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matters By John Darker AMB M
Professional status for road transport
IF road transport—or distribution, of which it is a vital function—is to attain professional status the industry will have to discuss in great detail the educational, technical and operating standards it deems necessary. It may be that-professional status cannot be conferred upon an industry by itself, however worthy—and well qualified —its senior people may be. Professional status requires public esteem, more particularly the esteem of established professions like medicine, the law, architecture, etc.
Perhaps it goes without saying that public recognition in this sense cannot possibly be won quickly. Road transport as an industry quite vital to the nation's economic health has been built up by thrusting entrepreneurs unashamedly seeking a good profit as recompense for good service. It is hardly surprising that many managers in the industry, particularly those under 40, have difficulty in promoting a good image of their calling in a world that is now environmentally conscious as never before.
As standards of professional competence in the industry improve it is probable that the hostility that now exists between the road haulage and environment lobbies will diminish. Very large companies with a major involvement in transport are increasingly prepared to meet the claims of environmentalists half way. This is evident in the area of vehicle exhaust emission, aircraft noise, pollution and oil discharge in seaways. Any responsible manager who attempts to swim against the current in such matters invites ridicule. The new approach is to spell out the cost of complying with environmental factors, endeavouring to achieve measurable progress against a reasonable time scale.
Last week, in an examination of a recent paper on "The status, qualifications and training of road transport engineer managers", some estimates were quoted of the numbers of top, second and bottom grade managers under a voluntary transport management licence scheme. Although the author, Mr J. A. C. Williams, had been at pains to defend the interests and status of road transport engineers in relation to their colleagues in chartered institutions, it would not have been easy in such a detailed paper to avoid any controversial matters.
For example, after suggesting that a non-engineering graduate might be granted a top grade voluntary TML permitting him to exercise all the functions of a transport manager except the authorization of technical engineering work, he added the following sentence: "In an allegedly advanced industrial country where road safety is said to be of importance, the present lackadaisical approach of nonengineers to controlling engineering work such as that in road transport can only be construed in terms, not of the intentions of the Acts, but of vested commercial interests".
Nothing could more clearly highlight the dilemma of an industry seeking to improve its status than this pouring of petrol on the age-old conflict between engineers and traffic managers. A handful of firms in the industry have made serious efforts to redefine responsibilities in such a way as to eliminate entirely the traditional friction between engineer and traffic manager. Little engineering skill is needed to know that many vehicles are on the road with easily remedied defects. Who should be blamed, the engineer, -traffic manager, proprietor or the Government—which removes the established licensing restraints with the certain effect that competition for traffic will tempt many to scamp maintenance?
One approach to the traditional conflict of engineers with traffic staffs is some form of training which includes both disciplines. There are numbers of managers in the industry who are professionally qualified in engineering and management, not least in municipal bus transport. If such old-school managers could fina the time and energy to pursue dual studies 30 years or more ago it should not be beyond the ability of ambitious youngsters today to repeat the process. Nor should it be ruled out as impracticable by training institutions or trade unions.
What sort of qualifications would be appropriate for top grade TML's? Says Mr Williams: "Considerable academic nonsense has been talked about the top voluntary grade being pitched at university degree or chartered engineer level; one must ask if this level is relevant to road transport practice involving as it does much more non-engineering than engineering knowledge and note that there is only a small number of people in the population in general (and in road transport in particular), who are qualified at this level. The sheer size of the problem of providing properly licensed people will partly determine the level, and there does not appear to have been sufficient research into this yet".
From the status aspect, I am not at all sure that Mr Williams is right in aiming below the level of a university degree or a chartered engineer for the top people in road transport. For parity of esteem between professions the length of training and the level of competence achieved by examination, is all-important. Why should an ambitious road transport or distribution executive argue that his calling is less demanding in terms of intellectual effort than that of a chartered accountant or solicitor or doctor?
Quite apart from professional training for a vocation, bright youngsters from grammar school who have qualified as chartered accountants in recent years have been heard to regret bitterly that they began their articles at 17, passing over the chance of a university. Today, the best prospects go to the professionally trained man who gets his introduction to industry following a three-year stint at a university.
The minimum examination standard suggested by Mr Williams for top grade engineer holders of transport managers licences (with 500 or more vehicles under their charge) is the City and Guilds Final Technological Certificate in Auto Engineering (Syllabus 170). This would need to be supplemented by instruction on nonengineering operational requirements and would approximate closely to modern IRTE academic requirements for membership and associate membership.
Second grade TMs • The second grade transport managers would need to pass the examination of the City and Guilds Syllabus 168 (Motor Vehicle Mechanics) entitling the holders to supervise a fleet of up to 100 vehicles. A new C and G syllabus for Motor Vehicle Operator-Driver is seen as a suitable qualifications for the bottom grade manager.
Mr Williams points out that some 5000 automobile engineering trainees qualify annually for the City and Guilds Syllabus 168 (Motor Vehicle Mechanics Certificate). This qualification is not accepted
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