Ousting the Small Haulier
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A Trenchant Criticism of the Basis for Road-transport Planning Put Forward by Men Well Known in the Industry
By " Tantalus "
THE New Year is now well under way and has started on a journey pregnant with events of such tremendous proportions that even civilization itself cannot escape the effects resulting therefrom:
It is an indisputable fact that the future of the human race will be determined and influenced by the results of battle and the schemes decided upon for the purposes of post-war reconstruction and rehabilitation. The details of these latter plans are as yet unknown, apart from vague indications which, from time to time, have escaped the lips • of members of the Government..
Reconstruction, to some sections of the community, means new opportunities of commercial expansion and -increased profits. Others are more concerned with expanded social services and a change in the political system. These are advocated for this or that innovation which, they claim, will provide a solution for all economic -problems.
The vexed question of nationalization asopposed to private enterprise still occupies a prominent place in the fields of' debate and discussion, At the same time, each of the political parties claims that it possesses the formula for successful past-war planning such as will provide for the Nation the enjoyment of peaCe and happiness combined 'with prosperity and social security.
There are those members of the community, of course, who are not ambitious for great wealth and who worship not the gods of power and position. All they desire is to be permitted to fulfil the obligations of good citizens and to be enabled to earn a livelihood sufficient to maintain a decent standard of living and provision for old age for -themselves and their dependants.
This particular class is well represented, in the roadhaulage industry. The average haulier is not consumed by the ambition to become the owner of a large fleet, nor does he experience any desire to control the destiny of 'others. Having built up a successful business through his own personal effort, enterprise and hard work, more often than not he is satisfied by a return sufficient to meet his material requirements.
Why Should Good Citizens as are Hauliers Lose Their Freedom ?
The hauliers, as a class, have proved good,citizens. They have paid their rates and taxes with regularity, as also their association subscriptions, believiro, that the latter would provide for them a passport to freedom of choice, so far 'as their means for livelihood is concerned., It would appear, unfortunately, that there is real danger that in the post-war era freedom of choice as regards such means is in serious jeopardy. This problem centres around the question of control arising from the delegated powers of legislation conferred upon the Government in war-time, There are indications that, for some time to come, this question will dominate pdlitics both inside and outside Parliament. .
In order to fight a totalitarian war the Nation haSosubrnitted to' innumerable controls and restrictions, and it is obvious that it will be quite impossible to have all these rescinded immediately following the Armistice. Then the real cleavage will come between those who desire to continue the maximum of control and those who demand a
return to pre-war freedom. Such a situation may well' produce a crisis—perhaps the greatest crisis which the• ' country will have to face on the home front.
In such circumstances, what is the position of the industry and to what extent is it likely to be affected by such an issue? Before estimating the future, it Is necessary to survey the past in seeking an answer to this question. '
There is ,sufficient evidence to indicate that the industry, has been led, step by step, along the road of control, until now it has become like unto a prisoner without freedom of
movement or action. That such a policy has been carried out with the co-opjration of many of the representatives of the industry has been given no denial. That being so, there is no reason to assume that there will be any reversion from this policy. On the contrary, there is every indication that the process of tightening the control will continue, eventually enfolding in its mesh the short-distance haulier.
Doubt as to such a probability can best be dispelled by reference to a memorandum signed by .eight well-knoivn personalities in road transport, entitled, " The Road Carrying Industry and the Future." The authors lay particular emphasis on the desirability for larger and more stable units in order to obtain consolidation. Amongst the many suggestions offered there is one which is strangely significant, as indicating in unmistakable terms the future of the owner-driver. The particular, proposal is that he should be confined to a very restricted local area. Following upon, this, the suggestion is put forward that, after a given date, all road-transport undertakings, under a stipulated size should be limited to purely local work. It is further recommended that the, then, Minister of Transport he granted additional powers in order to make these proposals effective. .
Small Hauliers Have Been Given Many Warnings in This Journal
So, for the first time, the small haulier really knows what are the intentions of his big colleagues. Many times have the leaders of the industry been challenged to show their hand regarding the small man, but without avail. The silence now has been broken and the warnings given. repeatedly in the columns of this journal have been fulfilled. In the event of the foregoing suggestions being put into effect, the fate of the small man is sealed. He will be chained down like a dog to its kennel, with no prospect of expansion and only the cheerless alternative of " packing up." All the opportunities of the larger operators, many of whom started as owner-drivers, will be denied to the small man. All this is too suggestive of class legislation and savours, rather, of " I'm all right, the devil lake the hindmost." Of course, he may be offered the alternative of joining up with other small hauliers or with the bigger concerns in order to form larger units, but his freedom as an individual owning his -own business will then be lost. Reverting to the memorandum, a remarkable feature is that it was not published under the auspices of any representative body or committee. It may be assumed, however, that the suggestions contained therein reflect the opinions and wishes of that section of the industry which comprises the large operating units. It should be observed also that many of the signatories to the document have figured prominently as representatives of the industry in all negotiations with the Ministry. This, surely, is significant and should be regarded with due seriousness.
Moreos/r, there is the moral aspect to be considered, for have not the associations, for years past, cahvassed the support of the small man? Is it not a fact that the income derived from his subscriptions has been of material assistance in maintaining officials in their positions? They now propose to discard him. Yes! there is a moral principle involved.
If, in due course, the proposals be accepted by the Government and become statutory, it will be a short step only to the Complete ousting from the industry of the small man, leaving the way clear for monopolies.
Whilst a certain sectiosi of operators may, view the future with equanimity, as affecting its security and prosperity, there is another large section for whom the outlook distinctly gloomy.