The Place of the Small Man
If you've noticed an error in this article please click here to report it so we can fix it.
PARTICULAR interest attaches to the story which is published in the centre pages of this issue of ." The Commercial Motor." It is typical, for it has been preceded by others of a similar nature and will be followed by more of the same kind. It is, indeed, a miniature history of the road-transport industry of this country, of its beginnings, its growth and its success. It tells how a successful business in haulage can be built up from a small start by what is commonly called a "small man."
Little men are the backbone rand brains of our industry. They are particularly well placed to give the sort of service that the trade and industry of the country need. By encouraging the small man, and particularly by refraining from repressive measures directed towards his elimination in favour of bigger units, the best interests of the country are served. In that way we are assured of a greater proportion of brains per vehicle than by any other method.
Service Which Often Brings Success We gain also because there is a more intensive effort by the individual in control of a small business than by the employee of a large concern. The former •goes willingly and energetically to work, not counting the hours he puts in per day or per week. The latter, naturally, considers that he has earned his salary when the clock tells him that it is time to knock off, and he does so accordingly. There is no criticism of the employee implied in that statement. He sells his labour at a price for so many hours, and is not to , be described as unreasonable if he keeps fairly to his bargain. The small haulier knows that his reward is assured by running only the best possible service, and the measure of that is not in the houn; he works but in the concrete results he can show.
There is, too, this major consideration, which applies to all industries. The large concern, ruled impersonally from a head office, is apt to consider 'the ends more important than the means, the balance-sheet rather than the employees. When slack time comes it may, and usually does, meet difficult conditions by throwing a batch of employees out of work. Not so the little map: in periods of trade depression he tightens his belt and tarries on through them until the good times come again. In the haulage industry, in partitular,-there is an unusually close relationship between employe!' and employees. The former will go to . great lengths rather than loge the services of the drivers he has known for so long. The men, too, knowing their employer and, appreciating his circumstances, are themselves anxious to stay with him. They are willing to "muck in " with the boss. They all pull together and help to the best of their ability to weather any storm which may arise.
The concern which is the subject of the article in question is in one Way different from most, in that its growth and expansion have occurred since the introduction of the Road and Rail Traffic Act, which practically closed the industry to newcomers and made it much more difficult for the energetic and enterprising small man to enlarge the scope of his business.
There is a groWing feeling, prevalent ainongst all but those whose individual ends are served by it,' that this is a flaw in the Act, inasmuch as it discourages enterprise and forbids the enfry of new blood into an industry which, above all, is likely to thrive and progress more effectively if it receives occasional infusions of new blood. That particular weakness will be thrown into high relief when the war is over and potential recruits, of the kind the industry should welcome, find themselves denied right of entry as master men into a business for which they may have particular talents.
Advice to Transport Commissioners The way out is for the Regional Transport Commissioners .to be instructed to interpret the term "public interest" more widely than hitherto, so as to permit new interests to collie into the haulage industry to strengthen and improve it. This is a problem to which serious attention. will shortly have tO be given. Meantime we shall continue to encourage the small operator, on the grounds that he is essential not merely to the haulage industry itself but in furtherance of the commercial activities of the country as a whole. The smaller, compact concerns deserve encouragement because the personal contact which they can maintain, and the individual attention which they are able to give, combine to ensure that the transport service which they afford is of the kind that trade and industry really require.
Where Will War Vehicles Go?
ANYONE who has seen some of our huge convoys of vehicles destined for service overseas, as well as in this country, must have wondered as to the ultimate fate of these machines, following the war.
No doubt, we shall retain a fairly large standing army, apart from possible armies of occupation. There is also bound to be considerable wastage of vehicles. Many also are of types unsuited to the needs of commercial road transport. Great numbers are abroad and many more are likely to go.
There will unquestionably be a considerable dearth of civilian transport in the countries which have been stripped by the enemy. Is it too much to hope that a fairly large proportion of the vehicles sent abroad for duty with the Services can be marketed overseas, and thus assist in several ways in solving the problem of their disposal?
First is the fact that they would not require to be reimported, so that shipping space which ma, r well be required for other purposes would not be wasted. Then our manufacturers at home would be afforded an opportunity of meeting our own vehicle deficiencies, and thus be in a position to give considerably more employment. Finally, we would be doing a great deal to help in the reconstruction needed to overcome the ravages of war where these have been felt most seriously.
There might, of course, be difficulties in the way of obtaining payment for such transferred material, but, no doubt, this could be overcome by arrangement. In any case, the vehicles thus supplied would help towards reducing the capital expenditure involved in such reconstruction work, and might be taken as part of our contribution—a sort of lease-lend arrangement.
No doubt there would be a sufficient number 'of surplus vehicles le-ft in Britain to meet any immediate needs during the period of changing over the factories from war to peace production, or for the time taken in the actual manufacture of a sufficient number of vehicles to cover our requirements after this period.
We must also remember that the war will probably be by no means finished with the fall of Germany and her near satellites. There is still Japan, and it remains to be seen whether our share of the war in this connection will be mostly of a naval nature, or whether here, again, we shall be required to supply troops and the necessary transport and fighting machines.