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Created by Congress in 1887 as a result of mounting indignation over railroad malpractice, the Interstate Commerce Commission was formed to promote commerce by assuring just dealings between carriers and the public. The Board was to regulate common carriers in the interstate commerce and in foreign commerce within the United States. The ICC was designed chiefly to prevent railroads from charging exorbitant rates and from engaging in discriminatory practices. It does this by adopting rules and regulations to carry out the policies of the Interstate Commerce Commission Act.
The Interstate Commerce Commissions activities were limited by numerous Supreme Court decisions won by the railroads. The Hepburn Act of 1906 extended the commission's jurisdiction to include interterritorial commerce and express, sleeping car and pipeline companies with the only exceptions being those carrying water or gas.
Later extensions of the board's jurisdiction included power to regulate communications such as telephone, telegraph and cable companies. Also added to the ICC's jurisdiction was motor carriers engaged in interstate commerce, water borne carriers operating coastwise, inter-coastally and upon inland U. S. waters, the power to fix rates without previous complaint, the power to evaluate property of common carrier companies, the power to deal with labor disputes in interstate commerce. In the 1950's and 1960's the Interstate Commerce Commission faced the problem of dealing with the desegregation of passenger facilities in accordance with the Supreme Court.
Today, this commission has jurisdiction over all carriers and transportation, such as express companies, railroad lines and sleeping car companies. Express companies are those which transport parcels or personal property for speedy delivery of small but valuable packages of goods and money. Transportation by motor carriers is vested in the commission by the Motor Carrier Act which is part of the Interstate Commerce Act. This Act also regulates and licenses motor transportation brokers in order to protect carriers and the public from dishonest and financially unstable middlemen.
The duties of the commission with respect to rates, fares and charges are prescribed by this Act. Proceedings before the commission are usually instituted by a complaint by the person affected or on the motion of the commission.