Openingrupi Business in Motor Haulage.
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Of the many who set out to open up business in motor haulage, a considerable percentage has to shut up. The acceptance of unsuitable business at unprofitable rates, now that vehicles of approved type and commercial efficiency can be bought, is the general cause of catastrophe. In earlier days, the fundamental trouble was the mechanical failure of the vehicles. Of course, when parties nowadays start with inferior or second-hand machines, increased risk of failure is accepted. There is an assured profit in the right kind of motor contracting, and this class of trade still offers a remunerative outlet for capital. Conservative finance and experienced management are the essential factors to success, and they are frequently lacking.
Any class of haulage contracting, contrary to the belief which exists in some quarters, calls for the closest attention to detail, after basic methods and rates have been settled. It is just as bad a .cliente of working to act as though drivers, traffic and vehicles will look after themselves, as it is to look for a balance on the right Side if unremunerative rates are accepted. It is often better to keep a van or a lorry in the shed than it is to take the risk of its being on the highway while a positive loss is being experienced in respect of the work done.
The case for a motor contractor and the difficulties which beset his path were set out at considerable length in an article by the Editor of this journal which was published by us in October, 1908, and our present reference back to that article is made for the purpose of emphasizing the fact that there are many reasons for our holding the view that excessive rate-cutting is the sure way to failure. There are various extras and contingencies for which the owner of vehicles for hire must provide, and which incidentals may not be appreciated by parties who have not specialized in the study of the subject. Amongst these extras we may mention the necessity to provide a percentage of excess vehicles and drivers, to allow adequately for lost loads and light running, to assess the extent and influence of that lack of consideration for the haulage contractor which is the custom at many warehouses and works, and to take into account the consequences of both overdriving and overloading.
In the aggregate, a motor contractor, except in respect of jobs where the conditions are ideal, must get from 60 per cent. to 80 per cent. more than the actual inclusiae cost to the owner who has himself control
both of vehicles and the loads. A lorry for which an owner can legitimately show his inclusive costs, with maintenance and depreciation charged, to come out at, say, 8d. per mile run, will seldom return a sufficient margin of charges for haulage work at hiring rates unless the work be booked at an average of Is. 2d. per mile run. There are, we know, cases in which the owner-driver can make money out of such a vehicle, and be glad to get the work, at 10d. per mile run, but that is only because he throws in his personal labour, charges nothing for supervision, and is able to
keep his one vehicle fully occupied. It is the owner of a fleet, who has to organize his traffic in order to avoid light running, and who has to charge the whole of the administration against the machines, who finds that the one-man rate is of no use to him. On the other hand, of course, people who have traffic moving in large quantities cannot always deal advantageously with the one-man owner, first of all because of a lack of elasticity in respect of rolling-stock, and secondly because of the lack of resources in case of accident or claim.
Two Overseas Demands.
We have this week received two communications which show further the bold that the commercial motor has obtained upon all business men whose affairs bring them into touch with the trend of Colonial and export demand. One of these concerns South Africa : it is from a gentleman who is personally known to the Editor, and who wishes to be put into a position to offer vehicles and tractors of all types during the course of an extensive business tour which he will shortly take throughout the countries of the Union. The other, which concerns Australia, is from the head of an esteemed importing and purchasing house that has not hitherto touched the motor trade, but which is in the closest touch with the enginening branches of the brewing, mineral-water and allied trades throughout the Commonwealth of Australia. This house is an old-established and successful one.
Both these offers are ripe for immediate handling, and, whilst they may not interest any of the older manufacturers, most of whom have fixed their arrangements in South Africa and Australasia upon complete and satisfactory terms, they are of such a nature that we consider it not out of place to give exceptional prominence to them. The gentleman who advances the proposals for South Africa will be in London within a fortnight, whilst the head of the Australian firm will be here during the early part of October.
Our desire is to assist both parties, by putting them into touch with British manufacturers who are in a position to avail themselves of the openings for new trade which can be shown. No communications will be forwarded, but any letter that may be addressed to the Editor will be treated in the strictest confidence. Manufacturers who are dissatisfied just now with the extent of their trade in South Africa or in Australia may with advantage let us hear from them. On the other hand, those members of the industry who have not yet granted agencies for the territories in question may be in a better position to take advantage of one or other of the propositions which have been entrusted to our care for advancement. The gentleman who has applied to us about his coming South-African tour has already been twice round the world at his own expense. He knows all that is necessary about road motors, and travels at regular intervals.
The Influence oF the Householder upon Orders for Motorva.ns.
Not until last week did we give publicity to an article which specifically elaborated points that must arise in the minds of householders by reason of motorvan delivery at their doors. We have frequently touched upon the value of this factor from the standpoint of the owner of the motorvan—for example, in our various exclusive articles concerning the establishment and growth of Messrs. Shoolbred's motorvan fleet. Many communications from users, which have been included by us in one or other of our issues dealing with performance in service, have also borne like testimony to the benefits which accrue to the owner through his greater ability to appeal to tbs customer, and through the existence of a new feature in the campaign which is ever being waged by him to add to address lists and new accounts.
How many motorvan manufacturers, we ask, have fully taken hold of these points, as yet, in their true
relation to possible extensions of trade for themselves? Few, if any, we are inclined to think.
We are prompted to direct attention to the influence of the consumer in this matter, as the result of a chance conversation last week with a well-known agent, following his perusal of the article entitled "My Preference for Delivery by Motorvan," which appeared in our last issue. This agent, who probably is at the top of the tree with the number of orders which he has taken for rnotorvans with load capacities of from 15 cwt.. to two tons, wanted to know whether Tnr. COMMERCIAL MOTOR would have any objection to his quoting parts of the article in order to send home to any likely new purchaser the undoubted views of patrons whose supplies might by up-to-date delivery methods be included hereafter in the total of that prospective user's turnover. The permission, it goes without saying, was gladly accorded, and we must confess to a feeling of some little surprise that it has apparently never before occurred to anybody so to summarize the case, from the householder's standpoint, as -on our invitation—did a lady contributor last week.
The Interim Report of the Petrol Committee.
The Royal Automobile Club, ii will be remembered, formed a Petrol Committee, as the outcome of a conference that was held in the Great Gallery of the Club on the 3rd June last. That Committee includes in its membership representatives of the A.A. and M.U., the Auto-Cycle Union, the C.M.U.A., the Irish A.C.. the Institution of Automobile Engineers, the London Motorcab Proprietors Association, the Motorca,b Owner-Drivers Association, the National Society of Chauffeurs, the Royal Aero Club, the R.A.C., the Royal Motor Yacht Club, the Scottish AC., arid the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders. Five meetings of the Committee have been held to date, whilst visits have been paid to the petrol-storage and packing installations at Thames Haven and Purfleet.
The constructive resnit, so far, is the following resolution, a copy of which has been communicated to the Port of London Authority :— " That the Petrol Committee recommends that, in order to improve the present method of conveying petrol from Thames Haven by water, barges propelled by internal-combustion Diesel, or equivalent, type engines capable of carrying 1C00 tons of petrol be allowed to navigate the Thames as far up as is practicable."
Attention is drawn to the fact that a special committee is now sitting at the Home Office,. for the purpose of investigating matters connected with the transport of petroleum spirit, and that the Home Office has been asked to allow the Petrol Committee to appoint witnesses to appear before that special Committee in order to give evidence in regard to the conveyance of petrol by road. As a matter of fact, a little more than two years ago, at a time when the demand for the transport of petrol by road in large quantities had not developed to the extent which is now evident, this special Committee of the Home Office came to the conclusion that it was undesirable to sanction the use of motor tank-wagons for such conveyance of petrol in bulk, whether such vehicles were built to specification or otherwiae. We find, in the minutes of proceedings of the Petrol Committee for the 2nd ult., that the chairman, the Hon. Arthur Stanley, M.P., on behalf of the Committee, asked the Editor of TEE COMMERCIAL MoTon to tender evidence before the Home Office Committee, The arguments in favour of official approval for the conveyance of supplies by road in motor tank wagon will thus be taken in hand in proper fashion. and the desired authority no doubt secured.
We have not space at Our disposal to quote at any length from the evidence that was given before the Committee, but we find that the five witnesses who came before it represented the British Petroleum Co., Ltd., the Anglo-American Oil Co., Ltd., the Port of London Authority, the Great Western Railway Co., and the Steel Barrel Co., Ltd., of Uxbridge. After careful perusal of the whole of the interim report, which runs to some 47 pages of printed matter, we select a few points for passing comment.
It is perfectly clear that the petrol-importing companies are charging the consuming public at prices in strict relation to existing supply and demand. They naturally have not disclosed anything concerning the prospects of increased or independent supplios from Roumania or other oil-producing countries. Whilst seeking the support of the. consuming public, through the various motoring bodies, the petrol-importing companies give no promise, let alone any undertaking, to allow the consumers to share the benefit, due to any improvement in transport, or reduction of charges, that may be effected as the result of such co-operation. This attitude is certainly not calculated to encourage the rendering of such assistance as that for which an appeal has been made. We think that the representatives of the petrol companies acted with a considerable measure of indiscretion, and in one case with a palpable absence of tact, in assenting to the view that "the Committee, in considering practically any of the suggestions with a, view to the reduction of price to the consumer, is cherishing a vain hope." Other factors remaining constant, transport and storage improvements ought to Produce a cash advantage for the consumer. These spokesmen for the importers appear to rest their case for aid from consumers upon the probable gains in respect of assuredness of regularity of supply. We admit the worth of added safeguards of the kind, but consumers do not easily follow why there will not be any cash advantage as well.
Again, from the standpoint of the larger consumers, we are at a loss to understand the diffidence of the petrol-importing companies in regard to any display of willingness to give facilities for delivery at the storage installation to motor tank-wagons. One of the
witnesses practically said it would not he done, whilst
the other gave a qualified intimation that proposals of the kind would be treated on their merits. Paren thetically, by reason of its bearing upon this question, we may very fittingly point out that the proprietors of the oil wharves at Thames Haven are now hard at work putting in a good road, and that they, at least, are showing no hesitation in this matter of facilities for the obtaining of supplies by road in case of need. The reverse was supposed to be the case.
We are well aware of the strength of the petrol-importing companies' position, but we doubt if they are acting in their own best interests when they become truculent, or allow their representatives, or one of them, to ride the high horse of independence, as the printed evidence clearly shows was done, before a committee of men who—provided there is some indication of mutual advantage—are well disposed to help them. Such action tends in the wrong direction. The mo,' wealthy corporations cannot with advantage "put up the backs " of their customers.
We are concerned, as a journal which is devoted te the interests of commercial owners, to see that every thing possible is done to improve the conditions of inland storage and conveyance, and we are sorry to have to conclude that the petrol-importing companies,
as we now know them, apparently wish to save, as much money as they can on present. costs of landing at Thames .Haven, river transport to the heart. of London, depot storage in London and final distribu tion to the consumer, without the slightest evidence of preparedness to share those savings with the man who has to pay for the fuel. It must not he overlooked, too, that imports by the Port of London -affect an enormous area outside the Metropolis. From our personal knowledge of Sir Marcus Samuel and his brother, and of the London directors of the Anglo-American Oil Co., Ltd., we should previously have credited them with capacity to place a. higher. estimate upon the credulity of the representatives of the motoring bodies of which we have given a list earlier. From the standpoint of the big commercial owner, there is something fundamentally wrong with a situation which hinders the realization of a saving to the consumer in the neighbourhood of id. per gallon, and we find that hindrance in the disfavour with which the idea of delivery ex storage to motor tank-wagons is regarded. Is there not some needless apprehension on this point on the part of the importing companies ? Even from Thames Haven, the cost of bringing petrol by motor tank-wagon to any part of London should not exceed .5d. per gallon, and it might be got down to .3d. per gallon. Who stands in the way? The Thames Haven people say it is not they. Is it Sir Marcus Samuel?
One of the appendices to the report deals with the visits of some of the members to Thames. Haven and Purfleet, and we here find the view expressed that "having regard to the effective manner in which the requirements of the trade have hitherto been met at the Thames Haven installation, the representatives of the Committee drenot feel that the comparative inaccessibility of Thames Haven affords sufficient ground to justify any recommendation of a change." Hereanent. one question remains to be settled. Can the petrol-importing companies give, and will they in that event do so, any assurance to the Petrol Committee that they have not. at heart the intention to do harm to the Thames Haven oil wharves, in the event of their securing authority to land and store elsewhere? Were that position to come about, the monopoly of the existing petrol-imnorting companies would probably become an absolute one, and we have good reasons for believing that the Petrol Committee has fears on this score. Are they justified?
The complexity of the factors which bear upon any settlement of petrol prices is sufficiently indicated in the report for us to recommend any interested party to buy a copy. The price is Is., post free, and copies can be supplied by the secretary of the Commercial Motor Users Association, /39, Pall Mall, London, S. W. Although but an interim report, in the absence of any change of attitude on the part of the petrol-importing comparnes, we fear that it may prove to be the first and last of the matter. Alternatively, of course, it is open to the Committee, amongst other courses, to go closely into schemes for the development of fresh and independent supplies, or of new fuels. It is an open secret that pressure, from many quarters, has been brought. to bear to that end.
Finally, will the petrol-importing companies do nothing to dispel the unfavourable light in which they have been made to appear by their own views—as voiced by one witness especially? Inflexible is the only word that fits the case, if the attitude is really as stated by him. Englishmen hate to be forced, and it is no gain merely to create enemies.
Public Travel on Sundays.
The advantage, in any motorbus undertaking, of being able to re-arrange the routes according to traffic demands, is at no time more apparent than on Sundays and holidays. We have frequently written about this facility of accommodation to fluctuating traffic upon different routes, but we consider that the bearing of this quality upon Sunday travelling is not appreciated as fully as it deserves.
Let us take the case of Sheffield, for instance, in which city one of this country's leading provincial daily papers is generously giving space to arguments in favour of the motorbus. Do Sheffield people consider how readily they might have a cheap means of access to all the beautiful country which lies around the cutlery city, did they only possess a fleet of municipal-owned motorbuses? Tramcars are useful for business purposes, six days a week : they are wasted, to a great extent, an the seventh day, by reason of the fact that the populace does not want to travel to its workaday haunts and localities. Contrariwise, the jaded worker wants to go to the country, but he cannot do so, at low fares, simply and solely because of the non-existence of equipment to take him.
It is not possible, obviously, for even the mostwealthy municipality to lay track and overhead equipment along all the radiating highways into the surrounding country, nor to bear the interest and sinking-fund charges in respect of .a single route which might be patronized on a paying scale only on one day in the week. Hence, where there is a hide-bound adherence to tramcars at all costs, and no chance for the independent motorbus, do the elect of the people keep the people from the enjoyment of their wonderful surroundings, and in this respect Sheffield has at its doors opportunities and beauties, the extent and wonderful characteristics of which are only known to those who have seen them.
We take Sheffield, of course, as a, case in point. largely because of the publicity which has been given, and is still being given, to the controversy there.
We venture ..to say that, if a deputation of the Sheffield City Council were to go to London on a Sunday in the near future, and were to be divided into groups and to take trips upon.some of the longdistance motorbus runs which have already extended London's route-mileage on that day to a total in excess of 270 miles, and which total is constantly growing, those members would return to Sheffield and leaven the present dull intellects—dull, only, we are ready to admit, in respect of the claims of motorbus traffic—of their brother councillors.
A selfish belief in the electric tramcar, which everybody knows was the vehicle of the last decade, but which is now outclassed for many reasons and uses by the modern petrol motorbus, is a short-sighted policy, and one which we venture to say should result in turning out a few obstinate local councillors in several towns in November next,