No room for amateur
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dabblers by John Darker
• A one-day seminar on the theme "The efficient use of a road transport fleet" was organized last week by the Management Sciences Committee of the Central London Productivity Association. It covered a very wide field with papers by Mr. R. L. Lewis, of Business Operations Research Ltd., on "The total concept of transport"; by Mr. A. L. Lambert, of Lincoln Electric Co. Ltd., on "Running a small road transport fleet"; by Mr. J. White of J. Sainsbury Ltd.. on "Delivering food at less cost"; and an outline by Mr. H. G. M. Pullen, of the National Data Processing Service, of the GPO main-van computer scheduling scheme in central London. A further paper, "Traffic circulation and accidents" by Mr. J. C. Cutts, of the Metropolitan Police, rounded off a stimulating day's papers and discussions.
The theme of Mr. A. L. Lambert's paper on running a small transport fleet was that the day of the "amateur dabbler"--even if the holder of a transport manager's licence—was over. Firms could justify ownaccount operation on grounds of improving customer service, convenience, packaging economies, prevention of damage or contamination, or to effect timed deliveries. He felt the value of livery publicity was hard to quantify and was likely to be over-rated.
In general, said Mr. Lambert, shortdistance deliveries could best be done with small vehicles but for longer hauls the larger the vehicle the better. He thought that firms unable to obtain convenient return loads would not stand much chance of quantity licences.
New roads, said the speaker, could greatly affect routeing economies. The Severn Bridge had enabled his firm to operate one large vehicle to the Bristol /South Wales area instead of two small ones. Some reciprocal back loading was possible in a large group, together with the operation of one depot's vehicles by another, to fit in with scheduling requirements.
Quantity production vehicles, said Mr. Lambert, were now approaching the ruggedness of heavy-duty types. He found with the latter that costs were very low for the first year but then they rose considerably to a plateau, with a peak at engine change. He felt that the question of special bodies was best decided by technical experts and not by the transport manager.
On driver control, the speaker insisted that drivers needed to feel the firm hand of discipline. It could be years before falsification of logsheets was detected. Consignments and mileage run needed to be closely checked and doubtful points should be investigated promptly. On costing, Mr. Lambert said this was not a luxury—but it should not be history. Ropes and sheet costs could be averaged out through the fleet but tyres should be individually costed to the vehicle. Ton mileage per hour of operation, in his view, did not mean much as operations changed. But he considered cost per ton mileage figures carefully. In general, his firm only used its own transport when it paid it to do so. "We sometimes argue with the sales people about this." he said.
Of the effects of the Transport Act, Mr. Lambert said he felt it was meant for the good of transport as a whole even though many did not appreciate some of its ideas. He looked forward to the challenge it presented.
Mr. J. White, J. Sainsbury's work study manager for transport and warehousing, described the problems of delivering fresh foods to /60 shops in south-east England, mostly within 120 miles of the depots at Buntingford, Basingstoke and—shortly to be opened—Charlton. There was a concentration of shops in Greater London, but less than half of these were supermarkets.
Studies had indicated, said the speaker, that there would be no undesirable effect on goods carried if all vehicles were refrigerated. This was not necessarily true for any geographical area but at present it was true, being related to geography and the sizes of load to be carried. Changes in geography, i.e. distribution area, might compel the use of a mixed fleet.
Mr. White said that the necessary conditions to allow drivers to make double or treble deliveries daily were calculated. Everything possible was done to reduce journey times and speed up turnround at depots and shops. Palletization at depots and the use of Combitainers with vehicle tail lifts for shop deliveries had greatly speeded up operations.
Journey time average speed was 24 mph, said the speaker, less in central Ldndon. There had been no detailed conventional work study of transport operations. "We work on clock times ex depot and branch." The financial rewards of drivers were calculated on journeys after the first. The bonus was split between the whole group of drivers and the driver actually making the second or third loads.
The chairman of the seminar was Mr. S. W. Parkinson, of the Confederation of British Industries. He stressed that the CBI was concerned with whether transport users would get cheaper and more efficient transport as a result of the Transport Act. "So far we have had no indication that this will happen and one of our criticisms of the legislation is that it contains no awareness of the need to speed the exports on which Britain depends and no understanding that costs on transport may mean increased prices of raw materials and finished goods."