Overseas Removers' Conference
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SUBSTANT1AL reduction in insurance rates by the use of direct ferry removals, as opposed to lift vans, was disclosed by Mr. B. E. Fry of Nixon Constable and Co., London, when presenting the opening paper on "Marine Insurance in relation to Overseas Removals" to the annual conference of the British Association of. Overseas Furniture Removers held at Southport last Thursday; Whilst the full "all risks" rate by lift vans for removal from, say, Manchester to Paris was in the region of 17s, 6d. per cent, by direct ferry the rate was often as low as 7s. 6d. per cent.
As compared with normal marine insurance negotiated with ship owners, merchants and bankers, removal insurance involved the issue of policy and certificate to individual members of the public who became the assured in many cases for the only time in their lives. They were completely at a loss with regard to the extent of cover provided and had no knowledge as to procedure to be adopted in the event of delay or when a claim arose. For this reason, whilst it was the removers' main preoccupation to safely transport their customers' property from one domicile to another, they also had a responsibility of advising them regarding insurance matters.
While some members may still be dealing direct with individual insurance companies and arranging for the issue of individual policies, this procedure was cumbersome to all parties and, in certain instances, could entail the risk of insufficient protection, particularly where the insurance company concerned was not sufficiently acquainted with covering private chattels, or dealing with complicated claims.
The majority of members, Mr. Fry considered, would be availing themselves of the services of insurance brokers experienced in regard to the requirements of the removal industry, in which case what was known as "open cover" would be in force.
A marine "open cover" took the form of a long term contract either renewable annually, or an "always open" basis under which the insurance underwriters agreed to accept, and the contractor or shipper agreed to declare, all shipments to be insured. It was usual for such contracts to provide for a maximum coverage, but with provision for restricted forms of cover to be granted, if required. It was also usual for the contract to embody a schedule of rates agreed in respect of the various destinations and extent of cover.
Whilst "open cover" insurance was not legally enforceable (it being necessary for duly stamped policies to be issued) the advantages would nevertheless be apparent. No initial cost was involved and cover was automatically granted in respect of every shipment falling within the terms of the contract. As conditions and rates were agreed in advance, immediate quotations could be given to customers. Where a sufficient number of insured overseas removals were carried Out, removers were authorized to issue Marine Insurance Certificates direct to customers. Alternatively, where there were only a few per year these could be obtained by return of post from the broker after having already quoted and charged the premium to the customer.
Monthly Accounting Premiums were usually accounted for monthly by the insurance brokers who recorded details of each certificate issued upon a Bordereau list, which is embodied within one policy for all the transactions covered. The contractor received one debit ner month, together with a copy of the I3ordereau list. This obviously reduced the amount of clerical work and accountancy which would otherwise be involved if individual premiums were debited.
In dealing with overseas removal insurance. Mr. Fry said that one was inclined to think only of distant places and overlook removals across the English Channel to destinations on the Continent. The successful ferry service which had been developed between London, Dover and Folkestone and various main ports on the Continent, such as Rotterdam. Antwerp and Calais had resulted in there being. a "new look" in regard to removals to the Continent. Gone were the days when it was necessary to carefully pack a lift van to withstand the buffeting and shunting at the hands of British Railways and the port authorities involving the hoisting of lift vans and containers on and off vessels and into yards.
With regard to Continental ferry services and those to Northern Ireland there was a point which Mr. Fry con
sidered was not sufficiently appreciated by members. This concerned the use of sub-contractors. Frequently one discovered that whilst the intention was for the loaded pantechnicon trailer to travel direct to the destination, many occasions arose where it was found that the goods were off-loaded from the original trailer and reloaded into another vehicle. Such transhipment did, in fact, defeat the object of the exercise and, bearing in mind that one of the main risks with regard to loss or damage was involved in loading or unloading, there was risk of the claim experience not heIng as good as originally anticipated in respect of removals by direct ferry services.
Certain Channel Island and Continental removals were now being carried out partly by air and the method of insurance was as for other overseas removals. The rates were very low for this mode of transit. Nevertheless one still had to bear in mind that two loadings and unloadings were usually involved unless pallets were used, when the rate could be even further reduced: The conference concluded with a progress report by Mr. Roy Walker, Walkers (Northampton) Ltd., on the work of the study group appointed to consider improvements in the association's services to members, originating from the paper presented to the conference last year by Mr. D. J. Blatchford.
Untidy Grouping Difficulties revealed by this study included the problem arising from the limited amount of overseas traffic. Consequently many companies tended to parcel out the traffic. especially if not fully competent to do all the work. There was an untidy grouping of membership with corresponding conflict of interests.
Consideration had been given to labour charges, bulk purchases, information and training. Under the present conditions it was considered too difficult to introduce bulk buying but developments were being watched. Regarding information, it was felt that a great deal of technical data was not being transmitted and Viere was a need for a three-monthly bullYtin. It was considered that the N.A.F.W.R. system of meetings was not necessarily appropriate to the British Association and manual schools for training were not possible in sparsely populated areas.
Earlier, at the final session of the annual conference of the National Association of Furniture Warehousemen and Removers at Southport last week. operating conditions in Australia and
some aspects of licensing in this country were discussed.
" The future of the removal trade in Australia seems to be a part return to rail. . . . I foresee within five years all long-distance traffic will be in the hands of two or three van lines and unfor tunately there is also a tendency for the large interstate general carriers to cast their eyes on our—to them—lucrative field." This forecast was made by Mr. R. A. Reedman, director and group manager, Grace Bros. 'Pty. Ltd., Sydney, Australia.
Indicating the background to their type of operation, Mr. Reedman reminded delegates to the conference that Australia was a country of 3 m. sq. miles and only 11 m. people, whilst the distance round Australia was greater than the distance from England to Australia. On average a pantechnicon on interstate vehicle ser vice covered 48,000 miles a year, on country work 40,000 miles and on local removals 12,000 miles a year.
The present rate for local removals was LA3 5s. 9d. an hour for vehicles and two men, plus 2s. a mile over 15 miles , and hire of cases used at 6d. per case. After eight hours the hourly rate increased to £A4 Is. 6d. with an additional man costing £A1 15s. 9d. per hour. Whenever possible they endeavoured to obtain work on an hourly basis and this represented about 30 per cent of their work.
An average driver's basic rate was LA19 14s. a week, and as they seldom worked less than 50 hours a week, the average pay packet on local work was around LA28 a week plus 10s. a week " strap " money. With the longer hours averaged on interstate and country work drivers averaged about £A38 a week plus camp-out money at the rate of £A2 per night.
Strap Money Mr. Reedman explained that " strap " money was a margin for skill introduced by the unions as a result of the Australian removal industry's use of a large strap varying in length from 9 to 11 ft. and approximately 3 in. wide, which men fixed around their shoulders and under the items to be carried. With the weight carried by the shoulders and the body, the arms are left free for manceuvring. Mr. Reedman claimed that this device was an absolute boon to the removal man and he could not understand why it was not used elsewhere in the world. For, the past 15 years it had been their 3ractice to pay all employees a bonus ›ased on turnover and profit combined. 'mounting to 3d. in the LA. It was iivided out on a points basis, thus a !river is rated at one point, whilst his 'ranch manager has five points. The 'mounts are paid quarterly and the ;cheme has proved most successful in vtaining staff. Senior executives receive, n addition to their salary and allowinces, a bonus based on the turnover vithin their control. Mr. Reedman added hat they had a good percentage of staff vith over 20 years' service, whilst 50 per :ent had 10 years or more service. A feature of the removal trade in Australia was the growing employment of owner-drivers. _These provide the vehicles to the specification of the principal, together with all necessary equipment and his " offsider ", i.e. driver's mate. The vehicle is signwritten in the company's colours and the owner-driver undertakes to keep the vehicle in running repair, meet all outgoings including removal damage for which he receives 80 per cent of the total income for the job. The principal takes 20 per cent to cover administration, advertising and profit.
The advantages of this scheme in Australia are considerable, including evasion of payroll tax at the rate of 2+ per cent and the avoidance of having to comply with onerous labour award conditions. Mr. Reedman claimed that ownerdrivers cheerfully worked up to 80 hours per week whereas the law limited the working hours of the individual to 60. But even on 60 hours, 20 of these were at overtime rate. Additionally, there was greater flexibility of operation due to the fact that when an owner-driver got into trouble he did not telephone his depot but got himself out of his difficulty.
Trend to Smaller Loads The apparent worldwide trend towards smaller removal loads was most noticeable in Australia, due partly to the increasing tendency for built-in furniture and a decline in sentiment attached to household furniture. The content of an average home was now 880 cu. ft. compared with 1,120 en. ft. 10 years ago. it was not uncommon to find a bedroom, for example, with the bed and bedroom chair as the only movable items. These trends influenced the size of vehicles.
Originally the costing of interstate traffic was based on a 40 per cent backloading factor. Now it was necessary to have an 85 per cent backloading factor to make a round trip pay, due to the fact that interstate furniture removal rates were still the same as in 1948.
On one section of the interstate coastal removal route from Northern Queensland to Western Australia it had been found profitable to place a complete pantechnicon on a flat-top railcar fov 900 miles of the journey so obviating wear and tear over 700 miles of very rough going through the desolate country of the Nullabor Plain. But piggybacking was not possible elsewhere in Australia— for other than short distances—because of lack of clearances at tunnels and bridges.
Referring to the inquiry into the road transport licensing system which the Government is proposing to make, Mr. A. W. Balne, Metropolitan Area licensing consultant, urged the N.A.F.W.R. to take more positive action in this matter. He had been surprised at the conflict of interests within the Association and whilst he viewed them as a group .3f removers there were in fact few who were exclusively engaged on removals. Thus there was apparently no official Association policy relative to licensing conditions as to a definition of the term "furniture ". He considered removers were under a special handicap as regards licence restrictions, many of which were 'quite hideous operationally ".
Mr. Balne said that he particularly stressed these difficulties because they were shortly to be asked to make their contribution to the licensing inquiry committee as to what revision of the licensing system they considered necessary. The Association should appoint a committee to get together all "the bits and pieces" relative to their experience of the working of the present licensing system. Quoting two examples from his own recent experience, it had taken 14 weeks to get a 1-ton adjustment, and it was quite clear to him that there was no original intention that trailers should be specified by weight but only by type.
For the first time in 30 years members would have the opportunity of stating their views on the present licensing system. They were at the crossroads and they must take the right turning.