A Glimpse into 1913.
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With the 1913 Overseas Annual almost completed and ready for mailing, we turn with a free hand to deal with the home situation in the commercialmotor world. It has been our rule, for the past seven years, to review at some length the events and progress of each complete 12 months, but practice in so many branches of the movement which we foster has now become so well settled, that we prefer to look forward on the present occasion, and to ask the indulgence of those readers who may have expected the annual review, in our ordinary issue, for its non-appearance this time. We prefer to regard prospects and events which are ahead.
Military Subvention Trials.
It is notified by the War Office, that "As it has been found that all the entrants for the next War Department subsidy trials will have their vehicles ready for the road two months before the date fixed, it has been decided that the trials shall be held in January, instead of, as it was originally intended, in March. The vehicles will accordingly assemble at Aldershot, for examination, on Thursday, the 9th January, and the first run will be made on the following day."
In other words, the War Office has. found that the only manufacturers who have yet taken up the sub sidy-type vehicles are those who were not ready for a public test on the road in August last, or who failed to gain the certificate on that occasion.
Both owners and prospective owners, as well as members of the heavy motor industry, have shown but little enthusiasm over the subsidy scheme, and the basic reason for this half-hearted reception is found in the small net inducement that exists for the purchaser. He has to pay more in the first instance for a machine of definite capacity, and to bear higher annual charges under the heads of fuel and tires in particular, in exchange for a purchase subsidy of 250, payable 28 6s. 8d. half-yearly, in arrear, over a term of three years, an annual conditional subsidy of 220 per vehicle, which will also be paid half-yearly, in arrear, and a contingent extra 210 by way of purchase subsidy, which several items amount to a total possible payment of 2120, spread over three years.
Naturally, when the War Office subsidy scheme is admitted to have originated in the leading article* that appeared in our issue of the 22nd September, 1910, to which any readers of these columns may refer back in detail, we have no desire that the present scheme should not meet with the maximum of success that it deserves to command, meagre though that may be, but we would be failing in our duty to the numerous
commercial readers in all parts of the kingdom who study these pages if we omitted to point out, at the beginning of the year 1913, as we have pointed out on several occasions during the past few months,
that there is very little, if anything, for them, so far as regards the three-ton r..odel, in the present scheme, whilst the 30-cwt. model is illegal if run at any speed in excess of 12 m.p.h.
As we wrote on the official publication of the scheme in August last : "There is little doubt that a considerable number of vehicles will be constructed and sold in accordance with the specification, and, from the point of view of seeing some advance made towards the creation of an adequate transport reserve for use on common roads, we sincerely hope that the totals will come up to the expectations of the War Office, which are understood to be somewhere in the neighbourhood of 1000 vehicles all told, for the present." Our disagreement with the War Office is one of method, and not one of principle. Had the Treasury been deliberately pressed to subsidize the manufacturers in the first case, and had the subsidies that are offered to owners been in any sense adequate, we should have welcomed the scheme wholeheartedly, and not felt ourselves obliged in a measure to condemn a departure for which THE CommEnetAL MoTort was primarily responsible. We also take these grave objections to the plan now in force, from the standpoint of efficiency in service : design has been cramped, and the essential feature of general interchange of parts has not been secured in more than a very few parts. Having regard to all the circumstances which affect the War-Office proposals; we altogether fail to see that they can materially influence business for the industry as a whole. The War Office, by hook or by crook, will sooner or later get its 1000 vehicles—by the end of 1914, perhaps : it has already been found necessary to urge upon manufacturers the view that this model is better suited for Colonial conditions than for home purposes—in itself, an admission of real significance. Unduly-high platforms are by no means a convenience, for ordinary commercial purposes, in Lancashire or elsewhere, and this incidental point is one which may well have a direct bearing upon operating costs, in that extra labour will in many cases be involved by the use of such machines at home.
We are aware that other manufacturers have designs going through their drawing offices, with a view to participation in the next series of trials, which it is hoped will take place at the beginning of July. Provided they are prepared to make out a case to a
fraction of home purchasers, for the alleged superior advantages of subsidy registration against lion-regis tration, and provided their views coincide with the views of the War Office, in respect of greater suitability of the type for Colonial uses, they will no doubt adopt the right course if they decide to proceed with the manufacture of the model, but it is absolutely an arguable point as to whether the advantage to them will recoup the extra attention, and the bringing through of the type or types. That some makers will be glad to have the advertisement value of the War Office certificate in regard to subsidy-type machines, and will proceed to "play up" the possession of this im primat tar at the big shows of February and July goes without saying, but the possession of that qualification is by no means to be accepted as proof anterior that they have achieved a better position from which to impress the ordinary commercial buyer, who will be asked by them to pay a higher first price, to put up with higher running costs, and to agree to indefinite conditions as to inspection from time to time by military officers. The War Office will benefit, but the purchaser will not.
The VoLux of the Parcelcar.
The New Year promises to be noteworthy for the establishment of the parcelcar in the esteem of many trading houses which have hitherto relied upon boypropelled box carriers. This forecast is justified by a consideration of precedents, for the parcelcar has now reached approximately the same stage at which the steam wagon found itself by the end of the year 1906, and the motorbus towards the close of the year 1910. A sufficient volume of experience has been gained to provide references to owners who have found parcelcars to be the best means of delivery for light packages. Also, these little vehicles are now upon the roads in sufficient numbers to help to sell themselves. It is no bad omen, in our judgment, that the bulk of trade has so far gone to one particular maker. The whole industry is helped by good records which can be set against failures and bad performances, and this order of development was found in both of the earlier sections which we have named— those of the steam wagon and the motor omnibus. Mention of names would be invidious, but the facts are there, and they speak for themselves.
Many a trader, who thinks twice about the expenditure of several hundred pounds, is ready to commit himself to the expenditure of £100 for a parcelcar. The vehicle takes but little room to store, and its daily consumption of supplies is not a costly item in the account. Compared with 5d., 6d. and 7d. per mile run, as the inclusive costs per mile for vans which vary in load capacity between one ton and 2:11 tons, the would-be beginner in motor transport can be assured that his total charges, inclusive of depreciation, maintenance and insurance, will not be appreciably in excess of 3d, per mile run. Of course, if a shopkeeper put a parcelcar on to work that gives it a mileage which is no higher than that which he would encompass with a horse-drawn van, say, 20 miles a day, he must be prepared to see that 3d. go up to, perhaps, ‘qd. or od., according to the wages he pays to the youth who drives it. The greatest influence upon. cost per mile on low-mileage working is found in the incidence of the driver's wages.
Whilst the year opens with parcelcars selling at the rate of, possibly, 35 each week, we have good reason for believing that before its close they will be going through at a rate which will be nearer 100 per week. That the market is ready to absorb that output is doubted by no one, but there appears to be a peculiar hesitancy on the part of financiers to assist the production of this latest arrival. The definite increases• of output which we have in mind will, however, come from existing factories, and they will be largely helped in one case from the works of a leading heavyvehicle maker.
The Ar.otoryan Accepted by All: Earnings Well Ahead of Costs.
The year opens with continued bright prospects before owners of motorvans. Earnings will remain far in excess of costs. The price of petrol is probably the only dark spot, but. hereanent, as we indicated a week ago, material help may be expected from homeproduced benzol. The prices and supplies of rubber are normal, with downward -tendencies ahead. By downward, we do. not necessarily mean in first cost, but rather in respect of yield in service. Owners now appear to have been cured, as a general rule, of the folly of under-tiring, and it is becoming more and more the rule to order sections that are above those which one finds put down in the specifications of the vehicle-builders. Such over-specification may very well double or treble the life of a set of tires, and it is an economy of the wisest kind for the owner to act that way.
The common acceptance of the motorvan, at the hands of householders and other customers in trades which are widely remote, promises to become a definite expectation of its use to the exclusion of the horse. Delivery by horse-drawn vehicle is already regarded as an inferior method of conveyance, and the van-horse is now tending in some country districts to be as much " out of it" as it is in London. We have forecasted that the time is at hand when numerous horse stables will be closed by reason of the sudden realization on the part of owners that all the stock has become old simultaneously. That procedure was adopted by the London General Omnibus Company in 1911, and it. has subsequently taken effect in the stables of many big carriers. It accounts for the necessity--under which so many trading houses find themselves—to choose between large purchases of horses and the immediate purchase of motorvans. The time is past for a mere suspension of renewals, and the year 1.913 is likely to witness an enormous jump forward in orders on this account.
The problem of delivery will probably not be relieved materially during the year, in spite of the important additions to all the leading motor-vehicle factories in the country. It is not far out to state that. 1912 closes with the majority of makers six or more weeks behind booked dates of delivery.
For the foregoing reasons, amongst others, our considered. advice to intending purchasers is this : that they will buy early, and will order not merely odd vehicles, but so many a month over the year. That course has been adopted in several well-reasoned cases that have come under our notice, and we commend it to parties who have not. so acted up to the present. The placing of such contracts ahead both secures the best terms and ensures the best deliveries.
The important shows of the present year will be the following : the North of England Show, at Manchester, from the 14th to 22nd prox. ; the annual show of the Royal Agricultural Society of England, which is this year to be strengthened by the inclusion of an Overseas section, at Brisi ol, from the 1st to 5th July ; and the Commercial Motor Show of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, at Olympia, also during the month of July—probably opening on the 11th of that month.
In spite of opposition to shows on the part of some members of the industry, it is very desirable that the year 1913 should see a representative collection of exhibits again presented at Olympia. There has been no exhibition of the kind since the year 1908, and the interval has undoubtedly been sufficient for many new makers and models firmly to establish their reputations. The seal will, in July next, be set to those reputations, and the opportunity, it is now commonly agreed, has been delayed fully long enough. The adoption of the Month of July has been a forced choice, for no other month could be fixed, and we ourselves intend to adopt a very considerable programme of advance preparation and publicity, in order to support that show to the utmost extent of our very considerable resources. The major portion of our efforts during the next six months will, week by week, be directed to the furthering of the success of the July Show. Very eetensive missionary echemes have been taken in band already to that end by us.
One warning must be given to owners and intendingowners, when we are making reference to the shows. and most of all to the Olymnia. Show. Whilst a good riroportion of new models will be shown, it should be borne in mind that the commercial-motor trade is not a seasonal one, and that systems are not varied from year to year merely to meet any fashionable demand for that which is externally the very latest in types.
They are, contrariwise, varied only during the first year or two of their construction, by which time any model which is likely to make a name for itself may be reckoned to have had its "corners rubbed off." Buyers who are inclined to wait until July to place their
orders will probably gain nothing. They may lose many valuable months in reepect of delivery. There is no reason to wait for the Show : the chief object" of the Show is not to benefit, the purchaser, but rather to benefit the manufacturers by giving a collective and impressive demonstration of the strength of the industry at the time. New purchasers are, of course, likely to be created, and a world-wide advertisement to be secured, but the established and regular owner of commercial vehicles need not expect to find anything at the July Show by which he will be prejudiced should he have placed most of his orders in January.
" Spotting " the Driver. •
Control on the Road.
There is a not infrequent tendency on the part of the outworker to slack; always providing that he be not paid directly in accordance with results. It is interesting to find that an employee, who may accept with cheerfulness the ordinary routine of supervision in the workshop or in the factory, will, as a general rule, prove impatient of such control when he is sent out on the road or elsewhere remote from the foreman's eye. In certain cases, it must be conceded that such irritation betokens a desire to
be trusted, But that the rank and file can confidently be left to carry out their multifarious duties uncontrolled, is more than arguable.
To the commercial-vehicle industry this question of the supervision of ontworkers is all-important, so much depends upon the driver. The railway employee—we may perhaps except the properly-established porter—is under control every minute of the day ; so it is with the tramway man. The good men are none the worse for it : the poor employees are the better for it.
Where control is practicable it, in general, should be employed. Much of the early discomfiture of the motorcab companies was due to the fact that most of the drivers were in effect free lances, thanks to the uncertainty as to each day's routes and to the driver's effectual tampering with the taximeter.
Elsewhere in this issue we publish a letter from an official of a new organization, a trades union for London motorbus drivers. This communication includes a protest against the employment, by the L.G.O.C., of travelling inspectors, whose duty it is to keep an eye on the drivers and upon their general behaviour on the road. Our correspondent amusingly protests that his concern in this matter is primarily as to whether these inspectors' employers can afford such an organization—whether the expenditure is justified, so rune the letter. It would almost seem hat this is a matter for the company alone, although one cannot but admire the obvious consideration for other people's business which is disclosed.
The same writer is not convincing when he claims that no attempt should be made to control drivers on the road, because, forsooth, magistrates find it difficult. to decide what is recklessness. He. too, is most fearful lest Scotland Yard's efforts on behalf of public service should be embarrassed. Finally, we learn, "these new inspectors are additions to an already unnecessarily large staff of officials "—at any rate that is the solicitous point of view of a trades union official, and at that we will leave it.
There is every reason, while the public is acquiring the new traffic sense, that the motorbus user's goodwill should not be imperilled by the careless or wanton behaviour of a. few drivers. The good men will, we are confident, welcome this new move to eliminate the poor ones and so to improve the already-good reputation of the London motorbus driver. His horsey predecessor had a, world-wide reputation ; there is every reason why he, too, should "set the fashion to the world." by exemnlary driving in the worst traffic in the world. The L.G_O.C. knows too much about staff matters to neglect to select its "spots," with special consideration for their intelligence and their ability to discriminate.