OBILITY OF LABOUR VERCOMES SHORTAGE
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By Alan Smith, F.R.S.A. ELECTRICITY boards have been working hard for . nearly 10 years to keep pace with rapidly growing supply demands and this process is unlikely to be arrested. , At the same -time, they have been and are competing with other industries for labour. In the 3,100-sq.-mile area covered by the South Eastern Electricity Board, for example, big projects such as the Kent oil refinery, Crawley New Town and Gatwick . airport are magnets for the kind of man that the undertaking requires for work such as laying new mains and installing equipment at sub-stations along the lines of supply, and in consumers'
premises. . . . .
Since vesting day on April 1, 1948, Seeboard's consumers have risen in number from 859,000 to 1,162,000. There were 6,644 high-voltage sub-stations in commission in the first year of nationalization, compared with 11,575 after nine years' operation, and the mileage of mains and dables, including overhead lines, has extended from 14,351 to 18,502. In 1947-48, 1,796.3rn. kilowatt-hours of electricity were sold and by last year the total had climbed to 4,063.12m. Yet since 1951 the undertaking's staff has fallen by 699 to its present strength of 9,106.
Expansion of service and supply facilities to the extent indicated—an unsung but nevertheless important achieve-. rnent—would have been impossible had not advantage been taken of vehicles to confer a high degree of mobility on the labour force and thus enhance its effectiveness. Such is the chief function of Seeboard's 1,127 vehicles, which ran some 1 lim. miles last year. Of these, 698 are vans, lorries and special types, 372 cars and 57 motorcycles.
In building up the fleet to meet such a role, overspecialization in bodywork specification has been avoided, so that any one of the " commercial " types can be used to perform a variety of tasks. This policy is best illustrated by the provision of towing hooks on most vehicles of 30-cwt, capacity and above, and on all l0-cwt. pick-ups, so that, for example, two-wheeled trailers, used by cable jointers to carry their outfits can be taken wherever needed by any prime mover. Many vehicles are also fitted to carry staff, so that not only can such a prime mover tow a trailer, but can transport the cable jointers as well. Seeboard have nearly 400 of these trailers.
At vesting day, the Board took over 50 private and localauthority electricity undertakings and inherited a heterogeneous collection of 744 vehicles with an average age of 71 years, the oldest being a 1925 Thornycroft. Since then, 1,438 new vehicles have been purchased both to increase fleet strength by 383 and replace 1,055 veteran outfits. The average age of the present fleet is 4.1 years.
Up to March 31 this year, nearly £700,000 had been spent on new vehicles: 21 per cent. of this amount was offset by the disposal by competitive tender of the old vehicles. In addition, the sale of sundry obsolete items, such as tyres and batteries, realized almost £12,000. The replacement value of the fleet today, on the basis of prevailing values rather than historical depreciation, is £680,000. Nearly
all the vehicles are of popular makes, over halfof them being products of Ford.
The composition of the van and lorry section of the fleet by weights is as follows: Up to and including 5 cwt., 195; 5-12 cwt. 241; 12-30 cwt., 72; 11-3 tons, 103; over 3 tons, 44. There are also 43 special types.
Thames vehicles comprise 126 of 5-cwt. and 101 of 10-cwt. capacity; six 10-cwt. Utilecons; 43 vehicles in the 2-3-ton range, including a mobile workshop and a four-wheel-drive outfit; two 3-4-ton tippers; two 5-tonners; a tower wagon; and six tractors incorporating special equipment for overhead-line erection.
Austin is represented by 15 5-cwt. and 24 10-cwt. vans; two 10-cwt. Countryman utilities; four 10-cwt. A40 pick-ups and three of 25-cwt. capacity; 18 1-11-ton vans, five of which have Luton heads; 28 2-3-tonners; two 2-ton Luton vans; 12 5-tormers, one of which is a tipper, another an articulated outfit and a third a pantechnicon; a 25-cwt. chassis with special bodywork for mains-testing gangs; two 6-8-ton "attics "; and two tower wagons.
Bedfords comprise 16 10-12-cwt. vans, seven of which have Luton bodywork; four 30-cwt. outfits; 20 2-3-ton and six 3-4-ton vans, ordinary lorries and tippers; eight 5tonners, three of which have four-wheel drive; seven 6-ton " attics three 2-3-ton mains-testing outfits; 22 tower wagons; a tanker; and a compressor transporter.
Morris have contributed 54 5-cwt. vans, 11 Cowley 10-cwt. vans and 33 pick-ups; and Morris-Commercial 30 1-type vans and a Utilabus based on a 1-type chassis; a 12 15-cwt. van; two Minibus 13-seaters to carry clerical staff to and from work (following the amalgamation of some branch offices with others); 18 15-20-cwt. vans; six 25-cwt. lorries; six 30-cwt. vans and lorries; seven 2-3tonners; three 5-tonners; a 3-ton test outfit; and a tower wagon.
A Commer or Karrier badge attaches to eight 25-cwt. vans, and three 2-3-ton and 2-4-ton lorries, including a tipper. The remainder of the fleet is made up of 13 10-cwt. and seven 15-cwt. Land-Rovers—another is being fitted out as a foreman's office, mobile rest-cum-tea room with a Calor-gas cooker for men working on isolated sites; a Chevrolet 1-ton four-wheel-drive vehicle; two Ferguson tractors with special equipment for overhead-line installation and maintenance; a Rapier mobile crane; and an Aveling Barford roller.
Seeboard's area is divided into five sub-areas and there are approximately 200 vehicles based at some dozen points in each. The main concentrations of vehicles are at Croydon, Twickenham, Eastbourne, the Medway towns and Brighton and Hove (from where Mr. R. H. Patman, trans port and stores officer, controls the provision and main tenance of vehicles from headquarters). Bulk petrol-storage installations are provided at 43 points throughout the area and are supplied by Mobil and Shell. Total licensed storage capacity is 29,900 gal. Absence of similar widespread facilities for oil fuel, together with relatively low annual mileages returned by large vehicles, has retarded the introduction of oilers into the fleet. The first of these are to be B.M.C. 3-5-ton models.
Vehicles of under 3 tons capacity are in the main driven by craftsmen, inspectors and engineers, and are largely engaged upon installing and servicing equipment and appliances, and the maintenance of overhead lines, also the delivery of showroom displays. Heavier outfits are in the hands of selected men specifically employed as drivers and are used primarily for underground and overhead cable laying and maintenance, and hauling loads, such as cable switchgear and transformers, of up to 10 tons.
One of the newest vehicles in the fleet, a MorrisCommercial mobile workshop for transformer maintenance (described in The Commercial Motor on July 5), typifies Seeboard's policy to build up a fleet in which any vehicle can meet a variety of needs. This not only means that for any job there are mariy suitable vehicles, but also that any vehicle need seldom be idle. The mobile workshop carries an electricity generator, is equipped with benches and tools, and can accommodate drums of new transformer oil at the rear and recovered oil in a 110-gal. tank behind the cab.
The bodybuilders, Adams and Adams, Ltd., Dickerage Lane, New Malden, Surrey, have worked closely with Seeboard on the provision of other special outfits used by the undertaking, building to the specifications of Mr.
Patman and Mr. 0. E. de Lissa, transport engineer. Another type of vehicle collaboratively evolved is a Bedford CA chassis with a Heathman 25-ft. extending ladder mounted on a turntable. Behind the cab is a bulkhead with a rearward-facing seat for three men under a canopy.
Seeboard are responsible for the maintenance of about 75 per cent, of the 113,847 street lamps in their area. The three light vehicles of this pattern are often found handier than towers, as the ladders can overhang pavements for men to reach lamps attached to walls, and to reach lamps on standards close to trees. There are also 25 tower wagons of conventional type, 19 with three-stage extension to a height of 25 ft. and six four-stage 30-ft. models. These vehicles have workshop cabins with facilities for repairing equipment and carrying spares. '
A compressor for road works is based upon a Bedford 2-3-ton chassis, and some trailer-mounted generators and compressors are used for fault-location or for providing mains current in an emergency. Seeboard staff are on stand-by throughout the 24 hours, so that breakdowns can be dealt with and all necessary equipment brought into use without delay.
A feature of the Land-Rovers is the provision of capstan winches at the front for pulling cables through ducts or lifting conductors up to cross-arms on overhead-line poles and towers. The cross-country capabilities of the Land Rovers are valuable on such work. Heavy loads may be carried over rough ground by the 4 x 4 Chevrolet, Bedford and Thames vehicles.
Heavy equipment is moved by several Bedford-Carrimore articulated outfits with a well length of 14 ft. Loading is facilitated by the use of a Thompson 6-7-ton winch at the front of the semi-trailers. Tall household appliances may be delivered in a Bedford CA van with a special Superline body and an incerior height of 6 ft. When cookers or refrigerators need to be taken to Seeboard's central repair depots, they are carried on rear-well platform vehicles with Adams bodywork having Luton heads. Austin 30-cwt. Luton vans have been Modified so that lengths of conduit may be carried protruding from the front,
Five trailers fitted as mobile offices and showrooms are ti'sed for demonstrations, displaying appliances and collecting accounts in country districts. They are towed by Land-Rovers and each may be left at a site for a few days before being moved elsewhere. For.general workshop and stores duties, Seeboard are using a Thames 2-tonner which has been provided with a bench and stores bins and modified for carrying a ladder. There is seating for six passengers.
As the bodies are mounted directly on the chassis without longitudinal runners, the loading Une of Bedford, Austin and Morris-Commercial 3-5-tonners is lower than normal and allows the vehicles to be termed semi-low-loaders and used to carry fairly heavy items of equipment. Loading is by means of a geared hand winch and skids, and there is a holster at each end of the body for supporting poles. The rear bolster is provided with a roller for ease and safety in loading. Folding seats are fitted so that 20 men may be carried, So that they can operate independently on locating faults, each of three Bedford test vans is fitted with a generator driven by a power take-off, and carries a" range of breakdown equipment. Versatility also extends to the design of several cable-drum-carrying trailers supplied by R. C. Gibbin and Co., Ltd. Drums weighing up to 4 tons can be carried on a spindle, which allows cable to be paid out as the trailer is drawn along. When not required for drums, a platform may be fitted to a trailer so that it can be employed to move transformers or other indivisible loads.
Morris Cowley pick-ups are in wide use by mains foremen and are adapted to carry a few men and a ladder, and to tow trailers. Forward-control 3-type vans can carry eight passengers plus another sitting beside the driver. In the smallest class, the Austin 5-cwt. type is favoured, as it has a well allowing adequate leg room for two occupants behind the driver, folding seats being fitted to lie flush with the loading platform when let down. A few vehicles have been experimentally fitted with two-way radio. When vehicles are purchased, they are delivered to Brighton for certain approved accessories to be fitted. These include a foglamp, direction indicators, dual windscreen-wiper arms, sun vizor, element-type demister, front seat covers, parcels shelf, front passenger's seat, ladder rack and interior cab light. These add some .£20-£30 to the cost of the vehicle.
Melanoid anti-corrosion paint is applied to the underparts of new vehicles; this treatment is considered particularly important for vehicles operating in coastal areas and subject to attack by salt spray. An interesting feature of the paint-transfer lettering of " Electricity " on the medium-green paintwork is that it is a facsimile of Faraday's handwriting.
Workshop Programmes A card on which the vehicle's maintenance history will be recorded is made out for each new unit, which is then sent to the sub-area depot from which it will operate. These cards, supplied by Shannon, Ltd., are kept at Brighton and filled in according to data supplied from sub-areas. The information they reveal, together with reports from an inspector who tours depots to examine the condition of vehicles, enables workshop programmes to be planned, as well as providing figures for calculating individual vehicle operating costs every six months. These figures form the basis of transport charges made to other departments.
Each vehicle has a 16-point service at intervals of 1,000 miles or a month, whichever is the sooner. This includes examination of clutch, brakes and front end. At 2,000-mile intervals five extra tasks are performed. Sump oil is renewed at 3,000 miles, at which period road wheels are changed round. Transmission oils are changed at 6,000 miles and hubs are cleaned and repacked with grease. The condition of the brake facings is noted when this job is done, and oil-filter elements are renewed. At 9,000 miles the shock absorbers are topped up and the dynamo charging rate checked.
The 1,000-mile routine service keeps a •vehicle off the road for only half a day, requiring 6-iman-hours, and the longer service attentions a full day. Transport maintenance staff are employed at most vehicle bases in the ratio of one fitter, mate and labourer to every 30-40 vehicles: work is entrusted to selected local traders where Seeboard staff are not available.
When major components require replacement, this work is put out to traders. Although Seeboard have one of the biggest fleets in the country, it is considered more economic to rely largely on the repair trade rather than, for instance, to run a central overhaul depot with capital tied up in equipment and spares stocks.
Shell lubricants are used, an S.A.E.20 oil not fully detergent being specified for all engines. Vehicle life varies from 90,000 miles for light vehicles to 150,000 miles for bigger types. The nature of the districts in which vehicles work gives rise to extremes; for example, the engine of a vehicle operating in a " tight " urban district may last for only a fraction of the mileage of that of a vehicle used in a rural area. Decarbonization and engine replacement by makers' reconditioned units are performed when found necessary by inspection and test reports.
Results from using different kinds of remoulded tyre are that on average the Tyresoles process gives 84 per cent. of new-tyre life, manufacturers' remoulds 75 per cent. and other processes 661 per cent.
Safety records are subject to constant surveillance and the rate of accidents last year was reduced to one per 19,742 miles or 53.9 accidents for every 100 vehicles, the term " accident " including minor mishaps, such as dents and scratches. A £.5 excess is carried by the undertaking in respect of insurance. In 1955, 296 drivers were entered for the safe-driving competition of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents and 264 gained awards. Last year the total of entries was 451.