HAULAGE CONTRACTING TO LONDON.
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The Experience of a Maidstone Haulier Who Uses Seven Vehicles.
ON NUMEROUS occasions we have been requested togive our opinion on the comparative prospects of haulage contracting in London and at distances approximately 50 miles outside the metropolis. It is perhaps hardly necessary for us to mention the fact that from the point 61 view of demand London easily leads the way, but, on the other hand, there are more contractors available to meet this demand, and therefore the prospects of any one of them, if he were required to compete with his trade rivals, would obviously be less.
In the case 'of well-populated centres, industrial or 'commercial, situated within easy reach of London, the argument is entirely different. In such instances the haulage contractor stands a better chance of securing business? especially if he be new to the game and has started in an unpretentious way. The area over which he has to make himselfoa,nd his business known is restricted; he has fewer immediate coin.petitors and therefore the likelihood of overlapping is lessened.
Apartfrom these primary considerations, the outof-London haulier is not subject to the annoying delays and inevitable interruptions which accompany the operation of motor vehicles amid a maelstrom of traffic which, naturally, redounds to his advantage.
Most London contractas, or at least those operating few vehicles, confine their activities to London, and that there is much money to be made in this diwction alone is fully evident from the number of demobilized 'men who have firmly established themselves in the ranks of London hauliers during the last 18 months. From ,such places, however, as Maidstone, Chatham, Oxford, Reading, Aylesbury, Watford,' C--Odford, Sheerness, Aldershot, Luton, and similar ce-..ir.tes the local haulage contractor is called upon to untl.irtake the transportation of -goods to London. To quote one instance, most of the paper manufactured at the mills in ',Kent is brought to London by road for distribution -to the various printing houses. Anyone with-a knowledge of the number of papers, magazines and the like (some with enormous world-wide circulations) published in London can readily imagine the quantities of paper which must be brought to London each day, and in fairness to motor transport let it be said that most of it comes by road. On a recent visit to Maidstone we had the pleasure of a short chat with Mr. Burrows, of W. T. Burrows and Son, who runs seven motor vehicles in connection with his haulage contracting business, all of which are used for effecting deliveries of -paper and Other merchandise in London.
"How long have you been haulage contracting, Mr. Burrows ?
"I bought my first motor vehicle in June, 1914, but when I purchased it I had no intention of becoming a haulage contractor. I had been a practical builder for many years previous, and it was in connection with this work that I bought a two-ton Scout in order to be able to transport quickly and economically materials required for the erection of some of the large buildings I had contracted to .erect. I had not been running this vehicle many weeks before I began to receive requests from local concerns to undertake certain haulage work for them."
"From that time onwards you realized the possibilities of haulage contracting by motor vehicle, oh?"
• "Exactly. Since that time I have been haulage contracting until, as I. have already told you, I possess seven vehicles. These are—" " All petrol vehicles ? " we interrupted.
"No. I have six petrol vehicles and one steamer, the latter being a Yorkshire. The petrol lorries are made up as. follows : —Four four-ton -Thornycrofts, one two-ton Thornycroft, and one two-ton Tilling. The steamer hauls a Carrosserie-Latyrner trailer and carries nine tons all told, although on an average it carries little more than seven tons." " Starting as you. did just previous to the war, you must have had difficulties to overcome," we suggested. " Naturally enough. What with vehicles being commandeered and others proving unsuitable for the work, we have had to deal with one or two troublesome problems. But, for all that, we haye kept going and now I amthe largest contractor operating from Maidstone." .
What tonnage do you carry per week ? "
"Two hundred and fifty tons is a good average for each working week of five days.'
" Mileage ? It's a variable figure, but approximates 2,500 per week."
"That is 625,000 ton-miles per week. Very good ; very good." Are the vehicles used solely for Maidstone to London jurneys? " we questioned.
" Not solely, but primarily. I undertake local a deliveries on occasions, but bearing in mind that most of our work is carried out under contract the vehicles have little spare time to 'deal with casual business. The telephone is a great asset to a haulage contractor."
In response to a further question, Mr. Burrows told us that the vehicles carry general merchandise to London for delivery and return with foodstuffs and other commodities, which are collected at the ports for local distribution. If a vehicle collects its load one morning in Maidstone it delivers it in London in the early part of the afteritoon and subsequently proceeds to the clacks or elsewhere, as pre-arranged, to collect its return load. This is not, delivered in Maidstone the same night, the vehicles being garaged as loaded, but the following morning. Two loads are thus delivered each day. " We have heard other contractors complain of delay and congestion at the docks. Do you experience any trouble ? "
"It's scandalous—scandalous. Do you know That on some occasions loads for outward bound ships have been transported to the docks only to be refused entry upon arrival, sometimes for days." " But that is not aloss for you, Mr. Burrows?" "Of course not. I should soon be out of business if it was. Under his .contract the Custorner pays; but although not an actual Monetary loss, it represents a loss of tonnage, which means something out of our pockets. This dock trouble is the bugbear of our present-day operations." "Do you do much light running on the return journeys? "
" Nine times out of ten we are able to arrange for a return load, and consequently the percentage of light running is small.' "What about charges?" we queried. "Oh, they aee at a fixed rate. They —" "Are they the same for all claSses of loads? " we interjected. " China or glass is more valuable as a cargo than waste paper." " Quite so," came the reply ; "hut although we have transpOrted loads similar to the first-named, we have not been troubled with breakages. I suppose it's all a question of careful packing. One of our most important classes of load is hand-made paper. This is expensive and needs careful handling and is always loaded on a covered-in van. We base our chargeg on the tonnage carried, not on the value of the load."
"Which do you find most suitable four work—
petrol or steam vehicles? " • " From the point of view of running cost there is little difference. The Yorkshire with trailer costs about 2s. 5d. per mile all in, whilst the four-ton Thornyerofts average about Is. 6d. per mile. The steanier, of course, can carry nine tons. but this carrying canacity is partially offset by the limited speed at which it is able to travel. Although the Yorkshire has run well since it was purchased in , June, 1.918, and has covered -14,000 miles -on its original Dunlop tyres (which apyrae good for a few thousand miles more), I favour the petrol vehicle for long-distance haulage contracting over country roads."
"Dues that imply that you have hilly distiicts to tackle ? "
" The average Kentish' hills. For all-round efficient working, apart from hill-climbing capabilities, however, commend me to the petrol lorry Considering the nature of our work, 6 m.p.g. for the four-ton Thornycrofts and 8 m.p.g. for the two-tonner of the same make are very good fuel consumption figures ; don't you think so? ' We agreed.
Mr. Burrows went on to speak about tyres, and spoke in expressive and forceful terms regarding the abandonment of the mileage guarantee. He continued: " I use Macintosh tyres chiefly on my vehicles, and they have given every satisfaction. The fact that they invariably exceed the guaranteed mileage means something in my pocket, The average user, in my opinion, is not concerned with.the name of a tyre, or the goodwill of its-manufacturer, but rather with the service it will give him. A firm guarantee is better than placing implicit reliance on a makerrs name."
"Garage ectuipment? Well, it'sjust sufficient for our needs. 'Vire undertake all our minor repairs and replacements, and one day in every six weeks is devoted to an overhaul of each vehicle, The care which we bestow on the machines, ea/. be well imagined when I tell you that our. first fur-ton Thornycroft, which was put into service in September, 1915, has accomplished over 50,000and is still
in splendid running fettle." .
" Is your petrol stored in bulk? "
"Yes. We have installed a 2,000-gallon underground tank, operating on the Bawser principle. This is handy and convenient and, moreover, results in the saving of id. a, gallon on the purchase of petrol—not an unimportant consideration when we use 1,500 gallons per month, I can asl'hire you."
" Conripetition is not great in Maidstone, I suppose?',
" I hardly know whether to answer yes ' or no! We, of course, geta certain amount, but as we are the pioneers of heavy haulageain the town we have -got a good start on other ambitious contractors. • Wherever you go, and whatever your line oi business, you are bound to get competition, and maybe it, is good for trade generally. But do impress on your readers, or rather those contemplating embarking on haulage contracting for a living, the necessity for conforming to local rates and charges I know of one company that is charging less than we do, but I am certain that they must either quickly raiseatheir charges or go out of business. If they come into line with other hauliers in the town all will stand a; chancre-, and profits will be more evenly distributed in proportion to the size of each business : for; after all, none of usslis inrbusiness for the benefit of his health."