The Best Way to Control Road Haulage
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A Résumé of an Interesting Brochure Written by Mr. Roger Smoi11, MA., M.Inst.T., as a Counterblast to Nationalization Proposals and to Promotes Discussion ASHORT history of the road-transport. industry, combined with suggestions on how road transport may develop after the war, has been issued as a booklet (price 6d.), entitled "The Future of Transport, Possible Developments in Road Haulage,— by Mr. Roger Sewill, M.A., M.Inst.T., National Director of .A.R.O.
The author says that demands for nationalization of many of our. industries are hearsi on all sides, and that they are so often. made by people ,without practical experience and without knoWledge of the difficulties. Road haulage is especially subject to ill-considered " planning."
. One fact of immense significance is the numberof units concerned. •There are 60,000 hauliers owning an av.erage of two to three vehicles. The latest reports show that at June SO, 1938, there were -about 27,000Aand 34,00.0 B-licence holders, the corresponding vehicles being 93,000 and 55,000 respectively. Then there are about 178,000 C licensees owning 365,040 vehicles.
Much bitterness was engendered previously through battles. in the licensing courts; chiefly between the hauliers and railways. Before the war an agreement was reached between the two which had the effect of lessening considerably the number of objections, and there is no reason why this should not be continued.
Somewhat alarming to the haulier is the fact that before they war, in the: face of a noticeable increase in Clicensed vehicles, the numbers under A:and B licences were 'virtually stationary; in fact, there was a slight decrease as compared
witb September, 30, 1935. •;
The one factor' on the roadside not 'so. far dealt with by legislation is the question of charges, which were completely unregulated.Competition between. road and rail has increased the efficiency of" both • services, and whilst the trader was reaping the benefit it was reducing rates to such a level that efficiency was likely to be impaired. it was this position which -led -to the " Square Deal " campaign of the railways in 1938.
At the height of this, steps were taken by the hauliers and the railways to meet and prepare a 'joint document for submission to the Transport Advisory Council, which, in March, 1939, issued a report on the proposals of the railways as to the conveyance of merchandise by rail.
The proposals envisaged released the railways from many statutory obligations as to charging, thus enabling them to enter more easily into agreements with hauliers,There was also to be statutory enforcement upon hauliers. of rates agreements entered into with the railways.
One result was the setting up of the Road and Rail Central Conference. This and its Regional Committees have continued their task, and have gone a long way towards producing a satisfactory rates 'structure.
Government Moves During the War The author then deals with road transport at war, referring to fuel rationing, the various pools, and, later, the first Road Haulage Organization of the M.O.W.T., with dual control by this and the Hauliers' National Traffic Pool, which was admittedly somewhat cumbersome, nut was functioning smoothly and moving considerable traffic.
Following the threat of the rubber shortage, the Minister announced -a new Scheme, and it remains to be seen whether this ambitious project will effect its objects.
Mr. Sewill.says the national interest demands, an efficient transport system after the war. The railways are the backbone of the carrying industry, but road haulage has come into its own. In the interests of both industries and of the puha, the situation which gave rise to the " Square Deal " cannot be allowed to recur.
It is difficult to appreciate how the efficiency or road haulage will be improved as a. result of increased control by the Government. One of the main factors in the growth of 'road 'transport ''was the indiVidual attention given to customers by the operator of a small number of vehicles.
Much valuable work is being done by individual civil servants, but the system governing their action is entirely unsuitable for road haulage, the flexibility of which is its 'grent. asset. Quick decisions are vital to the operation of a successful service.
A primary purpose of both Government Schemes has been to reduce the maximum loading of vehicles. Under the original Scheme', a high loading factor was attained by the small Chartered Fleet, but Only by depriving other hauliers. of return loads, thus the national interest was not advanced. On the contrary, the whole structure of the industry was impaired and general efficiency reduced. The new Scheme is equally, if not more, cumbersome, and is no more likely to secure more economic loading than was attained by the individual operator.
Nationalization of all forms of transport, although appearing to secure co-ordination, is not a ,practical proposition. A serious loss in efficiency is bound to occur, and there might be demands upon taxpayers for a subsidy. Much of this criticism is also relevant to the control through a Board on the lines of a public utility corporation. Its very magnitude Would produce the same loss of efficiency as under nationalization, and would remove the spur of competition. • Some Control Methods Suggested The present tendency is for hauliers to form groups. These may control the businesses or may limit themselves to co-operative working. This grouping would not provide . units large enough to enable a uniform system of charging • to be enforced. An overriding authority would be necessary.
An organization might be set up on the . lines of the Milk. Marketing -Board. It is true that the latter deals with only one commodity, but the milk producers number 170,000, whereas if local haulage—say under 30 miles— be excluded, the jurisdiction of a Road Haulage Board would cover far less than 60,000. hauliers, whilst it might be desirable to exclude certain sPecialized traffics. Such a Board should be a statutory body without powers to operate vehicles.
An alternative might be found in the proposed amalgamation of existing hauliers' associations. It might have to be made compulsory for all 'hauliers to join the Road Haulage Association thus created. • Certain statutory powers to enforce rates agreements would be needed, or this could be secured through the machinery of the Licensing Authorities. .
The Association would he controlled entirely by members, be decentralized, and hauliers of the same traffics would form functional or committee groups, those on long distance being grouped geographically.
A national rates structure would, however,have to be completed before any• organization. could commence operations. Two sets of rates would be necessary. A standard charge per ton per mile, based on a simple classification, would be made to the customer. Certain factorc might make this rate, on .particuIar routes, unfair to some hauliers and over-generous to others. Thesecond rate, therefore, would show the average .cost, of carriage with an agreed addition for profit. The .difference between the two rates would be worked out by the haulage organization, and debited or credited to the Operator Much of such work might be entruited . to the -Road and Rail Central Conference. .A Rates Tribunal would still be needed, and once a rates agreement bad .been approved by the Tribunal, it should. be lodged with the -Licensing Authorities, and its observance made a condition of the hatilier'S" licence. , . Clearing houses equally would haye to "abide by the rates, and their operation made subject to a liceriCC capable of suspension or. revocation .if its conditions were not observed, After the war there is likely to be increased participation by labour in the government of the industry, and the Road Haulage Central Wages Board could obviously provide the necessary machinery.