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The Need for a Civilian Road Transport Board with I Considerable Powers.
IT IS KNOWN that official consideration had, apparently, twice been given, in the autumn of last year, to the question of bringing all road transport under the control of some authority with a, view to economizing mileage and securing the greatest possible efficiency from the vehicles, fuel and labour employed. TriE COMMERCIAL MOTOR, in its first issue of the year, again focussed attention upon the needs of the case and showed that co-ordination, could effect a great economy in the dead running of military and . civilian-owned vehicles and that, under a wellorganized department, then advocated, the difficulties
suffered by transport n the way of essential replace:meat parts, labour and fuel could largely be overcome.
, The Road Transport Board has now been formed, and what do we find ? Merely a departmental affair, intended to deal only with the domestic or internal :transport troubles of the departments. This does not meet the needs of the case, and, in my opinion the time has arrived for the. formation of a National Road Transport Board for civilian transport. In fact, I fail to see why the Commercial Motor Users' Association should not be developed and its powers extended so that practical economies of running can at once be put into force and so that, after the war, it can be the authority to continue the application of priority (for I verily believe that priority as we now know it will be an essential condition of trading for years to come) and to deal with certain other problems of control which threaten to affect the future development of the industry. Of course, as. I fully recognize pleat constitutional changes would be necessary, ha they should not be difficult to effect.
. To deal with the difficulties of the moment much more can be done than is at present even attempted in the utilization of waste mileage. We all know of the efforts that have been made to establish "return load" schemes. The return load represents trouble in exactly keying the 'load to the vehicle with an awkward time element affecting any attempts at fusion. The result is a number of " misfits" and a scarcity of "fits." But 1 honestly believe that if the schemes could be developed to the full the proportion of misfits would enormously diminish. Invariably, you will find, in any return load negotiations, that there is one -willing party and one unwilling party. The man with the load wants all the load to go at once and by one route or he wants to mix hides with bacon or cheese with coffee. The man with the lorry wants the load ready on the instant, involving not a yard's detour from his route in picking it up or delivering it and everything made easy.
No Journey of 20 Miles Without a Load:
If there were a spirit of reasonableness, an attitude of give and take, the fitting of the lorry and the return load would be simplified. But, as this voluntary state seems unattainable, I would apply coMpulsion by enacting that no empty lorry should be allowed to run a journey of,we will say, 20 miles without a load or a serious attempt to secure one.
For the first few months, at least, I would apply this rule by areas and on specified roads and routes because it would not at first be generally workable. To give an example of the unworkable case, a job might. take a lorry with seload from Hammersmith to Ilford— across London. A return load to Hammersmith from Ilford or any other place en route would, until the scheme had become universal, be almost umliscoverable in reasonable time.
But the lorry running from London to St. Albans or from Coventry to Birmingham should not he allowed to make the return journey empty, and that is my case.
at30 To render the scheme , practicable, the railway organization, in my opinion, must be employed. Let all loads be delivered (or advised as being ready for collection) to the railway goods yard. Let the lorry call at the goodsyard on the return journey and a load be asked for. Let an advice (by a call on the outward journey or by telephone) be given that the lorry will be returning and require a load—anything of that sort is, reasonable and practicable. The real troubles are simply those of rates and the attitude of the railways towards the scheme. With regard to rates, 6d.r per ton-mile must be obtained and consigaors on their advices to the goods yard would say whether or not they were prepared, in return for the advantage of rapid delivery, to pay the special road rate. The railways must-be made to acquiesce in the scheme and be prepared to, let the short hauls go by road, taking the long hauls. by rail; which arrangement would be much more economical of traffic facilities. Should no load be available the lorry driver would get his way-bill marked "no load" at the goods yard and would then have a ready answer to any inquirer. But there would need to be some sort of inspection, as well as the watchfulness of the consignor and con:: signee, to ensure that the scheme was not being strangled by a free use of the "No load-" stain') at the goods yard
Transtiort to be Allocated According to Need.
A hint has 'been given of the possibility of the cutting down of road transport because of fuel shortage. If this should prove to be inevitable and unavoidable, the plan of grading the various industries and, of allocating transport to the best purposes could not be done better than by the people who are conversant with road transport and its conditions and needs. Luxury delivery services should, of course, give way to essential deliveries. I think that the National Road Transport Board would have to work hand in glove with the Petrol Control Department, and I would give the Board the right to make recommendations to the Ministry of Munitions for the granting of priority certificates for essential replacement parts, petrol, tyres and running necessities.
The after-the-war-position is a vast problem in itself. There are. the returned lorries to be disposed of, and the National Road Transport Board would be the best authority, aiming at the safeguarding of manufacturers' interests (a country is bankrupt if its key industries are adversely affected and nearly ruined) and preparing a scale of priority-of delivery. And I also think that to such an authority should be transferred the application of the powers in respect to the control of motor vehicles now wielded by the Local Government Board and the municipal and urban din. trict authorities. At the present moment the different authorities and departments are at the throat -of the enterprising motor vehicle owner, and there is not one among them to protect him. The position of a concern endeavouring to establish a. passenger service is never secure from unfair competition—of which the most unfair is that set up by the local authority itself after private enterprise has stood the brunt of the task of establishing the traffic. Much could be said under this head, but a full statement of the needs. of the case can be advanced at a later stage. The question at the moment is : Could a National Transport Board, dealing with civilian transport, be established with advantage and, if so, would the Commercial Motor Users' Association form-, the most suitable nucleus of such a controlling body! In my opinion the answer to both questions is m the affirmative. ENTOMOLOGIST.