PRIVATE HIRE LARGE SCALE.
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A Description of the Organization which Contrt the Client is Considered and Catered For and gest Private-hire Service in the Kingdom. How krehicles are Maintained in Excellent Condition.
WHILST not professing to know much about the cost of attending race meetings, we were struck, the other day, by the apparent economy attaching to the offer of Daimler Hire, Ltd., to provide a six seated limousine for the return journey from London to Newmarket for £7. Six first-class return fares by railway and cabs to and from the stations would have run to considerably more than that figure and as to which would he the more pleasurable journey free from travel worry, there was not the least question.
We wondered how many clients Daimler Hire, Ltd., could take to Newmarket that day. So, in a spirit of inquiry, we stepped into 243, Knightsbridge, the West End depot of the company, and were shown two immense floors with six-cylinder Daimlers in serried ranks and were told that over 1,400 people could be granted the necessary facilities. And, further to impress us, we were told that in hire-service over 3,500,000 miles were covered by the company's vehicles last year and that the figure for the present year would approach 4,000,000 miles. One would, naturally, expect that, in hire work, a vehicle would be available for a client at any hour of the day or night, to enable him to be met at or taken to a station, for shopping, the theatre, afternoon ' calls, evening functions, balls and such like minor if extremely useful and important services, but one is apt to overlook the larger side of such a business. For a car may leave the premises ostensibly for a short hire, and in a day or two be away touring the Continent, not to return for three months: It is a simple fact of this nature that impels the question " but surely special vehicles are picked out and kept for such work ? " And the plain answer is " No, every vehicle must be so thoroughly in the pink of condition that the one on the rota for service shall be available to go anywhere and to any distance." .
At Knightsbridge, there is A capacity for 140 vehicles, whilst at the Store Street depot a further 110 vehicles are kept, orders being proportionately distributed. The fleet totals 250 vehicles, of which two are ambulances de luxe and one a bus, the remaining 247 being six-cyLintiered Daimler cars of 45 h.p. and 30 h.p. The 30 h.p. vehicle used to he the standard car, but gradually the fleet is turning over to the 45 h.p. T.J. model. It is interesting to note that 14 years ago the fleet consisted of but four ears, so that the development ,into a really vast business has been quite exceptional.
We traversed both lines of cars on the ground floor, of the Knightsbridge depot, expecting to find variations in condition and appearance ; being disappointed of this and coming unexpectedly upon an equally extensive display on the lower floor, we went very carefully over the second group, searchingly scrutinizing for any sign of rough n32
usage or neglect and peering into corners for the old hack that would be sent (we will say) to take a party of sailors to the docks or lb a Bermondsey whart. And then our feelings turned to wonder at the spick and span condition of . the fleet and. of every individual member of it. Uniformly, there was Spotless cleanliness and the evidence of that care and attention to the carriage and to the mechanism that one expects from a keen chauffeur in private service.
The greatest care is taken in the selection of the drivers. They are picked for private service and must have clean records and driving licences. Good mechanical knowledge and driving efficiency are indispensable, and only after, a. satisfactory. probationary period are they taken on as permanent drivers. Discipline is firmly maintained, a careful record of letters of appreciation and also of complaints and accidents being kept and gone through at the end of each year, for action if. necessary.
Most interesting is it to it for some 'minutes in the office at Knightsbridge and to overhear the remarks of the lady clerks at the telephones receiving orders. The clerks seem to book an order every two or three minutes, asking the questions that elicit clear instructions, arranging details, dealing with matters of payment—all with such precision, tact and courtesy that we felt here was one of the foundations of the success of such a business,.
We followed up one of these orders. It was entered in detail on an order form and log sheet, which gives clear instructions to the driver and provides spaces in which he, in turn, enters information concerning the completion of the order. This order form and log sheet is, first of all, sent to the time clerks in the office of the garage superintendent. Here a roster is kept and, on a large form spread out, one Can see at a glance the position in relation to every vehicle garaged at the particular depot—the time it left the garage, the name, of the hirer, the journey, the period of the hire (and how many of these entries
were" indefinite," showing that the vehicle might be away for hours, days, weeks, or even for months!) Further columns show details in connection with the return of the vehicles, including the mileometer readings out and in. The orders received for the next day are entered up, and instructions given to the drivers whose services are demanded by clients or who are mkt for duty, and at 5.30 p.m. a roster is posted up ;flowing the names of the drivers who will be required to stand by and at what time they are to report for duty. A few are 'posted for duty at 6.30 a.m. and others at intervals, the early morning duties being taken in turn.
As one ear is being prepared to leave the depot, the driver next on the roster is warned for duty, He gets ready with overcoat and, perhaps, even his gloves on, and site in the drivers' room. On receipt of an order by Daimler Hire, Ltd:, a car can be away in a minute and a half, for there is 'nothing to do but to hand over to the driver his sheet of instructions (written out as they are received over the telephone), for him to take his seat and to start his engine. Only in the mornings, after the car has stood the whole bight, must he start the engine by the handle.
Replenishments of petrel and oil are made as the car returns into the garage for, at the entrance, undergTound in a bay, are two 5,000-gallon tanks, the fuel being pumped by rotary pumps (motor driven) to a gravity tank above the level olthenpper.floor and thence it is supplied by pipes through a measuring device to each car tank. The main oil tank holds 400 gallons ; from this a gravity tank is supplied by pump and the oil is issued to the drivers by the canful.
Careful records of consumpof fuel and oil are kept, and every week there is posted a sheet showing the figures for the six best and the twelVe worst ears in each of the depots, a footnote giving the fleet averages. The hest vehicles in the two sections of the fleet had covered 17.5 miles per gallon and 17.3 miles per gallon respectively. In the matter of oil consumption, the best vehicle at . Store Street could record 942 miles per gallon and the best at knightsbridge 902 miles per gallon.
The posting of figures in this way tends to the encouragement of efficiency and esprit de corps, for the drivers quartered at Knightsbridge or at Store Street try to do better than each other and, anyway, to do better than the fellows at the other depot !
It is found, as one would naturally expect, to be eminently desirable to keep a driver to one ear. He takes a much greatei. interest in and there is this other advantage, that he can be held to anything that 5s wrong. The men prefer this method, also They never like to change, but the rule cannot be made bard and fast, because the clients take a liking to a particular driver and even to a particular car, and it is right, the company maintain, ta tty to please them. We admired the condition of the details of the mechanism, the appearance of the coachwork and upholstery of the cars, and saw that pride of car was the dominating factor with the drivers. We saw, too, that they are allowed to fit mascots, but, in every ease where they were fitted, they were of a refined. type. Not a single instance of the vulgar or pseudo-humorous kind was to be found anywhere. We remarked upon the virtual uniformity of the vehicle's and were told that this is not being pursued. It is not necessarily snobbishness that urges a client to endeavour to avoid conveying the fact that the ear habitually used is hired. 'There are many people who have no private garage facilities, and it is the innate desire of the Briton to keep his
affairs to himself. For this reason, the practice of carrying the spare tyre on the driver's canopy, a former mark of Daimler Hire cars, is not being perpetuated. The spare tyre is now carried at the side. But the way in.which the tyres are treated is commencing to be a mark of recognition and this may have to be varied. Each Daimler Hire car, too, has its petrel tank (which is at: the rear) covered with a wood slat shield, and its value, with a fleet of eari. almost constantly about amidst the traffic, is very great.
In one of the garage stores we observed a number of bucket seats, each mounted on a standard. Clients often ask for two extra bucket seats, to be used instead of the drop-down seats hacking cot to the driver's seat. Each car is fitted with two sockets, into which the standards of two seats can be set when they are thus asked for. • The upholstery of each car is protected by covers, and these are only removed if a customer particularly asks for them to be dispensed with. The system of car maintenance is simple but extraordinarily complete. The driver . enters on his report sheet, when he returns to the depot, apy matter which he considers calls for attention. it may be only a small matter, such as a rattle of a door or window, or it may be a more serious defect. He will report every trouble and anything that he himself has done to the car whilst on the road during the day. The details are copied by the night superintendent on to the dock overhaul sheets, whence they are transferred to the sheets for the various mechanics. With these sheets, the mechanics go from car to car during the next day and effect whatever repair, alteration or adjustment is necessary. The night superintendent will have decided whether the car shall be classified as requiring merely. .a running repair or be declared out of • commission: :. Those declared Y 0/C are reported to the .garage superintendent, who will thus not call upon 'them for executing ran order. . . . •
What is knciwn as: Form 2 centains. a: resume of every matter. reprorted.,by_the.-driver_ since the car underwent its lastdock. overhaul, so: that the foreman is made 'aware of every detail of the history of a ear when it comes into his hands. This dock overhaul is given to every ear once a month, and it
occupies a day. Usually, all that is necessary is a general inspection, followed-by cleaning and adjustment wherever required. If any defect already attended to be found to persist or has developed, the foreman has an opportunity to take more serious action. The weekly average consumption of petrol and oil being shown on Form 2, the foreman can see that any necessary adjustment is made. Each fitter is responsible for some definite detail, to which he attends, signing his name in the space provided on the form. Thus, no detail can be overlooked.
The driver spends the day with his car in dock, opening up covers and assisting in the work. Many of the drivers are fitters and mechanics, so that it is obvious that the cars do not suffer from neglect in any form. Each depot docks four cars per day for five days per week and, when a car becomes-due . for its overhaul at about a monthly interval, it is not allowed to go out on hire. On Saturdays and
Sundays no dock work is unflertaken, as the mechanics are off duty and generally the whole of the fleet. is engaged. ' .
Form 3, is a record of the coMponenis, of which each vehicle consistst each comfamerit (chassis, engine, gearbox and back axle) having its individual number,. and Of every„exchange that has been made and the, reason for the:exchange. Franathia; a cornplete :hiatory. of the, car, is, entered up on Form 4, which is a group of five'subsidiary forma", form 'of which, -are: deVoted to the components an'd one to supplementary facts.. 'All these ate kept in a folder, which will be ient -with the ear to the works at-the
annual Overhaul Th k ffici I are th
, e wor S 0 a s us to acquaint, themseleeS with the' history of the Car and of eadh.ceinponent in it. .
Whenever it is foundnecassati to do anything to the mechanisme_ which e!diulq.:151.it, a ear outof ebm' mission,' the defective compprient .i.S •renioved and another: .fitted . iii its place,, the eacharigesa being recorded" the, card belonging to the new unit on cornpletion being Placed na..tlae folder belonging to the car. When the defepaive uniais,put right it is taken into store . and its • card:. placed 'on the. reserve `file: Five per cent, of all spare units ?are kepta. thus fina fleet of 250 cars 12 or 13' spare engines, alike-number of axles, and a similar number Of gearboxes are kept. ' This -is best fleet practice; as it ensures the constant availability of ever Vehicle in the fleet except for those passing through the overhauling stages. Wings are the most vulnerable parts, as the London taxicab -driver will undoubtedly testify.A large stock of wings is kept so that a damaged wing can quickly -be replaced. , Every six months a car will be. revarnished and the body thoroughly inspected for detail defects, whilst every year a car is given a complete .overhaul at the company's works at Chelsea. The bonnet and scuttle will sometimes turn dull, and it is a, common
practice to give them a coat of varnish every couple of months or so.
The staff at each depot engaged on maintenance work includes two fitters, two fitters' mates, an electrician, a battery hand, an upholsterer and an assistant., two body repairers and a car cleaner. The last-named, with a vacuum-cleaning apparatus, is said to extract a lot of dirt from a body after a month's use.
Of mechanical troubles, few are now experienced.. The principal trouble is with batteries. These eeem to suffer from .overcharging, or undercharging, or from vibration causing leakage, and they have, until recently, been regarded as the weakest link. -There is quite a lot for a battery hand -to look after with a big fleet.
The works at Chelsea are well equipped and are capable of completely overhauling five cars per week The body is removed and the components stripped down, disassembled, cleaned, worn parts replaced and reassembled and the chassis is turned out as good as new. The body is overhauled, painted and varnished, all electrical details are carefully overhauled and the car leaves Chelsea for another 28,000 miles • of running, for that is the mileage at which every vehicle passes through the Chelsea works.
We have referred to the drivers and their characteristics. We were interested to find that many of the Daimler drivers speak French, some speak German, and others know Italian or Spanish. They are all required to have an intimate knowledge of London and to know the surrounding country. They must be able-to tour and to read maps, for they are often called 'Upon -to go for long journeys to Scot
land and elsewhere.
'-tach driver is given an outfit consisting of a suit with two pairs of trousers, great coat, macintosh, dust coat, gloves, and cap, and a tailor is employed on the premises to keep .the men's Clothes pressed, one pair of trousers being cleaned and pressed whilst the second pair is-in use • Thecompany, we learned, carry their own accident insurance inrespect of •carS, -but all the vehicles are covered against fire, and third-part' risk.
Of running costs_ and ,standing Charges no informittion. is available.Tyres are supplied and maintained• under.a mileage contract by the Dunlop Rubber Co.,-Ltd,,-two erripIoyees Of that company being in charge of thelyres and being stationed on tlie'ptemisas intheir own lock-up store. They keep elle:tans under observation, make repairs • and replacements', and 'a tedards • L'.of mileages from the garage-books,: payment being made by: the:Daimler Hire, Ltd, at so Much. per -mile. ,.Maginnn atyrea.are .erpploye0, and from what we hear, their behaviour is so satisfactory that the contract figure is low and profitable to both concerns. So far as charges are concerned, we can give better information. There used to be separate tariffs for summer and for winter, but there is now an all-the-yea year-round tariff, and the arrangement is found to lie more satisfactory. The day hires are: 10 miles, 11 12s. 6d. (excess Is. 6d. per mile); 50 miles, .24 12s. 6d. (excess is. 2d. per mile) ,• 100 miles, £6 18s. (excess 10d. per mile); 150 miles 28 8s. (excess 6d. per mile). By time the charge is one guinea for the first hour and half-a-guinea per hour afterwards. The evening tariff, covering 25 miles between 6 p.m. and midnight, is 21 5s., with excess of is. per mile or 5s. per hour. For a week-end covering 250 miles the charge is 218 18s. ; for a week of seven days covering 325 miles, it is 2.1, and for a month of 28 days and covering 1;300 miles, it is 2130. A tariff is issued for race meetings, ranging from five guineas for Ikncion, Hurst Park, Kempton Park or Sanclown, to nine guineas for Goodwood. All hires start and .finish at the garage and all charges are payable in advance, except when the client has a monthly account. When the car is away from London, the hirer pays for garaging and washing, whilst all fuel and oil supplies after about 200 miles are paid for by the hirer, the company repaying the hirer, on production of vouchers, at the company's wholesale prices in London. The hirer also pays the driver's beard and lodging when away from London. The D n aimler hire service has a excellent reputation: in London and, in fact, all over the country, because clients do not confine their :hiring merely to the period when they are,in town. The result is a very wide range experience for company and their experienr the comnd their staff, which, in its turn, is of material -benefit to all who utilize the services of the organization,