PROBLEMS OF THE HAULIER AND CARRIER.
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Such Special Conditions Attend Upon the Transport of Sugar Beet that Its Haulage Constitutes a Problem Unique in Its Character.
THEprospects of profitable business for hauliers in the transport of sugar beet have already been discussed in this series of articles ; the more technical aspects of the matter were considered in a general artiele in the issue of The Commercial Motor for November 1st, 1927. In the latter article some of the special difficulties likely to be met with in the haulage of this commodity were described and the advantages of using a tractor for the work, a tractor provided with spuds to facilitate its working in soft ground as well as solid rubber tyres for use when it reached the road, were indicated. There can be no doubt that, provided the distance from the field to the factory be not great, the tractor with several trailers —preferably three of the latter per tractor—is the best solution. When distances exceed 10 miles, however, the slow speed of the tractor militates against its use as It haulage unit, at any rate from the point of view of the man who is desirous of making a profit from that haulage at current competitive rates.
Some Estimates of Cost.
One aspect of this matter was thrashed out in the earlier article of mine to which I have referred. In that case the distance from field to factory was four miles and the haulier in answer to whose inquiry the article was written was using a five-ton lorry. I went into the figures for him and found that his minimum charge, to show a gross profit, including establishment charges of £6 a week, would have to be 35. 2d. per ton.
An examination of the same problem from another angle, to discover whether he would be better advised to make use of a small industrial tractor, with trailers, disclosed the fact that with two trailers for each tractor he would be able to do the work for 2s. 10d, a ton and still earn the same gross profit.
In the course of a brief discussion which followed the publication of that article it became apparent that, in some parts of the country at least, better terms were being offered. In one case 9s. 6d. per ton was mentioned by a haulage contractor as being a figure he himself was obtaining in similar circumstances. This seine man endorsed my view that the tractor-trailer outfit was better for this particular job than the fiveton lorry.
The problem of beet haulage is a special one presenting difficulties which do not appear in any other branch of the haulage industry. There is, first of all, the risk attendant upon working in soft ground in the field in which the load has to be collected. There is the fact that some of the roads Which have to be traversed are in poor condition and narrow, so that occasions are not unknown when, in passing other vehicles, the haulage unit gets into soft ground at the side of the road to such an extent as to involve, in extreme cages, transference of the load to another vehicle. There are difficulties at the unloading end, inasmuch as it is often necessary to wait for an opportunity to have the load weighed and removed. All these things increase the cost against the haulier, making it necessary to allow a very considerable amount each week for contingencies, which amount should be included according to our system of calculation tinder the item "establishment charges."
Increasing Competition Lowers Rates.
On top of all this, as though the natural difficulties of the work were insufficient, artificial troubles brought shout by increased competition and cutting of rates have now to be considered. The sugar-beet growing c36 industry in this country is a young one—at least so far as its present phase is concerned—and its growth has been rapid, so rapid, in fact, that it quickly outstripped that of the transport facilities available at its call. To understand how this arose it is necessary to realize that few beet growers or sugar factories can afford to provide all the transport which they need, for the simple reason that, as this is a seasonal industry, that transport is only required for a few months in the year. In those circumstances any permanent fleet of vehicles would be idle for so long as to make its purchase an unprofitable investment. Recourse, therefore, is had to outside aid and nearly all sugarbeet transport is carried out by haulage contractors. At first, as I have said, there were not sufficient hattliers available for the work to meet the demand. Oodsequently, haulage rates in this industry ruled high, and everything in the garden was lovely—at least from the haulier's point of view. As always happens, however, the supply of transport soon caught up to the demand, that condition of affairs being accelerated by the fact that all sorts and conditions of men, scenting here a method of making quick profit, rushed into the business in such numbers that the market is now flooded and, as I write, the beet factories are attempting to dictate terms and are offering rates which, to say the least, are not too remunerative, as the following proposal by a group of factories will demonstrate The correspondent who sent me_this list tells me that It is from a factory with which he has been dealing for three years. In the covering letter he was told that these rates have already been quoted to growers by contractors hauling beet to other factories. It' is, therefore, clear that hauliers themselves are not in agreement as to what constitutes a fair rate. He continues by stating that, in his view, there is too large a drop after the first two items, by which I take it he means that the rates should increase by 6d. a ton instead of 8d. and he adds that, according to his reckoning, the final figure, namely, the price for 25-mile runs, should be at least 10s. 6d.
In a further letter dealing with the subject he states that the type of vehicle which he uses is a five-ton lorry. He points out that there are many difficulties in connection with beet haulage and, in addition to those I have already enumerated above, refers.to one or two others, such as the fact that the quantities are irregular, inasmuch as it is necessary to work for small growers as well as large, and the former are often enough not in a position to offer a full load, or at any rate cannot provide full loads quickly enough to keep a five-ton lorry occupied. Turning to the question of loading and unloading, he states that in his experience it usually takes about 1i hours to load five tons, but this, again, is dependent upon the labour facilities provided by the grower. There is often delay, too, at the factory end owing to the wash being stopped through choking or some similar cause or because. other hauliers are in front and are making use of the weighing machine. Other How these rates compare one with another can best be appreciated by referring to the diagram on Which the two are charted. In the next article I shall try to demonstrate the extent to which either series is likely to be profitable. S.T.R.