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No optimistic message from Europe

28th September 1973
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Page 40, 28th September 1973 — No optimistic message from Europe
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Which of the following most accurately describes the problem?

The Eastbourne conference of the Freight Transport Association last week was for the most part highly stimulating, and most of the speeches reflected the keynote theme of president Len Castletom we face a transport explosion in the UK and we must all learn to cope with the dynamics of change.

Mr D. E A. Pettit, chairman of the National Freight Corporation, startled delegates who were discussing his brilliant and erudite paper: "The Future of Transport within Distribution" when he told a questioner: "Anyone over 50 in transport management • is ready for the knacker's yard".

The debate between the MPs, Hugh Dykes and Leslie Huckheld, was marred by the introduction of too much party political bickering but both speakers made many constructive Points in the main body of their addresses. Mr Richard Marsh, chairman of British Railways, was conscious that he was meeting representatives of some 90 per cent of his freight customers. Far from being overawed by the occasion he demonstrated his wit and charm in a penetrating speech that showed he is still a consummate politician. (He was fortunate to have left the conference when Dan Pettit rocked the house with a sally about the anti-juggernaut pamphlet consigned by rail to Southport by the Young Liberals — and lost in transit!

The most disappointing contribution of all came from Mr Raymond le Goy, the EEC's Director-General for transport. Everyone had hoped he would strike an optimistic note but he made it clear there was still a "hard slog" ahead in developing a Community transport policy. There was little chance that the Commission would "pick up the notions of any one country and bash them through". The marked differences of approach and the formidable problems of the railway administrations in Europe offered little chance for the liberal approach favoured by Britain to be adopted.

evidence that Mr John Peyton's views on the maximum sizes and weights of lorries were being shared in Common Market countries. He contrasted the orderly parking of local authority vehicles in towns with the tendency of road transport operators to use "free" parking space in residential streets — a practice which "could not go on because of the fury it causes". The road transport industry, said Mr Speed, must organize itself for talks with local planners in view of the reorganization of local government effective in six months' time.

Mr L. Collins (Gateshead County Borough Council) said the Baines Report on the management structure of the new local authorities had little to say about goods transport. Should not the Government put local government transport officers more in the picture?

Mr Speed said the situation demanded a corp6rate approach. He felt it would be wrong to give transport officers sole control. Many disciplines were involved. PTAs would be concerned with passenger transport and everyone concerned in transport would be subject to planning constraints. Essentially, local authorities must look at problems as a whole.

Mr J. Foster (Chance Brothers) asked the Minister if he was "winning the environmental message in his Meriden constituency".

Mr Speed said that about 10 per cent of all new major roads came through his area. MPs got masses of letters from people complaining about roads and traffic growth. "By ourselves we can't get the message across that transport facilities are essential. Politicians are always slightly suspect. You're less suspect. A 'combined operation' is necessary to publicise the case for more road building. Often, people who have benefited from new roads don't say they have benefited."

On the need for the rapid construction of perhaps 2000 by-passes of towns and villages on main trunk routes, Mr Speed said it could still take 10 years from the start to finish of a new road scheme. A public inquiry could take up to a year but though the authorities were criticized for delays of this kind they would also be criticized if they rode roughshod over objectors. "Public inquiries are not a charade," insisted Mr Speed.

On signposting, Mr Speed said "green routes" showing primary destinations will be outlined in green and colour coding of maps and signs will be co-ordinated for the first time. On the indifferent standards of vehicle maintenance showed by some commercial vehicle agents who maintained small own-account fleets under contract, Mr Speed said the Motor Agents' Association was looking at the problem. He did not favour legislation unless the industry's own efforts failed.

THE THEME of Mr Richard Marsh's speech was that surface transport must get its proper share of the national cake for investment purposes. A fraction of Concorde costs could greatly improve many rail services. There was no sensible alternative to road for a large part of transport but looking to the future he warned that industry would find growth of lorry traffic restricted and alternative rail facilities inadequate — unless there was adequate investment in time.

The real road/rail argument lay in the area of freight in large volumes now carried by lorries of over 5 tons unladen weight for distances of over 50 miles, said Mr Marsh. There was 200m tons of such traffic representing 45 per cent of ototal road ton-miles and the road traffic in this category was increasing by upwards of 20 per cent a year in recent years. It was the considerable mileage of these heavy lorries which caused the current public concern.

Commenting on the widely used argument that road taxes paid for roads, Mr Marsh said: "As Minister of Transport I signed letters to the AA and RAC. explaining that there was no relationship between road building and motor taxes. For the last 2+ years I have been trying to• convince parts of the DoE that the arguments they used then are still valid today."

Asked about the closure of certain Freightliner routes, Mr Marsh said some routes had been closed because they were unprofitable. The same applied to freight traffic in other forms. BR believed that it would often pay to carry marginally unprofitable traffics and they had been encouraged by Mr John Peyton to try to identify long-distance flows which should be on rail. k GOOD DEBATE followed the Nesentation of Mr Eric Tindall's paper on The supply and training of hgv drivers" ;CM September 22). Asked by Mr J. Foster Chance Brothers) how he could justify his claim that all driver training should be done by the RTITB. Mr Tindall said he understood the wish of firms to get back from their own training boards as much as possible. The RTITB had tried to educate the industry to know that the real purpose was to collect enough money for pooling and redistribution. The real problem of the RTITB was that they did not operate in isolation. As a company training manager a decade ago it was possible to plan training but you could not stop poaching. It had been hoped training boards would stop that situation. With only 28 per cent of drivers in the road haulage industry it followed that companies outside the industry, and under other training boards, would poach if they were in trouble.

Mr Philip Saxon, director of the Food, Drink and Tobacco Training Board, said a recent survey of his Board showed that their group of industries employed 10 per cent (48,000) of the national total of hgv drivers. A half of this number had had to be recruited and many drivers had had to be trained. "Who poaches what?" asked Mr Saxon. "There are chaps who leave driving and go back to industry. Our Board is training 4000 drivers a year and within present limitations it is doing its share."

Mr .1. E. Bourne (Louis G. Ford Ltd) said his firm's driver training cost £100 per man but the drivers had left. How could this be prevented?

Mr Tindall said his Board found driver training cost more than this. Training should imprint men with the company image. Poaching was an industrial disease which would get worse, he feared. Other jobs were less vital than road haulage work.

Mr J. A. Jones (Air Products Ltd) and Mr J. Pickering (Hull Brewery Company Ltd) asked questions apropos the shortage of fitters. Mr Jones said fitters could earn £1000 a year less than drivers and many left maintenance and went driving. Mr Pickering said he advertised internally for three assistants to accompany drivers and three fitters applied. Mr Tindall said he shuddered to think of the spiral in pay rates to retain fitters. He felt it was no answer to pay them more, Mr T. W. Seymour (Johnsons Wax Ltd) suggested that the real problem was not a training one. Who would want to deliver 30 consignments a day in London for £50 when he could be a bricklayer for £90? Said Mr Tindall: "I'm sure you're right: there's a recruitment problem but no training problem. Perhaps women will be interested in jobs in road transport for the sheer professionalism it involves."

DEBATING "Transport after the nex General Election," Mr Hugh Dykes MP said Tory Party attitudes to rail had changed since the last election because of the -serious opportunity and dis-utility costs of road congestion". There was now the need for all transport activities to be reconciled with environmental factors.

The Heavy Commercial Vehicles (Controls and Regulations) Act, passed with all-Party support (including that of Mr Leslie Huckfield, his debating adversary), designated vehicles of over 3 tons unladen weight as commercial vehicles. The Act provided a framework within which local authorities would need to work out their proposals between April .1974 and 1976. The Act's proposals were very relevant to the transport scene. Once in force, the days of free lorry movement anywhere would be over.

If lorries were confined to designated routes questions of their maximum size and weight would be of less significance, said Mr Dykes. "They should not be set too low unnecessarily."

Mr Huckfield began by asserting that the FTA should not think the Government was on their side. The public were now happy to see the railways in deficit and grant-aided if road congestion was diminished as a consequence. While a solution to the growth of cars was emerging in the form of better public transport in cities no policy for growing freight "I hope neither quantity licensing nor road pricing will be the element of integration. There may ' be controls on specific traffic routes or on commodities such as heavy bulk traffic. Local authorities will be involved with freight activities.

Because of the growing energy crisis there will certainly be more bulking of traffic.

I suggest the hallmark of road haulage is not door-to-door facility but the ability to bulk and also to transfer to rail."

Mr Huckfield speculated on the probable need for urban goods traffic consolidation methods. He thought the public would demand bulking of goods at collection and delivery, as suggested in the Layfield Report and now practised in Sweden and Japan. There was a crying need for a co-ordinated investment strategy for transport as a whole.

Mr R. E.. H. Owen (Blue Circle Cement) said his firm delivered full loads throughout the UK; 30 per cent went by rail but all deliveries were by road, with average distances from railheads of 30 miles. Since 20 tons could be delivered in a vehicle only 4ft longer than a 10-ton capacity lorry, the Dykes Act w uld be wasteful of fuel if it compelled he use of two vehicles instead of one.

Mr Dykes stressed that where a good case for an exception could be made out under the Act this was possible. The same arguments applied to some local authority vehicles. Other types of traffic might present more problems.

Mr R. Beckham (RHM Foods Ltd) said town delivery vehicles would be limited in size and there would be delivery bans. Little had been said by either side about new urban roads.

Mr Dykes said he had urged that the road-building programme should be accelerated. He thought by 1985 it would

be a good network. The by-pass programme was "a bit gloomynow but would

look better in five years time. He reminded delegates of Saye's Law which meant that in the transport context the level of congestion tended to rise to the totality of roads.

Mr Huckfield said both main parties boasted a few years ago of the mileage of roads they had built. Experience today was that motorways, etc; inspired massive public resistance. People preferred money spent on housing rather than roads.

Asked by Mr J. L. Carter (United Glass) how the public could be convinced that lorries must move about, in urban areas, Mr Huckfleld suggested that the FTA was to be congratulated on its educative work. He felt there would be more pedestrian precincts and more bans —. "nothing over 3+ tons gross".

Mr Dykes said that despite the public's preoccupation with higher prices (loud hear, hears!) when people were asked whether they would accept higher costs for an improved environment there was overwhelming support. The biggest nuisance was felt to be the "heavy end". (This remark prompted an unprintable cry of dissent from the hall.) Continued Mr Dykes: "Both parties have moved together in response to public pressure. The totality of transport and manufacturing must accept change in future. I hope free enterprise will be the essence of it: they will adjust to the restraints. Because road haulage is very fragmented there is a powerful case for more consolidation."

Mr Huckfield insisted that all MPs were under pressure to do something about transport's damage to amenity. "You in the FTA could put forward suggestions for integration and bulking of goods for urban deliveries. If you think I'm waffling, talk to the oil people. King Feisal and Gadafy would not come to a conference like this...."

Summing up, Mr Hugh Featherstone (FTA director-general) said he was a bit perturbed that both platform speakers saw their role as a response to public opinion. "They should try to lead it."

"HERE'S 'Dan, Dan, the transport man, transport's man of the decade'," said Mr Bob Beckham, introducing his former colleague Mr D. E. A. Pettit, who addressed the conference on the Future of Transport Within Distribution. Mr Pettit's comprehensive review of current and future challenges in distribution was almost breathtaking in its scope. Its philosophical, historical and economic analysis was penetrating — if rather above the heads of some delegates — but fre.cment jokes held their interest.

Mr Pettit contrasted the distributive techniques of earlier decades with the realities today when social and industrial change is of geometrical rather than arithmetical intensity. The impact of marketing techniques on transport services made the role of the transport specialist, whether own-account or professional, of great significance. Production not delivered and consumed was profit lost. A new language had to be learned by the transport man as he drew closer to the strategic planning processes of businesses and became more intimately associated with the improvement and creation of products and the penetration of markets.

Transport operators had to face a much tougher, more exacting specification in terms of speed, quality, reliability, service and price, said Mr Pettit. Efforts must be precisely geared to customer needs. Transport and distribution people must face the synchronization of product supply with advertising, merchandising and display, with quality handling and packaging, with finger-tip control of minimum stocks in the pipeline, with problems of shelf life, stock replenishment, lead time, launch security, market coverage, penetration and share.

The transport manager said Mr Pettit, must be dynamic and adaptable, anticipating change, not resisting it. He must build in flexibility to his attitudes, his technologies and techniques, and must regard his own investment as constantly at risk. Increasingly, he suggested, we shall see the head of distribution services emerging as a board level appointment, in parity with production, marketing, personnel and finance, as the function gains recognition.

Asked by Mr Beckham whether the National Freight Corporation could consider joining as an associate member, Mr Pettit replied non-committally: "Why not!" He added: "The NFC is helping with a survey for Mr Peyton — Lorries for the world we live in. The time is coming when the road haulage industry needs to take a common approach, a coherent approach to local government planners. It's not enough for the FTA to be played off against the RHA and both against the NFC. We must identify the people we will be dealing with who will be concerned with drawing up Transport Policies and Programmes under the new planning laws."

Asked by Mr T. J. Goldrick (Allied Breweries Ltd) how the industry could train for wider responsibilities in distribution, Mr Pettit said people must be given time off, as nurses were, for study. He was aghast to find in one recent survey on training for physical distribution management that only one manager had a qualification of the Chartered Institute of Transport. WHEN Mr D. R. Hunter (ICI Ltd) introduced Mr Raymond le Goy, he noted that Britain had got five director-general posts out of 18 new appointments and one of these was Mr le Goy. "It is not our approach to dish out wisdom to the heathens in Europe," said Mr Hunter.

Mr le Goy stressed he was speaking informally, with no great brief from the Commission, and hoped he would escape from the den of lions like other bigger Daniels who had preceded him.

He outlined the arguments for striving to create a common transport policy despite the cynicism of many people who had been disappointed with the slow progress over the years. Transport, including motor cars and own-account transport, amounted to 15 per cent of the EEC's GNP. By the year 1970 10 per cent of public authority expenditure — 40 per cent of gross capital formation — went to pay for transport infra-structures. Transport was growing by 10 per cent annually.,

Much was at stake in transport for good or ill, said Mr le Goy. The stakes were high and failure could lead to international friction and misuse of resources. Incompatible systems could develop; there would be unnecessary problems at frontiers. Whatever the causes of failure, all economies in the Market would suffer if a common policy was not agreed.

Mr le Goy described the varying "mix" of transport modes in Community countries where rail was often a dominant factor and waterways were important. The contrasts between modes were enormous and with enlargement the Commission had decided to re-appraise transport policy. Ideas were still taking shape; a Council of Ministers meeting scheduled for June had been deferred.

The Directorate of Transport was being re-organized and strengthened and staff were getting to grips with the many interrelated problems. There were real differences of approach, especially between the UK and Germany. It wai unlikely that any one set of proposals would be adopted and "bashed through" to form Community policy.

Mr le Goy thought the "Cops and Robbers" stage had now been passed in relation to users versus providers and enterprise. Arguments on these subjects were in the sloganeering era, now past. The Commission was now concerned with total resources, forecasting of demand, etc. The problems called for tenacity of action. There were good foundations for the hard slog ahead.

Most of the questions thrown at Mr le Goy related to the possible unfavourable position of the UK in relation to — allegedly — slack enforcement in Europe. Mr le Goy for each country and in a number of countries allegations were made that across the frontier enforcement was slack. He was doubtful of the arguments put forward in support of a European police force for enforcement of transport regulations.

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