HARDSHIP STAGE NOW REACHE N RATIONING OF FUEL
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Torrent of Grim Reports from All Over Britain Mocks Government Optimism
'THE hardship stage of fuel rationing had been reached by many goods-vehicle operators early this week. Reports show that in a number of cases, a combination of basic and supplementary allowances amounts to only about a third of hauliers' normal consumption. The accuracy of the Government's calculation of the basic ration as being equal to half the normal consumption of petrol and a third of that of oil fuel is widely questioned. It is clear, however, that most operators expect to receive supplementary allocations to bring their consumption to three-quarters of the normal, although the Minister has said that, in saving overall a quarter of road transport's usual consumption, some operators would have to be content with less.
According to some reports, operators carrying essential traffic are getting more than 75 per cent, of their normal consumption. This traffic includes foodstuffs carried in bulk, medical supplies, materials for the steel industry and newsprint. But where traffic normally carried by road can be moved by rail, is not essential to national life and industry, and is not being fed to railways or ports, the chances of a goods-vehicle operator receiving supplementary fuel are small.
Mr. L. W. Fletcher, managipg director of Capes Transport, Ltd., Balsall Common, said last week: "We have just received the supplementary allocation for our fleet of 60 vehicles. It amounts to a cut of 75 per cent."
Unless extra fuel were allowed, half the company's drivers would be dismissed within a fortnight. Most of their work was moving export goods.
Mr. Fletcher went on: "Our supplementary petrol covers only A and B work, and takes no account of our regular contracts. We nor-Melly carry loads of cycle rims and gas cookers, but for neither of these contracts have we been allowed any extra petrol."
Another big job was moving. explosives, which the railways normally did not like. "Many of our jobs in this direction involve moving explosives to the docks to be loaded as deck cargo," said Mr. Fletcher. "We get the order in the afternoon with instructions to deliver first thing the next morning. I cannot see the railways coping with orders of that sort."
Little for Parcels
A survey of other operators in the Midlands revealed that a concern carrying radio sets had 36 per cent, of its normal fuel consumption without supplementary., a four-week period, Collins xpress Parcels Service, Walsall Wood, had been granted 2,800 gal, basic allowance and 1,384 gal. supplementary, which was 38 per cent. of the 11,000 gal, normally used. L. E. J. Bayliss Transport, Birmingham, have been granted 412 gal. basic and 168 gal. supplementary-34 per, cent, of the 1,697 gal. normally used.
A furniture manufacturer of Balsall (-4
Common had been issued with 336 gal. basic and 100 gal. supplementary-33 per cent, of the 1,320 gal, normally used in a four-week period. Only 24.5 per cent, of normal consumption had been granted to a Birmingham asbestos mining and ,building concern. Overall, operators in the area were generally receiving less than 40 per cent. of normal consumption.
Mr. E. W. Watts, of E. W. Watts Haulage, Ltd., Sutton Coldfield, told The Commercial Motor on Monday that his company had been granted 767 gal. of fuel a week, which included an interim supplementary issue. His fleet normally consumed 1,792 gal. a week.
His business was concerned mainly with cattle and milk haulage, and he could not reduce running without affecting the delivery of these products. In view of the similarity of his traffic with that carried by farmers, he was aggrieved because most local farmers were getting what fuel they needed. .
None More Than Half
Mr. L. Patrick, Midlands secretary of the Traders Road Transport Association, said last week: "I know of no member of ours whose total basic allowance, plus supplementary, exceeds 33 per cent, of his normal consumption.
do not know of anyone who has received more than 50 per cent, of his basic issue."
Replying to a statement by the West Midland Regional Transport Commissioner that only 7,108 out of 55,000 operators in his area had applied for supplementary fuel, Mr. G. F. Goodwin. of the Road Haulage Association, said that most of the operators who had not applied were C licensees and many would be able to manage on their basic ration. On the other hand, nearly all the 2,200 A and B licensees in the area had applied for supplementary fuel.
Mr. C. Collins, chairman of the West Midland Area of the R.H.A., said that at the week-end his company would have to take 40 of their 79 vehicles off the road. Yet they were delivering essential goods, such as medical supplies end food. British Railways had admitted they could not handle these, he pointed out.
Basic and supplementary fuel granted
to Little Haywood Transport. Ltd., Burton-on-Trent, provided for 28 per cent. of the normal running, Mr. R. E. Mason told The Commercial Motor. Ife forecast that if he were not allowed extra fuel he would have to close down his coal-carrying operations on January25. He thought that certain kinds of coal traffic diverted to the railways because of fuel rationing would never be recovered.
Morton's (Coventry), Ltd., Coventry, who are coal merchants and factors as well as coal hauliers, have, as a matter of expediency, transferred from road to rail 2,000 tons of coal a week, mainly for long distances. This represents about a third of the tennage normally carried by road. On Monday, the company had not been supplied with supplementary fuel.
Rates Structure Threat
Coal hauliers generally see a threat in the new rates structure which permits the railways to use their discretion when quoting rates for more than 100 tons.
Just as they were about to give notice to their 100 employees last Friday, Home Counties Plant Hire, Ltd.. Ilford, who operate 52 vehicles on the longdistance haulage of newsprint, newspapers and other goods, heard that a grant of supplementary fuel Was to be reconsidered.
Earlier, they had receive a supplementary fuel representing 151 per cent, of their requirements. The notices were withdrawn, but the general manager, Mr. P. F. Bennett,told The Commercial Motor on Monday that they would have to close down soon if the grant was not substantially increased.
The Food Manufacturers Federation are "extremely worried" about fuel supplies for goods vehicles. The president, Mr. R. S. Worth, said last week that food manufacturers had not yet received supplementary rations, nor an indication of the quantities they were likely to get. The treatment they were receiving from the Ministry of Transport's local officers varied within "very wide limits."
Services Reduced Mr. J. B. Mitchell, Scottish Area chairman of the R.H.A., said that most hauliers in Scotland had cut their services greatly. This had often been done by back-loading on other operators' vehicles, whether or not it paid them to do so. His concern's customers had been told that the railways should be used where possible for long-distance traffic.
An Edinburgh haulier, Mr. H. Bell, said: "The basic ration gives us about 20-25 per cent, of normal running. We have been issued with some supplementary, but it amounts to only a sixth of the basic ration. . . the ray of hope is that it is only an interim issue."
Mr, A. Scott, of Glasgow, said that if he did not receive more petrol he would have to dismiss 150 men by the end of the week. " I have more than 50 vehicles. We will keep going as long as we can, but already my basic ration for four months is nearly finished."
W. B. Russell, Ltd., Glasgow, who operate more than 50 lorries, have already taken nine QUI of service. A spokesman for Allied Transport, Ltd., who act as a clearing house for English hauliers, forecast a serious hold-up in the transport of goods.
Mr. W. Middlemist, transport manager of John Duncan and Co., Edinburgh, said: " Our situation is desperate. Last week-end we had to pay off 12 of our 30 drivers." If the company did not get more fuel before the middle of February they would have to close down.
Rail No Answer Industrialists in north-east Scotland claim that because of their geographical position, a switch-over of goods from road to rail is no answer to their problems. Fish merchants, paper manufacturers and engineering and agricultural industries, are all concerned over the dislocation which will arise if hauliers have to stop or severely restrict their services.
A paper manufacturer said that if a customer required supplies urgently they could be sent by road in 24 hours. If they went by rail the journey might take up to 10 days.
Concerns such as Trollope and Colts, Ltd., Aberdeen, who supply concrete pipes to hydro-electric schemes in the Highlands, claim that the use of the railways would be impracticable because of the inaccessibility of the destination of the goods.
Mr. J. Brannigan, secretary of the Scottish Horse and Motormen's Association, said that employers bad given an assurance that they would endeavour to keep their men in employment. In the north-eastern district of the Association, more than 100 members had already been either paid off or were under notice.
Furniture Price Rise Mr. C. Archibald, chairman of the Aberdeen Furaishing Trades Association, said that for many years all the furniture for Aberdeen stores had been sent north by road. If manufacturers were compelled to switch over to the railways, he expected that prices would rise sharply, and that there would be long delays in delivery.
London Carriers, Ltd., have withdrawn from service more than 100 of their 160 lorries. Early this week they had not received any supplementary fuel, although they applied for it on December 17. Their fleet normally consumed 17,000-18,000 gal. a week, and they were now reduced to running on 3,000 gal. a week. Most of the London Carriers' vehicles are under contract to carry radio and television equipment for the Philips electrical factories in the Croydon area.
At an emergency meeting last week, 60 members of the Carlisle sub-area of the R.H.A. heard that lorries had been taken out of service and men dismissed because of the fuel position. Many hauliers still had had no news of their applications for supplementary allowances. It was decided to approach the three local Members of Parliament.
Mr. S. Robson, of Robson's Border Transport, who run about 100 vehicles carrying essential foodstuffs, said last week that they had received some supplementary fuel, but it was insufficient for their work.
At a Conservative meeting in Kendal, Mr. W. M. F. Vane, M.P. for Westmorland, said he thought the R.H.A. had every justification for the representations they were making. If he were supplied with details of any person likely to go out of business as a result of the restrictions, he would do what he could to help.
A deputation from the Teeside Subarea of the R.H.A. told Mr. J. E. S. Simon, M.P. for Middlesbrough West, that when they had to apply repeatedly for supplementary fuel they could not plan ahead. They thought hauliers should he given a fixed percentage cut based on the consumption by the industry before rationing.
. Wasteful Feature The fact that hauliers had to get all their vehicles licensed to obtain fuel, when it would he more economical to reduce their fleets, was a wasteful feature of the scheme, and the adoption of a fixed percentage cut would avoid this handicap. Mr. Simon sympathized with their views.
Hundreds of hauliers in Yorkshire have been granted interim supplementary allowances. Mr. T. Wilkinson, secretary of the West Riding area of the R.H.A., has told the 800 members in the area that those who had applied for supplementary fuel would receive 50 per cent, of the basic petrol ration and 100 per cent. of the basic dery allowance.
Mr. G. W. Woodward, Barwell, near Hinckley, Leics, who runs 21 vehicles on special A licences, has so far been granted petrol equal to 25 per cent., and dery equal to 18 per cent, of his normal consumption. This includes an interim grant of supplementary. He estimates that this will last him until the end of the month.
The supplementary fuel was granted on condition that he did not use it for general traffic outside a radius of 60 miles of the traffic's point of origin, yet he made it clear in his application that all his work was done over distances greater than 60 miles. He is to appeal.
Mr. Woodward bought back his nationalized business a year ago. For vehicles and premises he paid about £30.000. He runs daily smalls services to London, Manchester, Glasgow and Edinburgh, and operates on three days ' a week a smalls service to Liverpool, Leeds and Bradford.
Messrs. Williams Bros., Treuddyn, near Mold. Flints, last week served notice of dismissal on their 80 drivers because of the shortage of fuel.
Mr. E. Williams, a partner in the firm, said they could meet only 46 per cent, of their fuel requirements, and unless they had additional supplies they would have to close down in a fortnight. They had sent an urgent appeal to the Ministry of Transport for more fuel, but had received no reply.
Works May Close He said their application had been supported by British Celanese, Ltd., many other customers and the Transport and General Workers' Union. The firm carry the raw materials to the British Celanese works at Wrexham, which may have to close if deliveries stop. About 1,000 people are employed there.
Williams Bros. also provide all the. transport at three opencast coal mining sites in North Wales, and if the coal cannot be moved, production may come to a standstill. This would mean a loss of between 3,000 and 4,000 tons of coal a week.
Mr. Williams said they also employed about 30 sub-contractors, a number of whom had been refused supplementary fuel.
Mr. C. P. Owens, South Wales Area secretary of the R.H.A., said last week that one or two small members had been refused supplementary fuel. " Most of our members, including all the larger firms, are still waiting for the result of their applications."
Last week, two Bradford hauliers declared that already there was a pileup of wool bales at Hull and Liverpool because of the shortage of fuel for lorries. A Bradford wool merchant said that hauliers were refusing orders until they had a decision on the supplementary ration.
Small Men Hit A spokesman for a small wool concern in Bradford said the road haulage position was seriously hitting small concerns. "We are finding it increasingly difficult to arrange road haulage to collect skin wools from fellmongers in all parts of England, Scotland and Wales. Our turnover is already down.
They had turned to British Railways, but delivery was greatly delayed. He said they had about 3 tons of wool for collection at Lancaster and delivery to Bradford. "The railways said it was an overnight job. We found, however, that it took them exactly a fortnight to effect delivery," he said. s Mr. Boyd Bowman, secretary of the National Conference of Road Transport Clearing Houses, said that a London operator who had complained about the smallness of his supplementary allowance had now been granted 80 per cent. of his normal consumption.