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A Vehicle Ins Lce Anomaly

1st December 1944
Page 34
Page 35
Page 34, 1st December 1944 — A Vehicle Ins Lce Anomaly
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Which of the following most accurately describes the problem?

Preventive Examination Suggested as a Safeguard; A War-time Operator's Experience in This and Other Fields IN the course of a recent chat with one of my haulier friends, we touched upon the subject of vehicle-insurance procedure. He made a suggestion which is new to me.

He points out that, whereas it is easy to insure, it is not always quite so easy to obtain acceptance of the validity of a claim. In his experience, difficulties have frequently arisen, largely during the war and under the peculiar conditions brought about by the need for the use of used vehicles, in addition to keeping in operation vehicles of a considerable age. The insurance company, or more particularly the insurance agent, accepts the proposal and the premium, and the insurance is put through without any further formalities.

Often, however, when a claim is made, the question is raised as to the initial cause, particularly as to whether the accident, which is the reason for the claim, has been brought about by some mechanical fault actually existent in the vehicle at the time of the accident. This is. obviously, something which is most difficult to decide, and any investigation is likely to be prolonged and productive of disputes. His suggestion is that in every case of insurance to any substantial amount—as in the case of a commercial vehicle of any reasonable size—if the vehicle concerned be not a new one, then the insurance company should send its engineer to inspect it before it accepts the premium and passes the policy. The point is an interesting one. It is easy to object that this is going considerably to increase the cost of insurance. Insurance companies are going to be put to considerable expense if they are going to take steps to examine every vehicle which is offered to them for insurance. On the other hand, it seems likely that if this became the standard procedure the result would be to eliminate the number of doubtful cases and thus considerably to diminish the number of claims which insurance companies have to meet or, as in this case attempt to evade, The .conversation then turned upon, the work that this operator was doing and some interesting points, relating principally to bonus systems, arose. It turned out that he was only a war-time haulier. He held no licence before the war and was not greatly concerned as to whether he would be able to obtain one after the cessation of hostilities. In fact, he took this reasonable attitude, that he would not make any attempt to obtain a licence if, as seemed likely, his encroachment upon the field of road haulage had the effect of debarring an operator who had been in the business before the war but who had bad to suspend those activities while he went overseas. It seemed to him that that was something which positively should not be done.

He has, apparently, been engaged for the most part on aerodrome sites. For a long time he drove a vehicle for another operator and was working in Suffolk. Some five or six months ago he decided that he might as well be independent, and be purchased the vehicle in connection with which this controversy with the insurance company has arisen.

I asked him about his activities in Suffolk, and he told me that he had done very well and that he was paid a wage plus a bonus. -1 asked him about the bonug scheme, and at first he seemed to be temporizing. He replied that bonus schemes in connection with haulage were difficult things. He did not see how it was possible to hit upon a "scheme which would be equally satisfactory to the employer and the employee. Snags are bound to arise.

"One of the things which the employer is bound to wish to avoid," he continued, "is encouraging overdriving of his vehicle so that the driver can, by so doing, earn a little extra bonus.

" Unfortunately," he went on, "having this particular aspect in mind, it does seem to me, from my experience as a more or less detached spectator, coming into the business chiefly because my own, as a garage proprietor, has fallen on evil dayt, that many drivers are just as likely to overdrive' their vehicles Whether there be,a, bonus or not.

" That, at any rate, applies in connection with these aerodrome-site jobs, where the employer may be anything from 100 to 150 miles away, so that supervision is next to impossible. " Assume that the employer is paying a good rate of wages, perhaps a little higher than the standard, and that the driver is well aware that, with full knowledge of the conditions, the owner will be satisfied if he carries four loads a day.

" The driver sets himself that four loads, not as a minimum, but as a maximum, and if he can rush those four journeys through quickly, so as to give himself a couple of hours to play darts, go to the cinema, or some

thing of that kind, then he is going to do it. and the stress and strain on the vehicle are no less than if the employer had set the four journeys as a minimum and offered a bonus for every journey over.

" But," he continued, " I -have given a good deal of thought to this matter and I. cannot see any way out."


How did it work in your own case? " I asked. " How much did you get. and was it fair? "

I' The distances were very short," he said, " and we were paid on the basis of five loads per day, minimum, and 2s. 0d. per load -over and above that.'' ' It seems reasonable," I said. " What was the snag? "

" Well," he replied, " the material we were delivering was refuse from bombed-out buildings in London. It was being used as foundation for roads on the aerodrome. It was picked up from the railway goods-yard, whence it had been brought by rail. There was a gang of loaders there, generally, each harry used to go to a particular gang to be loaded up. • •

" Apparently the loaders were paid on a somewhat similar basis, that is a standard rate plus bonus, but, in their case, it did not work out quite so satisfactorily, largely depending, as it did, upon the class of stuff that they were loading. They had to reach a certain target of tonnage per gang and, after that target had been reached, they were paid the bonus. If the stuff was heavy—solid lumps of brick and stone—they had a reasonable chance of 'reaching the target and earning a bo.nus, and they used to try for it.

" Very often, however, it was light stuff—ceiling plaster and material of that sort—so that not only was it the case that a considerable bulk was necessary in order to reach the tonnage, but a good deal of it was apt to blow back as they were loading, thus accentuating the difficulty of reaching the target. . .

" In those circumstances the target became impossible, ,and the men just did not trouble or worry themselves about filling the lorries."

Now, here again, my friend showed his broadmindedness. He was not considering this merely from the point of view of the driver of the vehicle, although, in such circumstances, the driver's chances of earning a bonus were reduced by the reluctance of the loaders to work. He pointed out that it also acted to the detriment of the haulage contractor who owned the lorries as he, presumably, was also paid on the number of yards carried. The whole system, viewed in that light, obviously needed overhauling with a view to eradicating these anomalies and, without going too-deeply into the matter, it seemed to be my friend's belief that, in sach circumstances, the gangs of loaders and the drivers ought to be on the same basis so that both were paid according -to the number of loads.

Another thing which diminished the tonnage cleared in a-day arose from the peculiar fact, already mentioned, that each lorry went to a particular gang to be loaded so that if one vehicle was delayed for any cause, such as if the driver went for a fill-up of petrol or to have a tyre repaired and thus fall out of turn, the gang that would have loaded him did not immediately take a hand with the other gangs so as to keep up the standard tonnage for the fleet of vehicles in use and thus" maintain the earnings of all. . Its members merely idled and lolled about until the next vehicle, which they were loading, came along.

That difficulty, too, would have been avoided if both loaders and drivers, had been paid on the -same basis, but -there, of course, another difficulty arose. Whereas the loaders came under one employer the drivers were distributed amongst half a dozen, and it was not made clear that each vehicle owner paid his drivers, or assessed his bonus, in the same way as the others.

This haulage contractor had a word to say about the waste of petrol that went on at another aerodrome site In the 'first place, he was rather astonished to find that the arrangements were such that he travelled 32 miles from garage to site in the morning, and 32 miles back again each day, six days a week. That was in order that he could distribute a number of workmen on the way in each direction. The curious feature about this is that, whereas his mileage on the actual site would, on many occasions, fail to reach 10 per day, the dead mileage was 04.

Two glaring instances of wastage, however, occurred to him while we were talking; one related to the dispatch of a vehicle over a journey of 70 miles merely to take six barrels of tar and, within two days of the vehicle returning, it coVered the same journey•to bring back five of those barrels.

On another occasion, on a Saturday, when work was to finish at 4 o'clock, a 5-ton lorry with driver and mate was sent, at 1 o'clock, a distance of 15 miles out and back, simply to collect a two-gallon can of paraffin. Now, it would have seemed bad enough in the ordinary way to go to that expense for so trivial a load, but the offence is surely magnified because of the circumstances as, by the time the vehicle returned with the paraffin—a little after 3 p.m.—the men were preparing to finish for the day. At any rate, the paraffin was not used and the man who fetched it had actually to traverse that 15 miles and more on his way home, and he could just as well have brought it back with him on recommencing work on the following Monday. The question of rate-cutting arose, and in this connection the advantage of having some previous business experience is seen: It has several times been suggested to him, since he has had his own vehicle, that the rate that he is getting is ample and that he might very Well work for less. He has resisted all these tempting offers and will not budge from his original rate, He has seen, as he told me, quite enough of rate-cutting in the motor trade. " What is the use," he said, " if there be two of you with garages within easy reach of one another, of one cutting prices against the other? For a time, after the prices are cut, the cutter gets the benefit of a little extra custom. The other, finding he is losing his custom, decides to bring his prices down, too. Business then readjusts itself and becomes as it was before the cutting commenced and the upshot is, that the customers are getting the benefit of all-round reduced prices, and both garage proprietors have given away a considerable percentage of their legitimate profits." S.T.R.


Locations: London

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