Gas Traction Progress Reported.
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AFEW HOURS after the last issue of TED COMMERCIAL MOTOR had closed for press an announcement was made by the Gas Traction Committee upon the evidence already laid before it and upon the next phases of its work. The announcement, in a large measure, summarized many facts Which had already gained publicity, and for that reason the attempt was not made to include it in the issue (an attempt which is the equivalent, in journalism, of stopping an express train, just after it has left the terminus, merely in order to entrain a belated passenger !). It is, however, included in this issue, as it focuses public attention upon the extraordinary Progress which has been made in gas transport. We were prepared nearly a month ago to vouch for the statement that up to that date 4000 vehicles were running on coal-gas, but the announcement of the Gas Traction Committee now places on record the fact that, according to the evidence laid before it, about 4500 commercial motor vehicles have been equipped to run on this alternative fuel. In addition, about 200 (or less) private motorcars have been fitted up for coal-gas, but "no further orders in this category are being taken," which, by the way, supports the deduction that was drawn by the Petrol Control Department from its figures for petrol licence applications, namely, that the private motorist had been shown to be honest, reasonable and patriotic—as one not carried away with wild prejudices would naturally have expected!
There are licensed to-day to run on petrol about 30,000 commercial vehicles (the series of licences issued from November onwards had totalled 20,738 by the close of the year). With the 2500 flexible gas containers shown by the evidence as being on order when the Committee's announcement was made, we have 7000 vehicles converted or contemplated to be converted. In view of the possibility at which we have hinted—such a shortage of petrol as may result in the suspension of petrol licences for commercial motors in April or Maywe urge upon all users to whom the proposition is not absolutely unworkable the need for getting ahead with conversion to the alternative fuel. Otherwise the rush of orders for gas containers will come all at once, which must inevitably mean idle vehicles and dislocation of trade. . .
The Use of Gas Under Pressure.
IT WILL INTEREST those who seek containers of sufficient capacity with small bulk, to learn that the Committee in its interim report will probably specify the limits at which gas under pressure in semi-rigid containers will, during the continuance of the war, be approved. If encouragement and assistance with materials and plant be given, the develop ment in the direction of the semi-rigid container will solve the problems of many a commercial motor user. . Moreover, we urge upon the Gas Traction Committee the argument that every atmosphere of pressure that is sanctionedwill be helpful to the user both in storage and in mileage. There might, quite safely, be complete liberty of action, coupled it possible with official approval, for pressures of say, 6 to 8 atmospheres (90 lb. to 120 lb.). So far as the higher pressures are concerned, we feel that the minimum of control, compatible with the safety . of the public, should apply to the next considerable range of pressures, going at least as high as 15 atmos. pheres or 225 lb..
• Beyond a pressure of 15 atmospheres everybody concerned—maker of container, user, filler and handler—would probably wish that some detailed directions should be given, but pending. the completion of the second stage of the Committee's inquiry the use of high compression should, at least, be allowed under licence (it being clear, as we state elsewhere, that no licence is now required for the use of high-pressure cylinders) issued to responsible parties, otherwise the necessary data and experience cannot be obtained. Without such data and experience laid before it in the form of evidence the Gas Traction Committee will be handicapped when it comes to consider the most advanced phase of the gas traction movement. These recommendations, it must be understood, are based upon the assumption that progress has been made with the Wood-Milne and similar containers to the point of commercial applica. tion.
The Coming of the Driver-owner.
WE HAVE BEEN rather impressed just lately by the number of inquiries, received by us from readers invalided or about to be -invalided from the Army, who state their intention to purchase (More.than one actually announces the completion of the purchase) motor lorries with a view to running them on hire work. The writers ask for all sorts of information, from the simplest detail, such -a-s where to apply for petrol licences, up to the most complicated question such as whether in certain circumstances they become common carriers or not. That men returning thus to civil life after. having had a more or less extended experience driving motor wagons should desire to utilize the experience and knowledge acquired on service as a means towards gaining a livelihood is not a matter for surprise. On the contrary. But what has rather surprised us has been the number who express their intention of eoing in for 3-ton or 4-ton vehicles. They are -probably the types with which the men are most familiar, but we should have thought that vehicles of a smaller capacity, say, 1 ton or l ton, would have been more attractive to the purchasers from the points of view of financing the deal and of greater probability of continuous service in the more restricted areas.
But, whilst the smaller capacity vehicles have many purchasers from amongst the class of men whom we have in mind (and our regular contributor, "The Inspector," in his contribution this week devotes his attention to this side of the question), there are a large number who apparently will not be content with that type of vehicle, and so we have been giving our advice and information on running costs and other matters relating to large capacity vehicles quite freely to inquirers lately. The driver-owner of eoramercial vehicles therefore bids fair to be a strong and numerous class after the war, and it certainly seems to us that it is a class that should be encouraged, because of the probability that individual application will mean reduced running costs and therefore greater efficiency resulting inevitably in healthy competition.
We do not take the view that the coming of the driver-owner of the single vehicle is going to spell ruin to the larger fleets. We have always found throughout commerce that the man in a small way of business scores on some points, but is at a disadvantage in others. Per contra in the running of a large fleet savings in some directions are .effected, but the debit side of the account includes items of expenditure that the small man is not vaned upon to incur.
Admitting, therefore, that competition need not mean the cutting of rates to an unprofitable level, it must unquestionably improve and increase the transport services of the country, which fact alone is going materially to assist the country to recover its lost trade in the least possible amount of time. Every moment that can be saved in effecting this recovery will be of double value in rehabilitating our indus tries. , For that reason we say to manufacturers : do all you can to assist the driver-owner, for he is tha force that, quickest of all, can get to work.
A United Council Formed.
THE ARTICLE in our last issue on the desirability of united action by all motor interests has been very promptly succeeded by an official statement, from which we learn positively for the first time that a United Council of Motor Users, Producers and Distributors has been actually formed, and is getting to business. We have, then, to deal not with a mere project, but with a fait accompli, and this may conceivably influence our views as to what commercial motor users ought to do in this matter, assuming that they have not already reached an absolutely irrevocable decision. That such should be the case appears unlikely, unless that decision were to support the United Council unreservedly, and we do not think that any such conclusion has yet been reached by the C.M.TJ.A. To determine upon the reverse course of action, except, perhaps, as a temporary measure while awaiting developments, would be premature and unreasonable, unless there svei.e something in the constitution of the Council to render that body in some way antagonistic to commercial vehicle interests. Certainly nothing of this kind is revealed in the statement now issued. The user, in the aggregate, however, is given a predominance of voting power over the manufacturer and the retailer together, but we understand that the users do not wish to sit on a body partly composed of manufacturers and retailers. The exact allocation of that voting power among the different sections of users is to be permanently settled at a later meeting. We think that the C.M.U.A. should at least again consider the advisability of being there to represent its particular section, and make the voice of that section heard.