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The Interstate Commerce Act (1887) had long proved insufficient in safeguarding the interests of those dependent upon the railroads. Two major efforts were made to improve conditions:

  • Elkins Act (1903). The Elkins Act ended the common practice of the railroads granting rebates to their most valued customers. The great oil and livestock companies of the day paid the rates stated by the railroads, but demanded rebates on those payments. The giants paid significantly less for rail service than farmers and other small operators.

    The railroads had long resented being extorted by the trusts and welcomed the Elkins legislation. The law provided further that rates had to be published and that violations of the law would find both the railroad and the shipper liable for prosecution.

    This measure brought some improvement, but other abuses needed to be addressed.

  • Hepburn Act (1906). The Hepburn Act strengthened existing railroad regulations in the following ways:

    1. Increased the size of the Interstate Commerce Commission from five to seven members
    2. Gave the ICC the power to establish maximum rates
    3. Restricted the use of free passes
    4. Brought other common carriers (businesses that transport goods or information for a fee), such as terminals, storage facilities, pipelines, ferries and others, under ICC jurisdiction
    5. Required the adoption of uniform accounting practices for all carriers
    6. In appeals situations, placed the burden of proof on the shipper, not the ICC; this was a major change from the previous practice in which the railroads had blunted regulations by lengthy appeals.
President Roosevelt was a major factor in securing passage of this measure; he countered the furious opposition of the railroads and many other parts of the business community.

See other Theodore Roosevelt domestic legislation.

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