I HAVE had occasion, from time to time, to draw attention
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to the somewhat extraordinary attitude of some 'sugar-beet factory managements in dealing with haulage rates. Hauliers work for farmers, and it is reasonable to expect that in their dealings, even if those dealings involve bargaining, they should be allowed to carry on negotiations direct with their customers. There seems to be no need for interference by any third party.
The sugar-beet factories have frequently, however, attempted to lay down the law as regards these rates for haulage. Once, I recall, they even went farther, and, in their efforts to brow-beat the local hauliers, tried to import assistance from outside. In that they were unsuccessful, as anyone with any knowledge of the subject would have expected.
An example of the methods of some of the factories is portrayed in the figures embodied in Table I. These were part and parcel of a circular-letter distributed at the comraeneement of the previous sugar-beet campaign by one of the factories. At that time a local hauliers' association, quite properly alarmedat the ridiculously low prices which were being paid for beet haulage, endeavoured to get together all the hauliers in the district, with a view to establishing these rates on a reasonable basis.
A Comparison of Rates.
The sugar-beet factory authorities, hearing of this move, sent out this circular-letter in which, as is shown in the Table, they set out, side by side, the rates proposed by the hauliers' association and those which had previously been paid. In the circular-letter it was agreed that the Road and Rail. Traffic Act, 1933, had increased road haulage expenses, but the factory authorities considered that an addition of 3d. per ton to the 1933 scale would be sufficient to meet that increased expense. If the 1933 rates had been reasonable and remunerative an addition of &1. to those rates would no doubt have met the requirements of the local haulage association.
The real facts of the case are, of course, that these B.30 1933 rates, as will be obvious to anyone With knowledge of the subject, are totally inadequate. In many cases they will barely cover the cost of -operation of the vehicles concerned.
An inquiry as to the bases of the factory's calculation of these rates quickly disclosed the reason for the discrepancy, although it did not explain why those at the factory had overlooked certain factors which should have been more obvious to them than to anyone else. The rates are calculated apparently on the assumption that beet haulage is a straightforward operation involving no unforeseen troubles or delays. In short, these rates are calculated as though beet were loaded, carted and delivered. with the same facility as roadstone.
Actually, beet hauliers, in their work, encounter the maximum of difficulty and delays. Even if -there be nothing but the more or less unavoidable delays at
the factory—waiting in queues to be weighed, waitingin queues to get to the silos to unload, difficulties of unloading at silos which, when full, involve the load being thrown man height above the level of the vehicles, delays in getting away from the silos (because of congestion of other vehicles) and delays waiting to be weighed again before leaving—the time lost would be sufficient to upset the accuracy of the calculations on which the sugar factory's schedule of rates is based.
Actually there are other conditions which disturb the even fiow of the work. The weather is an Ira-.
portant factor and may involve a suspension of haulage for days together. The factories themselves are, in many cases, inconsiderate in their treatment of road hauliers. They will, for example, decide at a moment's notice to cease acceptance of sugar beet.
Thus, a haulier, with vehicles set apart for the work and arrangements all made to carry out his contract with the farmer, will be informed, late one night, that he must cease work until further notice. He is thus in the position of being unable to find work for his vehicles, the notice being too short for him to do anything, and he must keep those vehicles and men standing idle. No provision is made for that or other contingencies in the aforesaid calculations.
Obtaining a Reasonable Profit.
At the request of a large number of sugar-beet hauliers in various parts of the country, I have, without direct reference either to hauliers or to the sugar factories, utilizing only my own personal experience and knowledge of the subject gained during the past 10 years—in the course of every one of which I have visited one or more of the factories—drawn up a schedule of rates which will afford a bare minimum of reasonable profit.
In calculating these rates I have made a most moderate provision for some of the untoward eventualities enumerated above. I have taken nine hours as being the period of the day during which deliveries can be made at the factories, but have assumed that the hauliers will work 10 hours, utilizing the extra hour for loading and getting home. I have taken, however, only a 48-hour week, because it rarely happens that
a vehicle can be kept on this work for 51 days without a break. Wages are taken on the lowest scale and vehicle insurance at hauliers' rates in rural areas.
I have, in preparing this schedule, accepted the fact that overloading is not merely usual but invariable. I have assumed the extent of the overloading to be one ton in every case. It rarely happens that more than one ton of overload can be carried, because of the volume of beet.'
Provision is made in the schedule for two rates, one with and one without help from the farmer. his help, as everyone knows, is not always to be depended upon, and the haulier must make use of his own experience in dealing with the individual farmer as to whether or no he should make allowance for it in his quotation.
In the case of the 2-ton lorry I have taken cognizance of the fact that these are sometimes operated by one man only, and in Table II there are four columns instead of two as in Table III.
An average rate of loading of 21 tons per hour per man has been assumed for expert loaders, but only two tons per hour per man for the farmer's help. Allowance has been made for 10 minutes to a quarter of an hour at terminals for removing and replacing extensions to lorry sides, fitting and removal of the board which most factories frisist shall be placed at the end of the lorry platform to prevent dirt being carried into the silos.
I have taken an hour to represent the average period of delay at the factory. Sometimes it will be much less than this and sometimes more. It should also be remembered that this allowance has also to cover unexpected delays due to weather, to stoppages at the factory and other unforeseen circumstances.
Hauliers who are inclined to cut these rates should recall that there is no way of providing against losses due to these causes 'other than in the rates, and should beware of any temptation to work for less remuneration.
Finally, I would impress upon all hauliers the imperative need for personal inspection of the ground before
making arrangements to collect beet S.T.R.