Letter to Senate and House Committee Chairmen on Various Legislative Proposals Relating to Transportation.
Dear Mr. Chairman:
In April 1962, President Kennedy sent to the Congress the first comprehensive message on transportation ever delivered by a Chief Executive. Since then, most of the recommendations in the message which required executive action, such as the revision of depreciation guidelines and the accelerated use of commercial travel facilities by Government agencies, have been carried out. Some of the legislative proposals in that message, such as the federal Aid Highway Act of 1962, the repeal of the 10 percent passenger excise tax, and the amendment of the loss carry forward provisions, have been enacted into law. Other legislative proposals have been introduced but have not yet been enacted. None of the unenacted proposals is more important to the economy of the Nation than those dealing with minimum rates applicable to agricultural and bulk commodities.
Under your leadership, the House Committee on Interstate and foreign Commerce has held extensive hearings on these bills. I hope you will find it possible to report out a bill soon.
There has been certain improvement in the economic health of the transportation industry during the past year. Nevertheless, the many basic inequities among the various modes of transportation must be removed, if the travelers and shippers are to have available a wide choice of low cost and high quality transportation services.
Our tangled transportation policies must be reformed. Necessary changes should be directed to the achievement of a fast, safe, and economical transport system. This system must respond to changing private and public demands, at the lowest costs consistent with the public interest.
The role of government is to provide, to the greatest extent possible, a framework that encourages constructive competition. Only where this is not possible should other means of assuring inexpensive and efficient transportation be considered.
Legislative proposals before your committee would equalize the impact of regulation on various modes of transportation by providing exemption from minimum rate control to the transportation of agricultural and fisheries products and to bulk commodities. Equalization is also sought, in some proposals before your committee, by legislation extending regulation to these commodities in those instances where they are exempt. Either approach to the equalization of competition would be appropriate.
In order that any change in the power of the ICC to control rates be accomplished without the introduction of destructive competition and discriminatory practices, I believe we should rely on the antitrust statutes, under normal procedures, with such limited modification as may be necessary because of the nature of the industry.
Moreover, in providing for any restrictions on the general exemptions, it would seem desirable to avoid complicated cost formulae. To this end, we should reject the use of standards which, though appearing elsewhere in the Interstate Commerce Act, are difficult to apply, uncertain in effect, and destructive of the main purposes of the legislation.
In addition to proposals designed to assure greater freedom for competition, there are before your committee a number of other proposals transmitted last year to improve the operation and essential regulation of the transportation industry. I firmly support the basic principles reflected in these proposals. As a result of its extensive work on these proposals during the last session of Congress, your committee has undoubtedly formed judgments about the order of priority and the most appropriate formulation of these proposals.
Please convey to the members of your committee my appreciation for their efforts and their work on these complicated matters during this past session.
With warm personal regards.
LYNDON B. JOHNSON
Note: This is the text of identical letters addressed to the Honorable Warren G. Magnuson, Chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, and to the Honorable Oren Harris, Chairman of the House Committee on Interstate and foreign Commerce.
Lyndon B. Johnson, Letter to Senate and House Committee Chairmen on Various Legislative Proposals Relating to Transportation. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/240108