"The Road Carrying Industry and the Future"
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A Studied Reply by the Eight Signatories to the Many Criticisms and Suggestions Which Have Been Published Concerning Their Booklet
WE have followed with. close interest reactions to the publication of our booklet and would ask the courtesy of your space in order to clarify a few points which seem to have claimed particular attention, judging by published criticism.
The Signatories took their courage in their hands and embarked upon what they fully realized was a difficult task, because they were convinced that if the future of the road carrying industry was to be planned on sound lines there must be a careful analysis of its real problems. It was equally essential to advance constructive suggestions by which solution of these problems might best be approached.
It is useless to attempt to build merely for one form of transport; in particular to shut one's eyes to those features of the road-transport situation which have, in the past, exposed the industry to such a volume of restrictive legislation, and to their direct relation to the railway problem. The stresses of war have emphasized both the values and the limitations of each form of transport. Surely it must be clear that both forms must be preserved and developed for their individual worth, and that for national reasons neither can be developed regardless of the effect upon the other.
The Signatories would be the last to claim that the constructive suggestions they put forward are the only, or even necessarily the best solution, their attitude being "if anyone can put up a better arid more practical solution, good luck to him." Such a solution is not, however, likely to be found by those who ignore or distort fundamentals.
Britain can hold her place in the post-war world only if her production, manufacturing, distribution and transport attain highest efficiency. To achieve this in transport means that each form must be so organized as to reach the highest technical efficiency, and must be utilized to an extent reasonably compatible with its optimum output.
Competition and Unfair Restrictions It must be apparent that the majority of the unfair restrictions which have been enforced Upon road transport has been the direct result of failure on the part of all concerned (and this applies equally to those engaged in road and railway transport, and to the Government) to find a satisfactOry -solution to the acute competition between the two forms of transport.
Those who suggest that everything will be satisfactory if we revert to the status quo of 1938-1939 overlook that at that time there were, hanging over the industry, all the modifications in regard to services and rates embodied in the reports of the Transport Advisory Council. These proposed modifications would, it was hoped, lead the way to a saner relationship between the two competing forms of transport, but the Transport Advisory Council was careful to emphasize that they were only temporary measures to meet an emergency, and that their duration should be limited to five years.
Furthermore, the Council stated that the extent to which _the proposed measures might advance their ultimate aims hinged upon this spirit in which the intentions were implemented, and the outcome was certainly not
a foregone conclusion. The road haulage industry (as well as the railways) had to prove not only its good intentions, but its ability to implement its side of the bargain. To return to 1939, therefore, is merely to take us back to an early stage of the problem and not to solve it.
The conclusion that some measure of consolidation is essential in that part of the road industry engaged in these competitive traffics was reached not with the advantage of any particular section or group of operators in mind, but in a, very sincere endeavour to secure the healthy progress of the industry as a whole, to the general advantage of the community as a whole.
The "Eight" Against Over-large Units Not only are the Signatories opposed, on severely practical grounds, to the formation of over-large operating units, but equally they believe that the efficient unit in long-distance goods transport must be ascertained by the test of practical working, and it will be realized that the figure of 60 tons unladen weight was a tentative one and obviously open to discussion.
Having reached that conclusion, the Signatories proceeded to shape their constructive suggestions, not, as has been suggested in some quarters,, with the object of putting the small operator out of business; any honest and careful examination of the proposals would effectively disprove that. On the contrary, the approach was shaped to provide for every opportunity and inducement to the long-distance operator, hitherto in a small way of business, to continue in the industry and to share in its future progress by means of amalgamation with others similarly engaged. These proposals would leave him the freest possible hand to join up with those whom his experience and personal circumstances indicated as desirable potential team-mates.
The object of the suggested time limit is to establish that the desired consolidation would be achieved by a definite date. Such a guarantee is the surest means for avoiding the risk of further outside interference in the make-up of the industry in the meantime, and the interval thus secured would be an invaluable assistance in developing and strengthening its internal organization generally.
The suggestions aim at attacking the problem of the long-distance competitive traffic in such a manner as to avoid prejudicing those engaged in 'purely local transport, a type of work estimated to occupy appreciably more than half of the total number of vehicles owned by A and B licence holders.
The Signatories, when compiling the booklet, took considerable pains to avoid any action which might conceivably have compromised any other body or person, or have offered even the slightest grounds for anyone concluding that the suggestions were anything other than what they are recorded as being "the considered opinion of some experienced in the road-transport industry and familiar with the position between it and other forms of transport."
Our desire was, and remains, the promotion of informed and constructive thinking on a difficult and important problem. •