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Political Commentary By JANUS

12th April 1957, Page 56
12th April 1957
Page 56
Page 56, 12th April 1957 — Political Commentary By JANUS
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Which of the following most accurately describes the problem?

Keywords : Clearing House

The Eleven Plus

LAST week, I suggested that inter-working among hauliers ought to. proceed by stages, and that the first stage was probably interchange of traffic. Progress may not be easy, even though it is manifestly in the ultimate interests of operators. The chairman of the Road Haulage Association, Mr. R. G. Crowther. has recently put his finger on_at least one of the problems that arise.

He acknowledges the need for inter-working. It is intended, in his opinion, to help hauliers compete with nationalized transport, the threat from which will increase as the various plans of the British Transport Commission mature, To Mr. Crowther, inter-working means first of all the provision of return loads for fellow hauliers. The contact points that he would like to see established all over the country would operate as clear ing houses. .

Now, clearing houses already have a special place in the R.H.A. Members accepted into the clearing-house group have to pass a test that involves, among other things; subscribing to a code of business conduct. They pledge themselves to pay fair rates, and not to deduct a total commission in excess of 10 per cent. Prompt payment and reputable conditions of carriage are demanded. Clearing houses must take reasonable care to use only hauliers who are adequately licensed. Hauliers in their turn are expected to carry out the work properly and to respect the relationship between the customer and the clearing house.

Strong Impulse To reach agreement on this code of conduct was a remarkable achievement. It presupposes a strong impulse, or temptation, on the part of clearing houses to act in a contrary manner. There have always been clearing houses only too willing to accept traffic at absurdly low rates, in the certainty that somebody or other would. be found equally willing to carry it for even less. The soil turned over by disposal was particularly favourable for the growth of mushroom clearing houses. To persuade a number of the more reliable kind to distinguish themselves by agreement to a set of rules was

a service much appreciated by hauliers.

These clearing houses, as Mr. Crowther points out., already form some of the contact points that he has in mind. Further contact points would presumably be set up by the joint action of groups of hauliers in particular towns. They would inevitably come into competition with members of the association's clearing house group. They would be eligible to join the group, although it is doubtful whether this simple solution of the problem of their existence is feasible.

Entry to the group requires the satisfaction of certain fairly stringent conditions, as well as mere willingness to sign the code of conduct. It is right that this should be. so. Contravention of the code can be punished only by expulsion from the group. This is possible in theory, but has obvious legal snags apart from the difficulty of obtaining and presenting proper evidence. Moral rather than physical sanctions uphold the code of conduct in present circumstances.

If it becomes easy to enter the group, the machinery for expulsion would have to be strengthened, with most .1 c16 undesirable consequences. One bad egg would ruin the reputation of the whole batch, and long after it had been ejected the odour wotild remain. Hauliers, having been told that a certain clearing house was a member of the group, would take a long time to find out that he had been expelled.

Existing members of the group might well resist an) policy of dilution. They may have to find some othet method of coming to terms with the growing movement in favour of inter-working. Mr. Crowther speaks of " joint organizations" of clearing houses and longdistance hauliers, but he does not explain how the two elements can settle down amicably Within the same trading organization when one of the is a party to a code of business conduct that the other need not observe.

No doubt the probity of the hauliers is as high as that of the clearing houses, but if both are to be treated as on the same level there seems no point in having the code of conduct. It is rather like submitting children to the I I-plus examination, and then putting those who pass and those who fail back into the same class

Retrograde Step

To abandon ihe code would be a retrograde step There may have to be another code made to the pattern of the long-distance hauliers. Their committee are known to be working on the subject, amongst others. They have already published a list cf members, which was put to good use during the period of acute petrol shortage. If such a list is to be issued regularly, it may become necessary to ask those members whose names are included to satisfy certain conditions, As it is, even definitions are not clear-cut. There is no agreement on when a distance becomes long, and references to medium distances merely confuse the issue further. The operator who undertakes a journey of 200 miles perhaps once a fortnight, and otherwise keeps within a 25-mile radius of his garage, may be technically a long-distance haulier, and may have been of some help to other operators during the fuel crisis. He can hardly expect to have his name included on a permanent list of people prepared to enter wholeheartedly into a scheme of inter-working such as that envisaged by Mr. Crowther,

Long-distance hauliers should first look into this problem of definition. They should find what is common to them all, and use it as the condition of entry to their group. Then will -come the time to examine the differences. Members of the group will find that some of their number have only one depot, and others have several; that some run regular services, and others do tramping work; and so on.

In this way, registers will be compiled of each kind of long-distance operator, and of the hauliers who are already working together in groups. Not every category may be found suitable for inclusion in a published list. Within the categories that remain, the next step is to secure agreement to a set of rules comparable to the clearing house code. It is important, when this stage is reached, to make the rules as rigorous as possible. Only in this way can joint organizations be set up that are likely to work smoothly and to have the confidence of the hauliers who will be recommended to use them.

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