CAREERS IN THE ROA -TRANSPORT INDUSTRY
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A Lecture, Given by the Editor of This Journal, at the Wandsworth Technical Institute, London, S.W.18, on a Subject of Considerable Interest The Comprehensive Information and Care.. fully Considered Advice Given Should be Particularly Useful to Our Younger Readers and to Their Parents ACCORDING to the "Ministry of Labour Gazette " for December, 1935, the number of workers engaged in transport and distribution in Great Britain is just over 2,500,000. This number has grown much more rapidly than the quantity of goods to be distributed, for the reason that customers are demanding a much higher standard of retail service than formerly and are prepared to pay more highly for improvements in this direction.
The motor industry, as a whole, provides a livelihood for 1,250,000 people, and it has become the third greatest industry in the country.
" The total capital value of commercial road transport here represents some £300,000,000, whilst the production of new commercial vehicles for the year up to October, /935, was nearly 90,000, of which 68,000 were lorries and 4.600 buses, the remainder being exported.
The number of employees concerned in the construction and repair of motor vehicles, cycles and aircraft is close on 250,000, which figure is, of course, included in the 1,250,000 to which I have already referred.
An Analysis of the Industry.
The total number of goods vehicles is over 400,000, Whilst the hackney vehicles (covering buses, coaches and taxicabs) number about 85,000.
On the haulage side of road transport—representing the men or companies carrying goods for payment--there are, roughly, 70,000 to 80,000 operators. The total number running passenger vehicles is approximately 6,000. Of these, 64 run fleets of over 100, and included in the total are some 5,000 independent operators. Some 100 municipalities run their own buses, but nearly every municipality owns other classes of motor vehicle for refuse collection, street cleansing, road maintenance, hospital work, etc.
It will thus be seen how numerous are the opportunities for obtaining positions and advancement. I do not suggest that good situations in any branch of the industry are awaiting the applicant, like ripe plums ready to• drop into his hands. In most branches there are already waitmg lists, but it should be fully realized that opportunities • must often be made and not merely anticipated.
There is an old adage that "There is always room at the top," but it is only the man who has taken full advantage of the facilities for general education and specific training in the particular fields in which he wishes to show his abilities, who can hope to win through to success.
There are, perhaps, posts where personality and the ability to control executives are of even greater importance than extensive knowledge, but, even in the case of the fortunate individuals who possess these sofnewhat rare characteristics, adequate training is an important factor.
It is true also of the lower but still often lucrative grades, that a close application to the work which has to be done and dogged perseverance may count for more than flashes of brilliance.
Training for Various Positions.
In an industry, such as that of road transport, which. although built up comparatively rapidly and developed in a truly iemarkable manner, is now, to a great extent, stabilized, there are, perhaps, few chances for the individual to strike out on his own. In the majority of cases he must commence in some minor position and show by his ability and knowledge that he is worthy of better things. It is my opinion that there can be no better initial training for almost any position in road transport than a period of work in a motor-engineering shop.
The transport manager and his assistants do not really require extensive knowledge of design, but the more they know about the maintenance of the various classes of motor vehicle. the better suited they will be for their positions. Therefore, the period spent in gaining experience on the engineering side might well be devoted to repair and maintenance work.
B40 Incidentally, many of our important motor-manufacturing concerns have instituted schemes for learners. Some have gone so far as to found their own schools, and in nearly all cases, although situations are not guaranteed on the completion of the course, which may be for three or more years, they are generally available either in the particular concern or in others through recommendation.
The position is perhaps more difficult where training is required in maintenance work, but there are many large garages throughout the country which specialize in this. and which could be approached to take in students.
On the technical_ side a student cannot do better than aim at passing the examinations which will give him entry into the Institution of Automobile Engineers. For general transport work, he should endeavour to become a member of the Institute of Transport, or, if he wishes to specialize in transport management and fit himself to supervise the operations of fleets such as are employed so extensively by big trading concerns, then membership of the Industrial Transport Association is to be strongly recommended. For all these, the passing of the examinations set by the Royal Society of Arts for the administrative and operative staffs of road-transport undertakings constitutes an excellent stepping-stone.
The transport manager of to-day is expected to be a combination of business man, economist and lawyer. In most cases, he is required to possess a good knowledge of export requirements, and it may be necessary for him to be able to differentiate between the respective advantages or disadvantages of road, rail, water and even air transport The Prospects of Advancement.
By this time some of my listeners may be beginning to feel rather disheartened and inclined to fear that they may never attainr such heights. Let me at once help them to disabuse their minds of such an impression, It has been proved, time after time, that a man grows with his job. Scores of successful men would never have attained their positions if they had refused advancement through the fear that they might not be able to make good. It is highly probable that they have been under observation and that the opportunities would not have been offered to them if they had not displayed the possession of the essential potentialities; and, here, I may refer to another old adage that "Nothing succeeds like success," and the boy or man who makes good in a minor capacity stands every chance of promotion.
I have referred briefly to certain branches of the road transport industry, but it may be of interest to go more closely into detail. In every section, we may start on the practical side with the driver and mechanic, and on the executive side with the transport clerk. I mention them particularly because many of the important posts are filled by men who have commenced their careers in one or other of these categories, and some of the greatest personalities in the industry have commenced in the most minor positions. If the young man studying transport generally, considers the opportunities in the different fields of transport, he will find that in the railway service, the ocean-shipping service and the port-authorities service, the tendency, so far as staff is concerned, is to reduce rather than increase the number of personnel. This is because of the policy of amalgamations, clearly designed to effect economies, which economies must mean the abolition of posts and general reductions of staff. This is definitely the case, and there is still an enormous number of redundant men in the rail way, the .shipping and the port services. In consequence, in those branches of transport recruitment is almost entirely closed.
In some measure this is true also of passenger road transport, for the same broad reasons, but it is definitely not true in goods road transport. This field is still, and may always be, an expanding one.
What matters to the student is that the complications and the accurate records required now by law are increasing the chances for the competent men with organizing, statistical and accountancy minds on the stalls of existing concerns, both on the haulage side and in the transport departments of the manufacturing concerns of the country.
Industrial firms are keenly alive to the dangers of a return to the old conditions of railway monopoly, and may be expected to insist on Continued freedom to develop their road fleets to their own needs ; so that students will be well advised to consider this particular avenue of advancement, perhaps, over all others.
Students with that ambition should therefore work, first, for the Royal Society of Arts certificates, hut should not stop there. These certificates should be regarded as qualifying (as I believe they will) for exemption from the early stages of the professional examinations organized by the Industrial Transport Association, and the student is advised, as he feels his feet, to enter that body as a junior associate and to prepare for its final examination, which will qualify him for the grade of associate.
Armed with the basic knowledge that a technical institute can give. plus. the current contacts and current policy gained by taking an active part in the work of his professional association, the student may, with confidence, expect a career of increasing usefulness and reward in this particular branch of transport.
Transport Facilities Must Increase.
Some may say that this profession has already become overcrowded, or that there already exists an adequate supply of transport of all kinds. My answer to such critics is : Who dare, in these days, decide what is adequate? Who can tell how far workers for social reform (such as gardencity enthusiasts, the 100 new towns associations, and other bold groups of reformers) may succeed in changing -the whole disposition of our people over the land? This big effort, helped as it will be by the work of the Electricity Commissioners, may attain huge dimensions in the next 10 years, and, if so, will carry in its train an enormously increased demand for transport services of all kinds.
Finishing the point, who dare use the word "adequate" while any one citizen lacks decent food, clothing and comfort? Therefore, I urge you not to be deterred by men with severely practical minds (as they believe), but to see in this career, as I do, important opportunities for serving your fellow-citizens and doing so with credit and reward to yourselves.
There is a fear in some quarters that, eventually, all public-transport services may come under a National Transport Board. In my opinion, this would he a very illadvised measure if it meant the Board absorbing all private interests; but, so far as the opportunities for students are concerned, they need have no hesitation in adopting road " transport as a career, because whatever co-ordination be effected, there will certainly continue to be ample scope for the employment of qualified men, for control almost always involves additional staff.
On the goods side the two main classes of operator are the ancillary, which covers the work of a trader collecting and delivering the goods in which he deals; and the haulier, who trades as a limited or public carrier. In actual vehicles, the ratio of these two is, roughly, three to one, whilst the knowledge of transport methods required on the ancillary side is probably considerably greater than is necessary for simple haulage, although the haulier has also to be something of a salesman, haulage being the commodity he sells.
The beginner must not, however, believe that all he has to do is to buy a lorry and commence haulage work, for this section of the industry is almost closed, and the entry of newcomers is rendered extremely difficult, both by law and by those already in the field. This need not, however, prevent applications being made for positions in established concerns, many of which operate large fleets.
Prospects in the Municipal Field.
In the municipal sphere there is, as in many others to-day, a certain amount of overcrowding, and there are already qualified and experienced men for whom, at present, vacancies do not exist. On the other hand, on this side perhaps more than on any ether, the juniors receive consideration when the question of promotion arises. The important posts are mostly advertised, but it is apparent that applications from men who are already in municipal service and have had sufficient experience receive prior consideration. Some of the chief officials of the largest municipalities have stepped from post to post in this manner, and quite frequently such a move means that the next senior man takes the vacated position.
Even the essential task of refuse collection has become so complicated with the growth of towns and cities that good salaries are attached to posts as cleansing superintendents, who, in many cases, have to control quite large fleets of vehicles. Sometimes trained men are placed in charge of all the road-transport vehicles of a municipality.
Not long ago 1 gave a lecture of a similar type to this, but part of it dealt with positions in technical journalism, and in this connection the motor Press, on the trade, private car and commercial sides, does occasionally present opportunities for aspiring students and younger members of the transport industry who have the necessary technical quali fication and a flair for writing. • Let me assure you, however, that whilst such work is extremely interesting, and no doubt presents opportunities for advancement, it is often hard and, sometimes, involves long hours, whilst the Editor must necessarily be a hard ta,skmaster, always demanding a fecundity of ideas and a high degree of accuracy.
There are two main ways in which the student can join a technical journal—as a junior sub-editor or as a young technician. For the first year, and even the second, the beginner alternates between hope and black despair, whilst the Editor and assistant-editor have to be patient and longsuffering individuals. Provided, however, that the foundations be good, so are the prospects of the beginner.
Qualifications Leading to Success.
Perhaps a little advice on how to try for a position, and how to keep it if obtained, may be useful. When you are dealing with your superiors be polite, but not obsequious, and, in particular, do not become what is known as a " yes " man. No one is less helpful to the man in control than the employee who agrees with everything that is said. If you think that you know a better way of carrying out a certain task, do not be afraid to say so in a tactful manner. It is the man with ideas who gets on and whose value is quickly appreciated.
Similarly, when you are being taught either at school or at business do not be satisfied unless you know "'the why and wherefore" of anything that puzzles you.