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21st February 1918
Page 19
Page 19, 21st February 1918 — MOTOR VANS FOR DRIVER-OWNERS.
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Which of the following most accurately describes the problem?

A Branch of the Industry Which is Likely to Appeal to Many Who Have Been War-Educated to the Petrol Motor.

By "The Inspector.

THIS PETROL-PROPELLED war has bred motoring interest in tens of thousands to whom the internal-combustion engine meant little but a few short years ago, men and women alike, and even boys and girls. Tens of thousands of people, the majority of them with altogether dissimilar pre-war occupations, will unhesitatingly turn to one or other of the branches of the motor industry, in the full belief that they will find pleasant occupation and adequate remuneration thereinwhen more normal conditions are being established. I feel that the motor trade; expanded out of all knowledge as it• will be by its war-time advertisement, will prove a greater magnet than ever, but that the numbers it will attract will be vastly in excess, at any rate for a time, of the opportunities it will offer.

Be this as it may, it is desirable to lose no opportunity, to spare no effort, in the endeavour to expand the possibilities, and widen the scope of application for which the motor vehicle, in its various guises, has shown its capacity increasingly during the past few years. In this connection I am rather taken with the idea that there is a reasonable prospect of success for the owner-driven motor van, and if this should fortunately prove to be so, such occupation should well suit many of those who, by that time, will have determined to devote their lives to some continuance of their war-time outdoor occupation, and who will regard their smattering—if it is nothing better—of motor-vehicle experience as an Open Sesame to its realization.

The driver-owner as a type is, of course, excluding the taxieabby, not new to the commercial-vehicle world. I recall even the driver-owner of a motorbus, in the days when these big vehicles were on their early trials, in the Metropolis. There are, of course, quite a number of driver-owners of steam wagons, and very well indeed they do their work, and, I believe, quite sound is their financial position. I only know of a few instances of driver-owners of petrol lorries, and I cannot recall a single one of a small petrel van, although, no doubt, he exists. As to whether this suggestion is likely to be adopted on any considerable scale, depends entirely upon the possibility of making it pay. There is no difficulty from the point of view of the supply of suitable vehicles. The driverowner of motoreabs has shown that, with his own property at stake, he, in conjunction with some parent repair shop can maintain his chassis in first-class order. I repeat, therefore, that the whole question resolves itself into one of finance.

The type of machine that is likely to be adopted" for such a purpose is one either shod with pneumatic tyres and capable of carrying a load of, say, 10 to 12 cwt., or perhaps a 1-tonner on solids. The choice entirely depends upon the class of work which it is expected to undertake ; but I am principally concerned at the moment with the motor van, rather than with the motor lorry. A pneumatic-tyred 10-cwt. van will probably, after the war, be purchasable at say, £300. Then, of course, there is always the wonderful Ford alternative, or even the Ford with one of those overload attachments. A 1-tonner will, of course, wet more, and solid tyred and with tarpaulins or canvas tilt it may run into from £450 to 2500. I have little doubt that such capital expenditure could be arranged, on suitable terms, by substantial men with the right credentials, through one or other of the hire-purchase mediums, whose operations, previous to the present circumstances, were on a distinctly growing seale. It must be remembered that most of the driver-owners' taxicabs have been acquired by means of weekly payments out of takings. A number of steam wagon driver-owners have similarly arranged for the purchase of their own vehicles. There are, of course, other cases in which not a few men returned from the 1.4-ar will be able to lay their hands on sufficient ready money to enable them to start straight away with their own machine fully paid for—which is, of course, all to the good.

It should be possible for a driver-owner with his own van, and with a reasonable faculty for organizing his own programme, to secure sufficient employment in such way as to keep him and his machine fully occupied and also to secure sufficient revenue to enable him to earn a comfortable, and by no means an unpleasant living. A likely organization should suffice to enable him to deliver provisions, butcher's meat, greengrocery, and a number of other household and domestic supplies all at one call, a system which would certainly prove an advantage to the householder, and should offer much attraction from the point of view of the smaller tradesmen.

It was in 1909, about the time when we were all getting feverishly excited with the motorization of the cab trade of the country, that the possibility of employing taxivans, as they were called, was put forward quite seriously. It was even suggested that vehicles of this description, fitted with hire-recording apparatus of the taximeter order, would be found on ranks or prowling for hire, like our old friend the taxicab. Nothing further was, however, heard of this scheme, and I believe I am correct in saying that the reason that it was dropped was a very practical and simple one, namely, that in any parcel-carrying arrangement of this kind, in which the consignment was unaccompanied by a passenger, there would be no one at the other end of the journey who would discharge the driver and pay his hire. This was '.a difficulty which appeared to be insurmountable.

The failure of the taxivan idea has, however, little relation to the possibility of success for the motorvan driver-owner. It is at any rate desirable that we of the motor industry should ask ourselves quite seriously if there is not a chance of lucrative employment in the manner suggested. If there is, it should prove a boon to many who will be looking for employment in some such direction as this, and it may well prove to be one solution, at least, to the trouble that I generally foresee, that we shall have far too many people after the war who will consider that the motor industry is the one in which they may be sure of earning a living.

There has always been a peculiar fascination, amongst a certain class of people, for the motor trade. Not a few have turned to it after failure at almost everything else. and there is no more room for "failures ' in the motor industry than there is in any other part of our national life. That, however, will not prevent quite a large number of people from turning to it with the idea, that it is an agreeable and pleasant manner of earning a relatively easy living. We can, at least, endeavour to ensure that no opportunity is lost in welcoming the right sort of recruit, man or woman, before the rush starts.


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