the Commission said that its opinion had been delayed by a number of controlling causes, "chiefly such as have related to the work of uniform classification, then and since that time progressing in the work of a committee representing all the carriers of the country engaged in interstate commerce, whose report on this subject is now and for some time past has been undergoing the consideration of these carriers, and pending which the Commission has considered that no good results could be accomplished either for the public or for the petitioners by inaugurating an investigation by the Commission of its own motion under the twelfth section of the statute in regard to the matters involved in this complaint."
If the roads at this time manifested any disposition to prepare and adopt a single system, as the Senate committee believed more than ten years ago and as the Commission for several years continued to hope they would do, the Commission would now, as then, insist that voluntary action by the carriers is so far preferable to an arrangement forced on them by authority, that to secure such action the greatest indulgence and encouragement should be extended. But since nothing has been done by them in this direction for more than a half dozen years, since nothing is now being done or attempted, and it is evident that there is not likely to be any effort on their part to accomplish this reform, it becomes the duty of the Commission to impress upon Congress the gravity of the situation, to point out the apparent indifference of the carriers generally to the reiterated requests of the public, the Congress, and the Commission, and to emphasize the necessity for a single classification as the basis for equal rates.
That the present diversity results in many discriminations and losses can not be doubted, and there is no single step that may be taken by the carriers which will go so far to secure the establishment of stable rates as the adoption of a single and comparatively fixed classification. It would take out of the hands of importunate shippers and irrespon sible railroad agents the power of interfering with rates, as they now too frequently do, to the disturbance of trade, the detriment of other shippers, the demoralization of carriers, and the serious loss of stockholders.
These considerations of the necessity for reform in this regard, the universal demand for a uniform classification, the ten years of appeal to the carriers, by the Commission and by Congress, to adopt a consolidated and single system for the whole country, the "representations" by the carriers themselves, their former efforts to that end, the energy at one time displayed by them, and the apparent apathy that marks their attitude toward the subject to-day, all lead the Commission to the renewed recommendation that Congress provide for such uniformity by prompt and appropriate legislation. Carriers subject to the act should be required within a specified time, not longer than one year, to pre