Criticism of a
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Proposed National Rates Schedule
An Analysis of Certain Suggestions for a Rates Schedule Devised for Post-war Use in Connection with Long-distance Haulage
A• RISING directly from my article, in which I suggested that, haying in mind post-war conditions 'of . industry in general, rather than those of the roadhaulage industry in particular, there should be treedorn to compete in rates as well as service, I have been asked to review a proposed national rates schedule for long-distanoe road haulage, published in a recent issue of " Modern Transport." Had this request tome to me after my article arguing against stabilized rates had appeared, I might have regarded it as rather superfluous, in that the inquirer, knowing my views, could, in consequence, have expected nothing but condemnation. Actually, it reached roe after I had written it, but before its publication. I am, therefore, going to deal with the inquiry in all good faith, on the assumption —not mine—that a national rates schedule of some kind is desirable.
My opinion of the proposed schedule is like _that of the curate and the ea—it is " good in parts.". But I would go farther, and say, as probably the curate did, that the bad is too much in evidence And I can sVallow none of it.
The article appears over the nom de plume " Haulier." I believe three guesses would suffice for me to place him. My first would be ,one who is, as a matter of fact, not . actually a haulier, and some of the, criticisms I have to make would confirm that choice, for it seems to me—I may he wrong, of course—that some of the suggestions Made are not those which would come from a practical and experienced operator.
Besides a plan for a national rates schedule, the proposals also include certain suggestions for licensing which provide for eveh more rigid control of hauliers than that already prevailing under the Road and Rail Traffic Act,
which, goodness knows, is rigid enough. In addition, there would be an increase in the number .of forms to be completed and returned, and the need for a further host hi Government or other officials to interfere with,and pro
vide extra work for, the already harassed haulier, The general view of the industry is that the number and extent of the controls under which it now labours are excessive. This scheme. will increase them.
Details of the Proposals
There are five, wnat I might term, principal elapses in the author's proposals. The first deals with the method of classification. In the second there is provision to cater for varying densities of traffic in so far as it affects the probability of return loads being obtained. In this is included provision for compensation to those operators who, by force of circumstances, and by other conditions which are subsequently -specified in the proposals, are compelled to confine themselves to 'specific routes over which return loads are not plentiful. Thirdly, he sets out a method
of calculating the _basic rates to be charged. In the fourth clause he makes some provision for modification, of the basic rate according to the value of the goods carried, and; in the fifth, specifies conditions, governing the use of vehicles, of the kind which become necessary so soon as a statutory rates schedule is enforced.
The classification suggested is concerned with bulk only. The basic-rate is to apply to traffic of such a. nature that the load can be evenly distributed 'over the capacity of the vehicle to the maximum legal carrying capacity, and not exceeding 75 cubic ft per tom :For traffic exceeding that, and up . to 100 cubic ft. per ton, the 'basic rate is increased by 20 per cent.; over 100 cubic ft., but not. exceeding 150 cubic ft., 50 per cent., and if it be over 150 cubic ft., but not over 200 cubic ft. per ton, the basic rate is doubled.. If over 200 cubic ft. per ton,, then the basic rate is the legal carrying capacity of the vehicle.
This suggestion for classification is one which I have previously criticized. I do not see that there is sufficient
point in it for it to be of practical use. The diffeient types of traffic habitually carried which exceed 75 cubic ft. per ton (or 80 cubic ft., which was the previous -recognized figure) is so small that they can almost be counted on the fingers of tine hand. They include teXtiles and such things as hay, straw and. so on. The problem of dealing with bulk loads of this kind is, in fact, most prevalent in Lancashire and Yorkshire, and it is from. this area, I imagine, that this proposal has come.'
It has always seemed to me that the last clause of this classification, modified to read that the rate should be the basic rate of the legal carrying capacity of the vehicle, would apply at least in the case hf full -loads so that a stipulated classification becomes unnecessary Part loads can best be dealt with according to the experience of the operator. Incidentally, the deficiency of weight in a bulky load can often be made up by carrying a bottom layer "of heavy goods, such as pigs of lead, or small sacks of nails, bolts and the like This is often-done, not with the idea of cutting rates, but to make the load more than usually profitable.
Traffics That Are OnalMd
If a classification be desirable, and the author suggests that a complete classification would be too complex, then I wonder why there is no reference to traffics that are difficult to load and to pack, and those which are fragile. Then, again, there are others which, although they may not be classed as fragile, are, nevertheless, liable to suffer damage if they be not placed on the lorry and roped or
• otherwise secured by men experienced in their handling. Those are the matters which, it seems to me, should be taken into consideration if classification is deemed to be desirable. .
• It is when he comes to make provision for varying traffic density that the author seems to me to disclose his lack of experience of the practical side of long-distance haulage. He says, quite rightly, that a most important fundamental factor in long-distance road transport is the availability of
return traffic. To overcome this difficulty he suggests
• that vehicles unloading in towns in a Grade I (according to the Road Haulage Wages Act) Area should be paid at basic rate; those unloading in a Grade II Area, basic fate plus 25 per cent.; in a Grade III Area, basic rate plus 50 per cent.
In my experience, there is no fundamental justification for such a provision. It is the route and not the wage grade of the delivery point which determines the prevalence .of return loads. I, could suggest many Grade I cities and towns in this country from which return loads are much more difficult to obtain than in many Grade II or even Grade m Areas.. Some agricultural districts are as prolific in return loads as any, and, therefore, I am of the opinion that this suggestion is an impracticable one. '
If provision has to be made in any way for variation of the rate on a rigid basis according to the probability of being able to obtain a return load, it will have to he done by taking the whole country, route by route, and
specifying .a -'perceuta'ge for eac.h. As that percentage will probably •vary, .not only t'rem .season tr) season, but according to the activity at any time of particular industries, it is going to provide a headache for whoever
attempts to deal with the problem. It is, to my mind, utterly impracticable.
It is necessary, notwithstanding my view that this proposal is futile, to consider the provisionwhich is suggested for Compensation to operators working into traffic areas whence return loads are proportionately scarce.
On the basis of the foregoing proposals, it is suggested that, to provide for any vehicle returning empty from any area due to traffic fluctuations, an allowance, of mileage cost only, should be made to the operator either from " (a) A special department of the new Road Haulage Association fforn each area, branch or town office, the allowance to be made only to operator-members of the Association . . . or (b) The area office of the Rlinistry of War Transport."
Road hauliers in this country are, therefore, accord
ing to this plan, to be offered alternatives. They must either become members of the Road Haulage Association, or for ever, be subject to the control of officials of the
M.O.W.T. With the latter suggestion I need not deal. The former is anathema to me, and will be, I am sure, to the great majority of operators in this country, including those who are members of the Road Haulage Association.
Compulsory membership of a trade association seems to me to be utterly wrong in principle. I am a great believer' in associations, and I think that every member of the industry ought to be a member of some such body. Furthermore, I would go so far as to say that the present set-up, that is the N.R.T.F., comprising the three principal associations, is, in principle and in theory, ideal, with this reservation: that it is good for associations as for newspapers, and every kind of business, for there to be some competition, or opposition, for it is that which keeps them continually on their toes,, Commenting on this suggestion, the author says that this would make operators exert every endeavour to obtain return traffic: because the compensation they would get would be an allowance for cost of mileage only and would therefore not shOw any sort of profit—not even provide for their overheads. To my mind, there is sufficient incentive for every operator to obtain return loads if he can, without any such " stimulus " as this.
, calculating the Basic Rate When he gets on to the method of calculating the basic rate, the author of this plan is on safer ground: indeed, I might have written most of this part of the article myself. He suggests, first, that the cost be calculated per ton for each type of vehicle, fully loaded, from 1 ton to 15 tons, for every. 10 miles from 60 miles to 800 miles, for both petrol and, where applicable, oil-engined vehicles, taking the average where the two costs apply, the resultant figures being the basic rate of each graduation of tonnage and mileage.
In getting at this cost the standing eharge for the vehicle is taken, assuming an average speed of 24 m.p.h. for 30 m.p.h. vehicles and 16 m.p.h. for 20 m.p.h. vehicles. Provision is made for loading and unloading times at 15 minutes per ton. Establishment costs are included in the standing charges, which also cover depreciation on the basis of a five-years' life.
Mileage charges are assessed separately to include fuel tosts, lubricants, tyres, and maintenance.
The profit added is at the rate of 20 per cent. on cost, and this gives a time and mileage charge from which the charge for leads of any distance can quite simply be calculated.
If loading and/or unloading takes longer than the quarter of an hour per ton allowed, then provision is made for this to be added to the basic rate in order to arrive at the proper charge. It appears that this rate is to be assessed on the basis of the hourly charge without provision for mileage. In my opinion, this is a defect, because an operator loses more than merely the standing charge by having a vehicle standing idle.
He loses what he might be earning if the vehicle were running, and I think the hourly charge for excess loading and/or unloading time should take that factor into consideration. In any-case, I think the hourly charge in these circumstances should be, in a sense, penal, so as to encourage a quick turnround.
The anthoinext takes into consideration the value of the load, and he docs. this in a manner which I cannot quite understand. Traffic valued in excess of £100 per ton is to be carried at basic rates. If the value be between 100 and £50 per ton it is to be charged at basic rates less 2f, per cent. ; if the value be between £50 and £25 per ton it is to be carried at basic 'rates less 5 per cent., and if less than £25 per ton at basic rates less 7i per cent.
According to this scheme the man whose traffic is mainly of a kind valued at less than £25 per ton is going to have rather a thin time, because, out of his profit of 20 per cent., 7f per cent, of the basic rate is to be deducted. What I mean can perhaps best be shown by example. Suppose that the basic rate be 24s. per ton, that being assessed on the basis of cost at 20s, per ton plus 4s. at 20 per .cent. profit. From that rate of 24s. he must deduct 7i per cent., which means that all he will obtain la approximately 22s, 2d. per ton, so that his profit is cut down to little more than 10 per cent. on his cost. Surely, the basic rate ought to apply to the lowest-grade traffic, and any difference on account of higher-grade traffic should be an increase.
I come now to the conditions which the author of this tcheme considers should apply in the case of any statutory rates schedule coming into operation.
The first provides that the operator's licence shall be suspended if he departs from the rates. The second is most important. It involves a tightening up of the conditions under which licences are available under the Road and Rail Traffic Act, as_ though they were not tight enough already.
Further Restrictions Proposed
It is proposed that, in addition to the ordinary licence based on the unladen weight owned by the operator, a further licence should be added defining the routes on which operators may be allowed to maintain a service. A condition of this route licence is to be that the operator must have maintained regular service on such route at August 1, 1939. This is ,restriction with a vengeance.
The third provides for the prevision of an area ratesofficer. The fourth, for conditions of carriage to be uniform amongst all operators and railway companies. If this means that they should be the same for both forms of transport I disagree. It should be emphasized that there is no need for the conditions of carriage applicable in connection with road haulage to be anything like so stringent as those that apply to rail transport. A good many of the operating features of rail transport relate to packing of commodities for transport.
One of the outstanding advantages of road transport is that such complicated and expensive packing is not necessary. There are other conditions, too, essential perhaps to rail transport, but quite unnecessary for road transport. It is because road transport does not need to impose such obligations on those who use it that it is the preferred means for transport for so many commodities.
The fifth relates to the method of determining mileage, whilst the sixth provides that all commercial vehicles Viseto be fitted with. time recorders, and any driver exceeding the legal speed limit for the particular vehicle in his charge is to be dealt with by the appropriate statutory traffic controller (appointed under condition three) by suspension of his h.g.v. licence, in addition to police proceedings under Civil Law.
This stipulation thus proposes to perpetuate the injustice which has frequently occurred under war-time operation, an injustice against which this journal hasprotested in company with operators all over the country, and one concerning which Members of Parliament have felt compelled to raise questions in the House; that is punishing a mar twice for the same offence,
Condition seven provides for test centres to be sited. According to the wording, it seems that drivers and their mates will be compelled to take their rest and their refreshment at specific rest centres whether they like them or not.
The final point, No. 8, provides that branch and/or area officers of the new Road Haulage Association are to be used as liaison officers for trader and operator where necessary for the disposal of surplus traffic and/or vehicles. This provision is for members only and, therefore, provides a further means for compelling road-haulage contractors of this country to join the Road Haulage Association whether they want to or not. S. T. R.