Commercial Motoring from the Inside.
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Contributed by " Hornoc."
Having dealt in the previous article with factory and ,sales troubles, it is intended now to deal with one of the most important parts of the business side of commercialmotor vehicles, to wit, the various items which go to make up the cost of running such a vehicle, against which comparison is made by the possible buyer with his present transport-department expenses. It is quite a common occurrence for firms factoring this class of goods to produce rough or approximate running costs, leaving out in many cases details which should be inserted, with resulting increase of the total, or on the other hand, standing by an antiquated and unfair system in regard to some items, e.g., the present recognised systems of calculating maintenance and depreciation, which, in many cases, spoil the balance sheet. Before, however, dealing with this matter, it would be well to enumerate a few of the advantages besides economy, which should be taken into consideration.
Convenience and Advertisement.
It would take a great deal more space than can be spared to enter fully into this question. Just as the railway has superseded the old stage-coach, so is the motor rapidly ousting the horse, and, for some distances and classifications, the railroad. The man in charge of the carting department is enabled to deal with his deliveries in a prompter manner, which represents so much time saved and in many instances heightens the firm's prestige. For distances up to 50 or 6o miles away from a centre, the motor vehicle stands pre-eminent, since the expense of careful packing and unpacking necessitated by railway transport is obviated.
It pays, in manycases where a full load of special goods has to be delivered to one spot, to send a motor 'away for three or four days, traversing during this period hundreds of miles, Many large stores find the direct motor load of varied supplies for big country houses a business necessity.
Advertisement is a point which must appeal to buyers today, although in time to come the value in this direction will be necessarily reduced, A smart motor vehicle passing through outlying districts must create attraction, and so benefit the firm owning such a vehicle. New customers come automatically.
The above few points relate to the cartage of goods; for passenger transport, the advantages are likewise obvious. Distances can be covered, in a short period, which could never be undertaken by horses, and to places where railway lines do not run. For this mode of conveyance, the motor char-a-bancs has already reached great popularity, whilst one need only point to the millions of passengers who are carried by motor omnibuses in London. In country districts, too, where tramways do not exist, they are equally as popular; whilst, as feeders for tramway services, there is no vehicle to take their place. So much and no more under heads which are self-explanatory and obvious.
The running costs of a motor vehicle with an internalcombustion engine usually contain the following items :Petrol; lubricating oil and grease; driver (or drivers); tires; insurance; maintenance; and depreciation. To these, in some instances, garage expenses must be added, and some users prefer to charge five per cent. on their capital outlay.
Prreota—Supplies of petrol can be obtained in practically every town and village in the United Kingdom. The quality generally obtainable is, however, not the heavier grade which is chiefly used for the running of commercialmotor vehicles in London and other large centres. The heavier grade of spirit (0.760 specific gravity) has been found to be most suitable and economical, and this quality in not stocked by small suppliers of petrol. The price of this 0.760 quality, when purchased in bulk, to-day is not more than 7ad. per gallon. The lighter grade of spirit, supplies of which can be obtained nearly everywhere, has a specific gravity of 0.710 to 0.720. The cost of the lighter spirit is considerably more than that of the heavier spirit, and experience has proved that very little, if any, more mileage can be run with the lighter-grade spirit than with the heavier grade. It is unfortunate that there does not exist a better distribution of this heavier spirit, as it means a great deal of extra cost to users of the heavy type of transport if the price of their fuel is increased. It is, therefore, recommended that firms should have auxiliary tanks fitted to their vehicles, so that sufficient spirit can be carried on hoard to take the driver through his run, the difference in price varying from 5d. to Bd. extra per gallon, which increases the running costs considerably, petrol at such inflated prices becoming, perhaps, the chief item on the list of
sunning expenses. One need. not anticipate that there will be a likelihood of great variation in the price of petrol hereafter, as more suppliers are coping with the demand than formerly, and this prevents the possibility of a monopoly.. It is rumoured that India will shortly be sending consignments of petrol to supply the English market, whilst Mexico is ready to do so.
Some little time ag-o, when the price of petrol as considerably higher than it is to-day, people were building their hopes on the utilisation of paraffin in place of petrol, and various types of carburetters and modifications of engine designs to suit this class of fuel were entertained by manufacturers. Experience resulting from tests has proved that paraffin in a cold and damp country like England is by no means as suitable as petrol, and, although the result of this work has assisted the development of commercial-motor vehicles in foreign climes, where petrol was not to be obtained, or only obtainable at very high prices, there is not much fear that petrol at its present price will be ousted by paraffin. The chief difficulties with paraffin were found to be as follow :—The flexibility of the engine is impaired; a single throttle lever cannot be used to control the engine, which makes the vehicle more difficult to drive; power to the .extent of is per cent. (approximately) is lost; the miles per gallon when paraffin is used are about 20 per cent. less than with petrol. It will therefore be seen that paraffin at sd. per gallon is not as economical as petrol at 7d., and by no means as satisfactory to use. Considerable difficulty exists in obtaining; a smokeless exhaust when utilising paraffin, especially when starting up, or when the engine has been running light for a short period, and, finally, the objection of having to start up on petrol before switching on to paraffin is a great bar to the success of the cheaper-priced fuel. Another difficulty is the creeping and " sweating " tendency of paraffin, which often makes a vehicle dirty and untidy.
LUBRICATING OIL ANT) GREASE..—For the engine, it is advisable to use the best-quality mineral oil that can be obtained, and this must neither contain nor yield acid; if there is any acid or acid-producing radicals in the oil, the cylinders will get pitted.
Lubrication systems employed by manufacturers are -numerous, different makes of engines consuming front one to two pints up to one to two gallons per too miles. It is not advisable to economise unduly in the quantity or quality -of oil, but buyers will be well advised to make sure that the consumption of oil in the engine of the vehicle they intend to buy is not excessive, since, if an engine literally " eats " oil, the buyer may rest assured that it is wasted and that the lubrication system employed is faulty.
With regard to lubricants used in the gearbox, differential box and other parts of the chassis, practically any grade of oil, providing it is not too thick, serves the purpose. Divas.—For lorry and van work, a very common rate of wage to-day is 358. per week, with an extra allowance for
out-money in the event of the driver's having to be away i front his home. Needless to say, a good driver s of the utmost importance. A careless driver can do a large amount of damage in a few months to the best vehicle built, whereas a good driver can obtain good results from an indifferent vehicle. A driver's comforts should be considered as much as possible; many firms employing this class of vehicle seem to forget that the driver has under his control and in his care a vehicle representing a large amount of capital. He is seldom under the direct supervision of anyone, and his treatment should therefore be different from that of a man who is working directly under the eye of a foreman. A motor driver covers many more miles than an ordinary horse driver, and the strain on the motorman is proportionately greater. Firms are very much in the hands of their drivers, and having once secured a capable and industrious man, it is strongly urged upon them to support hint to the utmost. It is of little use " hauling such a man over the coals" unnecessarily, since he can "get his own back " to a disastrous degree once he gets on the road again. It is also a mistake to be continually changing drivers from one vehicle to another : a man gets to know every part of his vehicle, and to tell from its sound when running if everything is in good order. If continual changing takes place, the (River loses interest; breakdowns may then occur, in which case the fault cannot be traced home.
Motor drivers should be more or less capable of carrying out roadside repairs and making all necessary adjustments which may arise front time to time, and, if through unfair treatment, such a man becomes callous or stale, he may neglect to attend to small details, which in the end will cost the owner large sums of money, and considerably impair the efficiency of the service.
Tisss.—The question of tires, and the type preferably to be used, is a topic which calls for careful consideration by all owners of commercial vehicles. In selecting a tire, the question of the original amount of capital outlay should not be of so much importance as the mileage which the tire will run, taking into consideration the prime cost; in other words, what the buyer must consider is its cost per mile and nothing else. On all commercial vehicles carrying a load of iscwt. or more, solid tires are preferable : on this point there are no two opinions. The type and make of solid tire which should be employed is, however, of vital importance. Many firms, when purchasing a motor vehicle, overlook this fact and obtain a quotation for the chassis " complete with tires," the type of the latter not being specified, and, where the purchase is likely to be effected by the loweSt price, it is a direct incentive to the manufacturer to quote for the cheapest tire, in order to reduce his estisnate. Big tire-repair bills ensue.
There are in existence to-day two common types of solid tires, one which may be termed the "grip-section " tire, the earliest form consisting of an endless or non-endless length of " spued " rubber with projections on the base of the section, which are wedged into a steel channel, the latter permanently fixed to the felloes of the wheel. The other type of tire may be termed the " band-section " tire; it consists of high-grade rubber moulded and vulcanised to a steel band, the steel band having projections all along its surface to facilitate the moulding process and to assist in uniting the rubber and steel. The felloes of the wheel for such a tire have a steel rim firmly secured upon them, and the final operation of tiring or re-tiring is effected by hydraulically pressing the united rubber and steel band on to the steel rim of the wheel proper, the steel band and ring being a " machine fit." Flanges are fixed to the face of the wheel, to prevent the rubber from being unnecessarily damaged by its coming into contact with the kerb or projections on the road. The early difficulties in manufacturing this latter type of tire., which consisted chiefly in effectively moulding the rubber tire to the steel band so that the rubber part did not come away from the steel band when in use, have now been entirely overcome to; the leading tankers. The chief fault of the grip-section tire is the creeping effect which takes place, causing the rubber, when at work, to creep round the channel into which it is fitted; this results in wear at the base of the tire, and, after a short while, causes the tire to come away from the channel a long time before the rubber has been worn away through
contact with the road. This defect occurs in a more or less degree with all sizes of vehicles upon which grip-section solid tires are employed. For light work, it is quite true that the grip-section tire will stand a considerable amount of wear before new ones are required, but the band-section tire, although it means greater capital outlay, will stand up for a very much longer period, in view of the fact that there is little waste and no creeping, the rubber wearing right down to the steel rim, unless it is crushed with overload; the rubber part in this more expensive type wears away only on the running tread. Once the grip-section tire has come away from the steel channel, it is impossible to patch it up again for any length of time, and the remainder of the tire is only fit to be sold as old rubber. The gripsection tire is again wasteful in another manner, as a large part of the rubber lies below the level of the steel channel, and this is not used for any real work other than keeping the tire in place. The difference in the cost of the gripsection and band-section tires is from 20 CO 35 per cent. more in the latter case, but the ratio of life is considerably greater still, apart altogether from its being reliable, though it is not suggested that a band-section tire never fails before its proper time.
There is another point to be taken into consideration, viz., that of under-tireing a vehicle, in which case a small percentage of overload will " break the back " of any tire in a very short distance. The advice one would therefore give to buyers in regard to tires is this : purchase the largest section that can be convenientty fitted to the wheels, and let it be of a type which gives no trouble. The extra -Km or 4'15 expended on tires in the first instance may mean an extra life of many thousands of miles, and one of the chief items of cost which has deterred many a firm from increasing their fleets has been through the vehicle-makers' allowing their customers to fit a tire which, in the light of the experience available, must result in unnecessary expense to the owner. When this subject is once thoroughly understood by users of commercial vehicles, it will be seen that the advice proferred herein is unquestionably correct.
Taking a chassis for loads of from three to four tons, and assuming that it runs generally well loaded, the cost for a set of grip-section tires will work out approximately at 4,-70; the mileage for such a set of tires will vary from 2,500 to 6,000 miles, and, assuming, say, 5,000 miles, the cost per mile works out at approximately 3.36d. per mile. Employing the band-section tire of a suitable size, the cost will be approximately LTroo per set; the mileage, however, is likely to run into between 9,000 and 17,00o miles, and, taking 12.000 miles as a basis, the cost works out at only 2d. per mile, this proving that, apart from the inconvenience caused by having to re-tire the wheels double the number of times, the latter costs considerably less per mile. This applies, in like manner, to many smaller sizes of commercial vehicles.
INSURANCE.—For the carrying of goods only, the kind of policy which is recommended, apart from the insurance of the driver under the Employers' Liability Acts, is insurance against third-party risks, as well as cover against damage to the goods carried through fire, and, possibly, against loss by theft. The cost of a third-party policy is in the neighbourhood of per annum, and firms possessing large fleets have found this sufficient protection : Other risks vary with load and circumstances: damage caused to a heavy motor vehicle through collision or skidding is usually so small that it is almost as well for the owner to carry this risk himself. With regards to fire, such an event rarely happens nowadays, and, if the goods are covered by insurance, it is unlikely that the chassis itself will suffer very much damage in this event.
Turning to passenger transport, it is necessary, besides the third-party cover, and the policy for the driver under the Employers' Liability Acts, to take out a special policy, in order to cover thcowner in the event of an accident's occurring to the passengers on board. The premiums charged for this class of work depend on whether the vehicle is for public service or not, and vary from 4-20 per annum, for ordinary char-it-bancs work, and the conveying of private parties, to .L:so for bus work and plying for public hire.
MAINTENANCE.It is only intended to deal in this article with certain matters which concern the maintenance of a vehicle, and not with inspection or other work which should be carried out in the garage. Manufacturers are often will ill
int; to enter into maintenance contracts, and these are very suitable to owners who only possess one or two vehicles, or where the firms employing them have no proper garage ac conunodation : the efficiency of such contracts really depends on the honour of the firms who enter into relations of the kind. If a manufacturer stints the work during the weekly overhaul (or whatever it may be) and does not carry out the bi-yearly (or yearly) overhaul efficiently, any main tenance contract will be of little use to the owner. To-day, however, manufacturers have to look well after the vehicles, as otherwise their orders suffer if through any cause an in efficient service be maintained. As long as the manufac turer is not overburdened with orders, the user of commercial vehicles who enters into such contracts may feel sure that the manufacturer will do his share—and more than his share-of the work, to secure his good name and business prospects.
As soon as a user possesses a fleet of vehicles, say, six or over, it will pay him to have his own engineer and accom
modation to carry out the work, and to arrange that small adjustments and overhauls are done nightly, or in the mornings while the vehicles are being loaded; in this manner, the vehicles will be kept on the road for a longer period, and in better condition, than if each one had a given day set aside for maintenance.
In dealing with the cost, a weekly sum can be estimated, or, what is better still, so much per mile of running allowed.
It must be admitted that it is difficult in many instances to ascertain the exact mileage run ; the types of mileage recorders usually fitted are far from satisfactory, but the mile
age can easily be computed, sufficiently closely for this purpose, daily. It stands to reason that, if a vehicle runs only 200 miles per week, the maintenance charge must work out much less than if the vehicle did 500 miles in that time
If, therefore, a manufacturer will maintain a vehicle for a given sum, permitting it to run soo miles per week for that sum, it can be assumed that the manufacturer has calculated on the vehicle's averaging only about two-thirds of this amount, and on this basis the sum resulting equals a fixed charge per mile; hence, it would be safe and fairer, in calculating costs, to allow this fixed charge per mile for maintenance, and not a gross sum irrespective of mileage.
It is seldom that even the hardest-used van or lorry of this type averages as much as 500 miles a week, and we consider Lod. a mile is ample for any less mileage.—ED.)
DEPRECIATION.—Dealing with this item, the present system is to set aside a large percentage of the cost of the chassis every year; it must be definitely understood that tires are not to be included in this amount, since they are worn out and are dealt with in the running costs alone.
Auditors sometimes stipulate that 20 to 25 per cent. per annum should be set aside for depreciation, but this is an
excessive figure if the vehicle is not hard-worked. This mode of calculating depreciation would not be so objectionable if the percentage set aside were a small one, such as
is customary in stationary machinery, but, since the amount is so very high, it ruins the prospect of a low-mileage proposition, where it becomes a fictitious burden.
Here, again, as in the maintenance, it would be much fairer and to everyone's advantage to calculate on the basis
of, say, a 20 per cent. depreciation on the maximum amount
of mileage allowed, and proportionately less if a smaller mileage were covered. If one vehicle runs soo miles per
week and is depreciated at the rate of 20 per cent. per annum, then this percentage should be decreased in the event of the vehicle's running one-third less.
To firms employing a number of vehicles and possessing their own garage and staff, a satisfactory way of dealing with the accounts would be to open a ledger account for each vehicle, crediting the vehicle with such a sum as may be decided upon by the owner to cover the cost of main tenance and depreciation, and debiting this account with all expenses incurred for the maintenance and upkeep. At the end of the year, there should stand to the credit of the vehicle a sum of money, which should be reckoned as profit.
Should it ever be decided to fit new improvements, thesie should be executed out of the money available in the profit standing to the credit of the vehicle. Subsequently, after some years, the vehicle's account should show sufficient profit to enable the owner to buy a new vehicle without any
additional capital outlay, in which case the old vehicle, if thought desirable, could be " scrapped," and the process repeated de novo.