Experiences of a Lancashire Carrier.
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A Digest of Progress for 1906-1910.
Four years ago, we started this business; at that time, we owned two fire-ton steamers, one of which was a sixyear-old, and the other "an experiment" by a late partner (not by a motor builder). Our chief work, at that time, consisted in fighting against the ravages which time was making upon the six-year-old, and in abusing the driver of "the experiment" on account of the very-poor results he was obtaining from this machine. This state of affairs continued for the greater part of 12 months, when we discovered to our dismay that we were rapidly approaching a financial crisis. We, therefore, purchased three wagons from a well-known maker, gave up experimenting, and settled down to build up a business.
The Driver of Yore.
The driver problem, in those early days, assumed ugly proportions; the men either persisted in trying to run their boilers without water, or else would try to run the vehicles along the ditches instead of keeping to the hard road—no doubt with a view to reducing the vibration. In desperation, I started driving myself, and, although the broad hint was dropped on more than one occasion that my manceuvres lacked elegance, I succeeded in proving that running off the road, dropping boiler fusible-plugs and stopping for long intervals at public-houses are absolutely outside the business of driving a motor wagon.
The Value of a Good Name.
The chief work of the business, for the peat 21 years, has consisted in establishing a good name with the public. How far it has succeeded may to some extent be gauged by the fact that the yearly turnover has increased more than three and a half times in that period; it would have grown at a. very-much-greater rate, if we had been able to cow with all the business offered.
Respecting the financial aspect, the improvement has been steady and distinctly encouraging : for every £10 of loss four years ago, I have made a profit of £4 for the later period named. My object in giving these figures is to demonstrate: firstly, that, if properly managed, the public is willing and eager to support motor transport ; Seeendly, that, as this brief history shows, in spite of initial mistakes, motor haulage possesses the power of recuperation, and therefore it necessarily follows that it presents possibilities of a reasonable profit. Without inquiring into how this change has arisen, I briefly survey to-day's outlook.
The most-urgent need of road transport at present undoubtedly is fresh capital, to enable it to expand as rapidly as the public requires. This capital, however, must be judiciously applied, if it is to serve a useful purpose, and attention must be paid rather to the best means of developing the business on sound lines, than to the possi bilities of immediate or sensational returns. Practice, alone, is of value in this business.
Steam for Me.
Turning now to the machines, their performances, and cost of upkeep, there is a tendency at present to conclude that the petrol lorry is about to revolutionize motor haulage. Whilst admitting that this may be the case for loads up to four tons, experience leads me to believe that for heavier loads the five-ton steamer, with a trailer attached and carrying another three or four tons, is unsurpassable. The latter machine can deal with a greater range of traffic, in competition with the railway, and can also do this economically Over a much-greater variety of distances than can a petrol lorry. That is my view. It is with the five-ton steam lorry of a model which was built in about 1906, that this article deaLs—a class of machine that has been in use sufficiently long for the user to know what results he can obtain from it. The figures given below are obtained from four such machines, over a period ranging up to 2i years and of three other similar machines, purchased secondhand more recently. These three machines were once regarded as practically worn out; they have been rebuilt, and are now doing excellent service at a low working cost. The four earlier machines, as already explained, have been engaged in building up a general carrying business; naturally, this presents the most-trying conditions under which they could be worked, for they have frequently had to suffer for the defects of the business: no attempt has been made to introduce systematic overhauls; the machines have been run as long as possible; repairs have only been undertaken as a matter of urgent necessity; overloading has in the main been avoided. The wagons, to-day, are all in perfect working order, and they have not been allowed to depreciate to any appreciable extent. The loads carried are eight tons during the summer months, and from five to seven tons during the winter months. The figures are (riven in detail, to show that the work has been performed continuously and regularly, and that the repair accounts (taken over a long period) show no tendency to increase with the age of the machines; the fluctuations in them are chiefly due to big renee ale' falling in one period, and the period following generally shows a corresponding drop. I have purposely refrained from any attempts at ton-mile costs, as they are most misleading, unlese due regard is given to light running. Respecting the probable life of these machines, I am prepared to keep them in their present condition just so long as the public can offer them profitable employment, and I see no reason why they ahuuld cost any more to ruti per vehicle-mile ten years hence than they are doing to-day.
It may be interesting to some to know the methods of payment adopted with drivers; it .consists of paying a regular wage, for five days a week, providing that useful journeys have been performed on each day, the sixth day counting as an extra day if the wagon is sent out on a journey. In addition to this, a berms is distributed in proportion to the amount of tonnage handled by each wagon in the course of the week. Full pay is not given, when the wagon is not at work on the road, and the bonus is paid only when the work is properly carried out. In conclusion, I believe that these experiences are by no means exceptional, and certainly do not represent the best that can be obtained. They, however, are providing the business with a reasonable and ever-increasing profit,