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Organized Representation Is Essential

13th November 1942
Page 23
Page 23, 13th November 1942 — Organized Representation Is Essential
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Which of the following most accurately describes the problem?

Concentration Policy of the Government Applied to Road Haulage. How is Smaller Operator Affected?

Progress of S.J.C. Long term Policy. Compulsory Membership of an Association

By " Tantalus "

ARECENT article dealing with the future position of the haulage contractor indicated correctly that the policy of the Government appears to be one of concentration of the industry. It is to be' assumed that any such policy must result inevitably in a reduction of operational units, in which event the small man would suffer the greater hardship. What steps—if any—are being taken by the representative bodies to protect the interests of the small operator? It may be recollected that, in the past, the propaganda of the national associations made sti-ong claim to being his protector. Even the S.J.C. is among such claimants. Unless, however, these claims be translated into action they become as sounding brass and achieve nothing. What has been the policy and attitude of the associations in this matter? Has the cause of the small operator been championed or, alternatively, has he been treated with indifference as being of little account and consequently left stranded and uncared for? If the latter, it would seem poor recompense for association loyalty and services of a creditable nature rendered to the general community. The fact of the matter is that the whole question of representation is involved.

Will Sectional interests Prevent United Representation of the Industry?

Let us reflect for a moment on the course of events since the past war. Ontstanding in major importance were the abortive attempts to unite the two main associations intoone national body. Indeed, there are still individuals who nurse pious hopes of some such achievement being realized. The gap. in the sectional interests, however, would seem to be too wide to permit of such optimism. Then, from time to time, there have been strong demands from a large section of operators for an association for the professional haulier, but such requests have met with negative results.

The most important event of recent months was the announcement of the proposals of the S.J.C. for the reorganization of the industry, which provide for a short and long-term policy. Much was expected for the reason that the scheme has been thoughtfully and carefully prepared and is statesmanlike and constructionally sound. Months have passed, however, since the associations concerned were asked to give consideration to and approval of the scheme. Instead of the anticipated welcome there has been significant silence and it is evident that something has gone wrong. The question is what? There must be some reason why these attempts to build a structure on sound lines have failed to mature. Those well versed in such matters will probably incline to the view that the trouble lies in sectional interests, personal ambitions, association politics, .jealousies—petty and otherwise—being permitted to control principles and policy. In fact, each and all of these have constituted the Jonah of the industry for many years. They have been mainly responsible for a divided front, resulting in weak representation and lack of punch to force, to a satisfactory conclusion a worthwhile issue.

Is the S.J.C. in a position (as it should be) to make a statement concerning the progress or fate of the scheme? The industry is entitled to know not only if the proposals have been definitely wrecked but also who is responsible for the wrecking. Is the S.J.C. prepared to face this issue boldly and courageously, giving the same publicity at this juncture as was afforded the propOsals when first announced? Failure to do this can result only in lack of confidence which the S.J.C. can ill afford if it is to continue to function as a live, corporate body representing the haulier. Here, then, is an opportunity of gaining prestige and of reestablishing waning confidence. For there are growing signs of restlessness and uneasiness amongst haulage contractors who are both disappointed and disillusioned. [Since these criticisms were written the S.J.C. has decided to proceed with its long-term scheme and has recommended its constituent bodies to set up a committee representative of the various sections in order to complete the details for final approval.—En.] There is strong inclination to the opinion that the industry's representatives have acquiesced in the Government's policy of limiting the use of road transport. In this connection it -would be interesting to know if the leaders subscribe to the view that a reduction in the number of operating units is not only desirable but necessary and whether, in fact, they arc working to that end. By virtue of the fact that they are serving on committees together with officials of the M. of W.T., they must be cognizant of the objectives and intentions of the Government. Such matters appear to be regarded as of the " hush-hush " variety and, therefore, strictly confidential.

It follows, therefore, that the tank and file cannot be consulted but must be kept rather in a state of speculation and even apprehension. This attitude has led to mistrust and suspicion. As the committees are composed mainly of large fleet owners, the opinion is frequently expressed that the interests of the small haulier are either ignored or do not receive the consideration due to this section, which constitutes a goodly portion of the backbone of the industry.

The foregoing factors are responsible to an appreciable degree for the present state of unrest and dissatisfaction existing amongst hauliers. Surely the small operator was entitled to direct representation on the Government committees from his own ranks, i.e., owners of up to, say, 10 vehicles. By such representation a medium would have been provided for the dissemination of first-hand knowledge and experience—the valve of which can scarcely be overestimated. Is it too late—even now—to repair this omission?

Dissatisfaction With Association Achievements Causing Split in Ranks With regard to representation generally, the article recently published in "The Commercial Motor" by a wellknown member of one of the national associations is highly significant. It contained an appeal to fellow hauliers to communicate with him direct, offering suggestions for the bringing about of better representation of the haulier. This again is an unmistakable indication of the signs of the times.

It may well be that at this stage in the history of roadtransport an opportunity now presents itself for the members of the rank and file to assert their position and rights, also to further their interests during this transitory period in the evolution of the industry.

There remains an alternative which, perhaps, might be regarded as revolutionary and, therefore, unpopular. That is that all associations should be wound up by Government Order—a reasonable period of time being allowed for the purpose—and one official organization be established under Government control. Under such a scheme membership would 'be compulsory for all operators. It is not suggested that this would prove to be the ideal solution of all representation problems, but it would remove many of the difficulties with which the induptry has been beset for years past


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