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23rd December 1938
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Page 34, 23rd December 1938 — HOW AMERICAN HM IERS ARE ORGANIZED
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Which of the following most accurately describes the problem?

THE annual convention of the American Trucking Association—which took place this year at Detroit from November 1 to November 4—was a stimulating affair, and one full of interest for the British observer who is familiar with the problems of the road

haulier in his own country. • First, let it be understood, the term " trucker " is the exact equivalent of our "road haulier." The trucker is the man who carries the goods of others for hire or reward. What we know as a C licensee is called in the States a "private carrier." The client of the trucker, the trader or manufacturer whose goods are carried, is termed a "shipper." A truck. is a commercial goods vehicle, and includes the light delivery van as well as what we call a lorry. It takes a little time to get into the nomenclature, so these definitions are important.

The Stafler Hotel in Detroit, the scene of the Convention, is one of half a dozen skyscraping edifices (my room was on the 32nd floor) in the well laid out centre of the city. Here, and in the neighbouring hotels, were lodged some 1,500 delegates from the 48 States of the Union. The American Trucking Association is a federation of the trucking associations of the diffefent States.

When I arrived on the evening of the first day of the Convention and made myself known to the officials of the A.T.A. I found the whole of the first floor of the hotel thronged with the delegates from these State associations, to dozens of whom I was presented in a bewildering series of twoor three-minute interviews.

It was necessary to keep one's head and to remember, as well as one could, such geography as one knew regarding the position of the various States. This was by no means easy—even Americans themEe:ves find it difficult. I was told one story of a somewhat complacent and not too widely travelled New Yorker who, on being introduced to somebody who was described as Mr. so-and-so of South Dakota, greeted him with "Glad to meet you, and how was the cotton crop this year ? "

.Taken as a whole the American trucker is to a .f.^2 striking degree similar to his British equivalent. Apart from the obvious differences in speech and outlook, the delegates at Detroit might well have been members of the A.R.O. assembled at Grosvenor House for their annual luncheon.

The types were varied and reflected the differences in the population of the United States. There were more sophisticated New Yorkers and others from the New England States, which is the main manufacturing area of the country, and somewhat similar types from Detroit and Chicago, each the centre of much activity in the manufacture and operation of trucks. Then there were

others, slower of speech, from South of the Mason-Dixon line, from Virginia, Carolina, and the " Deep-South." Some came from beyond the Middle-West, men whose normal work lay along routes from Denver, Colorado, and Salt Lake City, over the Rockies to the Pacific Coast, and, finally, a picturesque touch was given by a number of Texans wearing the " 10-gaIlon " hats made familiar to the British film-goer by Mr. Tom Mix.

But different as were the types they had one characteristic in common—they were the most hospitable, warm hearted collection of men it has ever been my lot to meet.•One after the other expressed delight at meeting a col league from the Old Country ; everybody told me of some forebear in the second or third generation who,had come from the British Isles and where he had lived one and all gave me the impression that they had lived only .until now in the hope of some day meeting me. There is. no time or space here to tell of further conversations in which this friendliness was shown to be real. I can say only that if I learnt nothing else from my visit to the States it was proved to me beyond any possible doubt that deep and lasting Anglo-American friendship is there to be had for the asking.

In addition to the truckers, the Convention brought to Detroit dozens of representatives of manufacturing firms, publicity men, representatives of other organizations interested in road transport and the Interstate Commerce Commission, the close connection of which with road matters I will describe in a subsequent article.

Now as to the actual work of the Convention. Its

scope and variety are great. I do not propose to describe it in detail, but an indication of the subjects considered in some of the committees will show how similar are the problems confronting the industry on both sides of the Atlantic. For instance, here are some of the matters discussed as indicated in the prospectus of the Convention : —Hours of Service (a topical subject about which more later), Safety and Personnel, Taxation and Reciprocity (i.e., our old friend diversion of the product of motor taxation), Insurance, Legislation, Carrier. Classification.

In addition, there were meetings of the A.T.A. Divisions which, it May interest readers of The Commercial Motor to know, include automobile transporters, common carriers, contract carriers, film carriers, petroleum transporters, cartage operators, oil-field hauliers, household-goods carriers, and private carriers. There is significance in .these various divisions, as I shall show later.

Each day there was a luncheon for the whole Convention with a speaker to follow. The hitter included 4.33 the President of the Automotive Safety Foundation, the President of the National Highway Users Conference (which corresponds to our B.R.F.), and a Washington journalist of note. On the last day, the Convention was brought to an end with the annual banquet of the A.T.A. This was held at the Detroit Masonic Temple, and was attended by some 1,600 persons.

It was on this last occasion that I was scheduled as the speaker, and I do not mind admitting this was a nerve-racking performance. It is the custom to have an amateur toastmaster who first indicates the distinguished guests present. Each rises as he is named. The toastmaster then makes a short speech, embroidered with a few stories, and proceeds to launch the speaker on his task. To talk in a strange country to 1,600 critical listeners who have dined, wined, and sung for two hours, really needs some doing. However, I managed to get through it, and everybody was very kind.

Apart from the indoor activities of the Convention, there were two events well worth mention. The first was a moving parade of trucks of all descriptions which proceeded through the main streets of the city, and was a most impressive demonstration of the wide scope and great variety of road operations in the States. The second was a truck rodeo, the culmination of a nation-wide competition in the safe and skilful driving of large vehicles, Finally, I would like to introduce to the British industry the leading figures in the American Trucking Association, to whom is due the chief credit for bringing together this very remarkable and representative gathering of men engaged in the road-haulage industry in the United States.

Heatting the executive officers is Mr. John V.

Lawrence, the general manager. He is a man of

remarkable personality, with the aspect and quiet manner of a student, but with quite exceptional • organizing powers. The Convention must have entailed an enormous amount of detailed and difficult work, but it all went through with the smoothness and precision that denotes efficiency. When, later, I visited the A.T.A. offices at Washington there was in every section the same evidence of competence and thoroughness, Mr. Morris Glazer, the public relations officer, was helpful at every turn. He produces an admirable journal, Transport Topics, which is the organ of the A.T.A.

At the head of the whole of this organization is Mr. Ted V. Rodgers, the President. Mr. Rodgers has to be seen to be believed. The only thing I have met on this earth comparable to him for sustained and explosive energy is Vesuvius. From Maine to California and from New Orleans to the Canadian border Mr. Rodgers rides, drives, and flies over the United States exhorting, cajoling, and advising from January to December. In five or six years he and his staff have built up a virile organization that, whilst its membership is less than 25 per cent of the hauliers in the United States, like the A.R.O. here, represents the cream. It is on excellent terms with the manufacturers and with the commercial world. It commands the respect of, and is invariably consulted by, the Government authorities responsible for the regulations of road transport.

The A.T.A. in its energy, determination, and broad view of transport problems sets an admirable example to the industry it represents so well. There is much in its methods that we in this country might copy. There are several outstanding personalities among its officers, particularly Mr. Rodgers, whom I shall endeavour sooner or later to introduce to the industry over here.

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