Propaganda for ,the. Industry By Must Be On the Right Lines " Tantalus "
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Publicity Schemes that are Adequately Exploited Should Meet a Present Need and Exert a Strong Influence on the Industry's Future
FROM time to time demands have been made through the columns of "The Commercial Motor" for information regarding . the work of the Road Transport Organization Joint Conference. It would appear, possibly, that such demands have been effective, as a luncheon was held recently by the Conference for.the benefit of members of the technical Press. On that occasion a report was given concerning the work of the Conference and the progress which has been made up to date. Although there sti:1 rernaina a number of blank spaces which require filling, the information vouchsafed was sufficient, at least, to revive the hope that, eventually, -there will emerge a body which may be of some real value to the industry.
Thern Conference is urged to accelerate the tempo in dealing with outstanding details, so as to show the industry that an effort is now being made to speed-up: it must be remembered that two years have already elosed since the initiation of the scheme. This is of the utmost consequence, as frequently the question arises as to whether the promoters intend the Federation to become operative during the war, or whether it is being planned for the post-war period. It appears, generally, to be assumed that the former is the cast, but it is up to 'the CoVerence to prove by action that The assumption ia correct. It cannot be denied that reaching agreement on details is inclined to become a very irksome task. Indeed, it is often at this stage of negotiations that the danger zone is entered, so that all possible patience is required, as well as diplomacy, tact and understanding. Above all, there must be a complete subjugation of selfish interests, whether they be personal, sectional or national.
Apart from the general terms of the report there are certain items which merit special attention. There is, for. instance, the decision that the President of the Federation shall be an eminent person—not necessarily connected with road transport—and he shall not be a member of the governing body. This condition will apply also to the three Vice-Presidents to be appointed. By such decision the respective offices should be placed beyond the reach of personalities and, therefore, should escape the dangers of prejudicial power and influence.
The decision to treat the details regarding financial arrangements as a matter of urgency indicates that the Con-, ference is endeavouring to expedite the important side of the negotiations, Publicity Being Given Priority
Perhaps one of the most important decisions is that -relating to publicity. It should be noted that the Conference is of the opinion that arrangements in this connection should be made before the formal incorporation of the Federation and the new associations. ,From this, it is evident that the need for and value of propaganda in the road-transport industry i's recognized 'and that the subject is being accorded priority.
In an article which appeared in the issue of "The Commercial Motor " dated July 2, under the title of " Pointers on Road Transport Public;ty," it was' urged that there remains to be told the great story of road transport. To be successful, however, the story must 'be presented in the right way—in a setting attractive but dignified, interesting and compelling, romantic yet impressive. If it be the intention of the Conference to proceed on these, or similar lines—as befits the dignity of a major industry—then the appeal, surely, will not be made in vain. It should result in the gaining of Considerable support in 'the future fight which awaits'the industry.
Publicity which takes the form of cheaply produced and unattractive literature IS sheer waste of money and effort, and will be without appeal, or effect, in all circumstances. Therefore, it is urged that the shadow publicity committee
—which has been set up as an interim body—will regard its task as one of paramount importance, requiring initiative and foresight, combined with a sound knowledge of the requirements best suited to meet the special needs of the industry. The responsibility is great, for the future of road ftransport may be quite easily influenced by the type of publicity employed. There is one aspect of propaganda that, so far, has not been mentioned and that is the political side. What is the attitude of the Conference regarding the Parliamentary Road Group? It will be recalled that when this latter body was, first formed the industry was led to believe that a political link had been forged for which support and strength would be forthcoming to fight the cause of road transport in Parliament. In actual practice, however, it was found that the Group consisted entirely of members who were supporters of the Government and members of
the opposition were excluded. This meant that—ring tied to the Party string—they came under the discipline of the Whip"and recorded their votes accordingly.
Prior to the war, and during a debate on a clause in the Finance Bill proposing to increase the taxes on petrol and fuel oils, the rejection was moved with some vigour by an acknowledged supporter of the industry. Hansard reveals, however, that when the Member went into the Lobby his vote was recorded in favour of the ,Government. Special mention should be made, however, of one member of the, Group—Captain Strickland, M.P.—who on every occasion gave evidence of his loyalty to road transport events to the extent of voting against the Government when conviction demanded such action.
Political Field Needs Attention Road transport, as compared with other industries, and particularly the railways, is in a lamentably weak position politically. There is, here, a wide field for exploration by the shadow publicity committee,which should pay particular 'regard to the present system of National Government and the advantages arising therefrom. To illustrate this point, readers may recall a recent debate in the House in connection with the -proposed Pensions Bill. On that occasion Members of all political parties were united in voicing their protest against certain proposals. This resulted in the Government being forced to accept the will of the House rather than to face the alternative of certain defeat.
Reverting to the report of the Conference, this provides hopeful and definite indications of the intentions of the Federation regarding such matters as the collection of data on the working of the Government Haulage Scheme. It appears, also, that efforts will by made to obtain better facilities far employees and ta influence the removal of irksome regulations,as well as to prevent the introduction of new ones. All these are laudable aspirations and—as such—are worthy of support.
There is, however, one striking omission which has caused considerable criticism amongst hauliers, who deplore the fact that no reference is made to the part played by. the accredited leaders in connection with the Government Control Scheme. A feeling persists that, at the time the Scheme was launched, the leaders either meekly surrendered or their opposition was so lukewarm as to prove entirely ineffective. It is essential that—with the least possible delay—the policy of the Federation regarding this issue be made abundantly clear, otherwise suspicion and apprehension undoubtedly will continue. Hauliers should be informed whether or not the Federation is in favour of the Government Scheme as it stands or, in fact, of any form of -control. There can be no tialfway house so far as this matter is concerned. Hesitation and vacillation are dangerous weapons. Confidence and good will can be secured only if sober truth prevails.