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The M.T., A.S.C., and the "Pushes."

22nd March 1917, Page 1
22nd March 1917
Page 1
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Page 1, 22nd March 1917 — The M.T., A.S.C., and the "Pushes."
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Which of the following most accurately describes the problem?

We understand that large numbers of men of twentyfive years of age and younger are on the point of being transferred from the MT., A.S.C., to the infantry or other "nearer up" corps. The great movements in France and elsewhere have also created a demand for more officers. This call extends to men who are above the ages which have hitherto been looked upon with marked favour by the Headquarters Staff of the M.T., A.S.C. Whilst the demand for new men is a very large one, those who possess considerable mechanical training stand the best chance. Officers for road work, however, can generally discharge their duties effectively in connection with convoys, provided they are experienced drivers and possessed of sufficient mechanical aptitude to make their own adjustments or to deal on emergency with temporary derangements or breakdowns. So great is the demand for additional officers that age is in a sense no bar, provided the candidate is sufficiently active.

Petrol and Petrol Substitutes.

The decision to tax petrol substitutes, official notification of which was published by us last,week, taken in conjunction with the decision of the Petrol Control Committee to require the entry upon all motor-spirit licences of any purchases of paraffin as well as of petroleum derivatives which are intermediate between spirit and burning oil, throws back commercial consumers upon very few alternative fuels.

We consider that it is the duty of the Petrol Control Committee, in the interests of home production, and without any disregard for the clear considerations which bear upon the shipping situation to give

an early official intimation in confirmation of generally-held opinion amongst users, that all fuels which are obtained on the distillation of coal or coal-tar shall be declared and treated as exempt.

We attach the greatest importance to the published view of the Petrol Control Committee, by way of preamble to the new Order, dated the 10th inst. These introductory remarks, by way of explanation, immediately precede the new regulation, as will be , gathered from the sequence :— " The restrictions which have been imposed on the use of petrol have led to a considerable increase in the consumption of petrol substitutes. The importation of these substitutes requires the use of tonnage which it is absolutely necessary to economize. The Petrol Control Committee are therefore compelled to take measures for the limitation of the consumption of petrol substitutes used in motor vehicles, and the attention of all owners and users of motor vehicles is called to the following order which is being issued to all licensed dealers in motor spirit, and will have effect as from 10th March."

This clearly` shows that the avowed object of the Committee is to reduce demands upon shipping. There is, therefore, neither apparent nor declared reason for interfering with the free use of home produced fuels. Yet, as matters stand, they have to be entered on the motor-spirit licence, and the volume deducted from that of the total petrol which would otherwise be obtainable.

There is an unfortunate lack of co-ordination between the decrees of the Petrol Control Committee and certain Acts of Parliament. The Committee, of course' may be able to make itself superior to ordinary Acts of Barliament by some fresh Order under the Defence of the Realm Act, but no such Order •to confer omnipotence upon it has, so far, at least, been issued. It appears to us to be clear and reasonable, that the Committee should construe the words "motor spirit" strictly in accordance with the whole of Section 84 of the Finance (1909-10) Act, 1910. The Appeal Court has yet to settle the meaning of "motor spirit" under this section. The Committee apparently must, correspondingly, be guided in its construction of the meaning of the word " petroleum "by the definition which is included in the Petroleum Acts of 1871 and 1879. It is laid down in these Acts that the term " petroleum" includes any rock oil, Rangoon oil, Burmah oil, oil made. from petroleum, coal, schist, shale' peat or other bituminous substance, and any product of petroleum, or any of the above-mentioned oils. If, 'therefore, the Committee does not make a specific exemption in favoqr of. home-produced "petroleum," it is clear that all liquid distillates of

• coal and coal-tar, must now be similarly entered upon motor-spirit licences. • This will amount to both a grave injustice and a hindrance to .the national interests. Action in relief of the shipping position may be the real function of the Petrol Control Committee. That object ca.n be attained without damaging the interests of colliery proprietors, gas undertakings, shale distillers', and commercial-motor users.

The Agrirnotor Plans. •

Increasing interest appears to have, been aroused throughout the country, and not merely in motormanufacturing circles, concerning the Ford agrimotor plans, inclusive both of contemplated production and possible methods of sale and distribution. We have been asked, both in writing and verbally, to deal exhaustively with the pros and cons of the whole situation, and we shall certainly accept that invitation in good time. We do-not consider the present to be the right occasion, which point we explained last week in a short footnote to two letters amongst our ",Opinions from Others," as well as in course of a paragraph on another page in the same issue (page 58 aAte).

We prefer to give the Perry-cum-agent scheme every assistance that can be afforded it by wide publicity in the first instance and withholding of criticism in the second. Any criticism which wc might pass upon the scheme cannot in existing circurnstanges make or mar-it, but it might easily be misunderstood. Our pages are open to oorrespondents, as heretofore. We conceive that the proper spirit in,which to regard Mr. Perry's efforts is one of admiration for his pluck in tackling the job at all. We have freely adMated that the agency scheme of control is in soma

respects superior to our own earlier suggestion in January last for the supervision of the new agrinaotors at' the hands of the C.M.U.A. We then wrote inter alia : "We believe that; at least 100 good men, with the necessary administrative capacity and mechanical knowledge in combination, can be found amongst the membership of the C.M.U.A., and renderedeavailable for this important national work, if their services:axe officially sought for the purpose of undertaking the duties, which must arise for discharge by somebody in matters of inspection and supervision, when the contemplated large numbers of agrimotors are brought into work."

Our proposal of January had mil& in its favour, yet it cannot but be realized that motor-haulage and other members of the C.M.U.A. were in a less favourable position to detach themselves, even for a period of six weeks, from their traffic obligations, than were the agents of the country from their usual obligations. If the agents, working under Mr. Perry, find themselves unable to achieve that which it was hoped they Might achieve, the failure may be ,attributable to the fact that matters were not taken in hand soon enough. The difference between the end of January, when the proposals of the Editor of this journal were first circulated through the columns of its sister journal "The Motor," and the 1st March, on which date Mr. Perry Convened a meeting of the intended county agents for them to receive their first instructions, represents a loss of time of which the consequences will not be fully realized until the harvest is gathered.

Taxi Fares and Taxi Strikes.

Our intimations that before long a vital change in the fare basis for taxicab hiring, from Sd. per mile to is. per mile, will, be approved at the hands of the Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis and the Home Office, may soon be proved correct. We have urged the necessity for this change for a long time past. Unless the change is sanctioned, London's motorcab trade will disappear. It will pay nobody, except the rapacious driver.

The threatened strike of the men, attributed by them to their solicitude for the welfare of women drivers, has not taken place. The failure of the taxi cab drivers to influence their more level-headed fellow drivers of motorbuses and tramcars was the

cause for.the non-prosecution of the strike. It mast

have been a dismal failure. The public is heartily sick of the behaviour of London taxi-drivers, and the relatively-few exceptions amongst the. men unfortunately suffer for the behaviour of the great in We wish to draw attention to yet one more pretension of themen as to the extent of the work they do. It was made a plea by them, when they sought an increased allowance of petrol, that a very large proportion of the cabs was worked for two shifts. The Men were able, on this plea, to obtain an increase of petrol allowances at the hands of the Petrol Control Committee. They succeeded in creating the impression that the ratio of available drivers to available cabs was something in the vicinity of seven to four. There is, as a matter of fact, only a small proportion of London taxicabs which are worked on the two-shift basis. Active motorcab licences in the Metropolis totalled 5361 at the 31st January last, in comparison with 6894 licensed drivers. Thus, instead of seven drivers for four cabs, there are little more than six drivers to five cabs. This simply means that large numbers of London drivers are receiving ernxigh petrol to work their cabs double shifts, but are failing to serve the public to that extent. The petrol is used by one man in a shorter period than two shifts, and the public is undoubtedly very largely deprived of the benefit of the extra petrol which is issued by the Petrol Control Committee for cabs. B20

A Tramways Committee Favours the Free-running Motorbus.

Interesting developments are foreshadowed at Lancaster, arising from recent proceedings of the Town Council. The chairman of the Tramways Committee, speaking it the last meeting of the Council, expressed the opinion that the time was coming when the corporation would do well to " scrap " its electric tramways and to adopt battery-equipped motorbuses. Our contemporary "Electrical Times and Lighting" comments upon the situation in the following words : "This is rather a startling statement for a man to make who is responsible for an important tramways undertaking, but it is interesting as showing the impression that is gaining ground regarding the economy and reliability of the battery bus." 4 We shall be equally pleased to see the metal tracks of street railways rendered no longer necessary, whether the change in public opinion is brought about in part by the success of internal-combustion-engined metorbuses or in part by that of battery-equipped motorbuses. The interest of other municipal depart ments is being gradually aroused : the highways committees—with the possible sole exception of the London County Council—are becoming more and more aware of the fallacy of the claims for economy in paving maintenance due to tramway tracks • electricity departments are, of course, as ready la sell their energy to a motorbus department as a tramcar department ; gas committees have had their attention effectively drawn to potentialities of demand from motorbuses which depend upon coal-gas for propulsion, such vehicles using ordinary petrol engines. We welcome the intimation from Lancaster of wholesome readiness to take up the tramrails

Apathy of Farmers : Negligible Extent of Working on the -Land Last Sunday.

It was the writer's pleasure, on Satuiday and Sunday last, in company with Mr. John Allen of Oxford, to be driven over large areas of agricultural country in the southern Midlands. We regret to have to record our observation of the fact that there is a remarkable. apathy, both amongst farmers and their men, with regard to .the present food situation

We did not see a single' horse working on the Iand during the course of the tour, whieh embraced some 500 square miles of country, and we only heard of two tractor ploughs which had been at work for a few hours on the Sunday morning. Something must be done, and something we trust will be done, to stir up farmers and their men to a better appreciation of the urgency of the country's demand. Each acre of wheat which is successfully harvested may yield four quarters, and that is enough normally to feed la persons for 12 months ; on the present rationing basis, it should feed more than 20 for the same period. We were ourselves in touch with work, done by steam-ploughing sets, on Sunday last alone, aggregating 200 acres of land ploughed or cultivated, of which at least 150 acres were probably Sown within the next 48 hours. This particular contribution to the food production of the country represents the cereal food of at least 3000 people for 12 months. It is indicative of the importance of working on Sunday, and above all when the weather is good.

It appears to us that the time has come for a pronouncement, from the Board of Agriculture, that any exempted agricultural labourer who fails to work on Sundays, if required, for the next few weeks at any rate, will be held to have sacrificed, his right to exemption. Why should such a man, who escapes duty in the trenches by reason of the declared importance of his occupation, have holidays for his own benefit, when the soldiers at the Front are both enduring hardships and working continuously

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