The Minister Told What We Want
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The Associated Road Operators Stage the First Big Function to be Attended by Mr.
E. L. Burgin THE Minister of Transport could have had no. better introduction to the members of the road-transport industry than was afforded by the A.R.O. annual luncheon, held last Monday at Grosvenor House Hotel. It was a most representative gathering of importhnt operators, manufacturers and other leading personalities, including some 90 M.P.s.
After the loyal toast, that of " His Majesty's Government " was proposed by the president, Major H. E. Crawfurd, A.F.C., who said it was our privilege to criticize our Government without being put in prison for it. He suggested a series of mottoes for Government departments, expressing this idea of freedom, and an apt one for the Ministry of Transport would be " Liberty—Not Licence."
Answer to Commission's Prayer.
The A.R.O. he continued, is the response Made to the complaint that the road. operator was not organized. This accusation was made at the time of the Roy-al Commission, and the, Association will not forget the services rendered by Mr. E. B. Hutchinson, when he initiated a movement which enabled evidence to be given before that Commission. [The introductory speech on this movement was made by the Editor, of The Commercia/ Motor, in the presence of Sir Maxwell Hicks, Messrs. J. A. M. Bright, E. B. Hutchinson, F. S. Kneller, W. Donaldson Wright, E. C. Marston, H. Turner, L. W. Gupwell, G. H. P. Dalg]eish,
M. W. Dring, C. Adams, H. Scott Hall, W. A. E. Vacher, .etc.. at a luncheon we gave on April 29, 1930.—En.1 Since then the industry has been largely organized. Many C-licensees belong to their own trade organizations affiliated to the B.R.F. There are probably not more than 25,000 A-licensees in the country. By next yeaf more than 50 per cent. of these will be in the A.R.O. alone, which; if recruiting goes on at the same pace, will nuniber no less than 14,000 members.
In some respects the industry is strangely out of fashion. It has never asked for a subsidy—and never had one. Never asked to be relieved of rates—and never has been. Never asked. that its competitors should be taxed so that they may be competed with more easily—and they never have been. Never, asked that our dividends should be guaranteed—and they never have been. Of all the showers of largesse scattered by governments in recent years, nothing has come its way —not a penny from Heaven.
Ours is not a mendicant industry; on the contrary, in the past 10 years, it has contributed over £500,000,000 in taxation, and has rendered services to industry which have assisted it to weather the years of depression.
The complaint many people make is. that what they buy is not as good as it should be and costs too much. Oddly enough, the complaint made against road transport is that it is too efficient and too cheap.
It used to be said:—
In matters of commerce, the fault of the Dutch Is giving too little and asking too much. _ .
This 'might be paraphrased to:—
In matters of carriage, road transport's offence Is to serve you too well and decrease your expense.
Road transport has provided a service cheaper, more prompt, more convenient and more elastic than ever before, but legislation has made that service less cheap, less convenient and less elastic. Major Crawfurd believed that, above the truckle bed of each haulier, is the text : "Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the road."
The industry does not understand why its livelihood should have been made precarious. As in any other occupation, its members should be enabled to build up business by their own efforts and create a value and goodwill which can be disposed of or handed on to others.
He considered the raising of objections have proceeded to unwarranted lengths, and a climax was reached when a Licensing Authority laid it down recently that it was competent for an objector to raise an objection to the grant of a licence, even if he could not provide the service himself.
Employers' Multiple Penalties.
It was hard to know why operators should be made the victims of offences committed by their employees and then charged with " permitting " such offences. They deplore them, but they are punished twice over in the police courts and often in the licensing courts.
The A.R.O. has had under review for two years a plan for the reorganization of road transport in case of a national emergency.
The A.R.O. accepts the I3aillie report in its entirety. and a resolution from the A.R.O. operators agrees this.
The chairman of the National Union of Railwaymen has stated that the Union was told there could be no increase in wages because of road competition, based on sweated labour. This accusation of sweating was strongly repudiated by the speaker, as the road industry stands third or fourth in respect of the wages it pays. The speaker then suggested that the " 20 " limit plate should have black figures on a white background and be at the back of the vehicle on the off side.
As regards co-ordination, the dictionary gives this as " arranging or placing of the same order', rank or degree." That is what road transport wants—equality of treatment.
The industry must have security Of tenure, must know what to set aside for reserve, etc., before it can say what its charges ought to be.
He hoped that Mr. Burgin would go down as the Minister of Transport who did not merely produce safety on the road, but who so organized the industry that the best possible service was rendered by it to the travelling public and manufacturing and trading, community of the nation.
The Minister Makes Promises.
In his reply, the Minister said that Major Crawfurd had made, if he could use Hollywood language, a powerful sectional appeal. In short, the relations of the Minister with road transport continue to he friendly—long may they remain so. He congratulated the Association on grouping together such an obviously influential gathering. At the Board of Trade an R.O. means a receiving order in bankruptcy, and he must get used to the different association of ideas.
With the Chief of the Imperial General Staff present, he might ask a question as to the value of generals. In a' civil war in China one side captured a general. Four colonels 'were offered in exchange, and then eight
majors, but all were declined. The other side was then told that the least that could be taken in exchange was 24 tins of condensed milk. He was quite sure that the general would now say, if one of his officers were captured, that the minimum ransom would be a considerable number of motor lorries.
His one desire was to see that transport was dealt with as a practical problem on practical considerations. He intended neither to be bound slavishly by the records of the past, nor to be led away by the theories of the future. , His task was, to make
transport facilities modern transport. If the shoe pinched, unduly, he would like to alter it, rather, than amputate the foot. He,gave the assurance that, consistent with keeping the substance in view, he was prepared to reconsider the form, and he would examine alleged difficulties in procedure and alleged improvements.
He and the Ministry pledge themselves to a real live appreciation of all the problems that transport entails, to a realization of the needs, of the country and of the services that road transport is capable of rendering. .