ROAD HAULAGE ASSOCIATION CONFERENCE
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Substantial rate increases coming in 1971?
by lain Sherriff and David Lowe
IN his opening address at the Road Haulage Association's 22nd Annual Conference, in Torquay on Tuesday, Mr W. McMillan, chairman of the Association, said that they were asking the Minister of Transport and Licensing Authorities to think again on some aspects of legislation.
According to Mr McMillan, it had been made too easy for newcomers to obtain operators' licences. "It is true," he told the 250 delegates, "that the Transport Act gives the Licensing Authority power to inquire into a newcomer's financial standing but we hear from all over the country that it is only comparatively seldom that this power is used." It should be made obligatory for the LA to satisfy himself beyond all reasonable doubt.
The Association also considered the LA should make a more detailed inspection of the facilities which newcomers claimed to have available. The Association, said Mr. McMillan, was coneerned about newcomers on two main counts. If the Government was serious in its avowed intention to improve road safety standards, then it was absurd to leave a loophole for sub-standard operators. And the reputation of RHA members would be damaged by the constant spectacle of operators of badly maintained vehicles taking comparatively short journeys from the licensing court to the bankruptcy court.
However, there was no intention to thwart ambition, enterprise or initiative. "Any newcomer prepared to accept our standards is more than welcome," said Mr McMillan. "In the road haulage industry, we regard ourselves as thorough-going professionals."
He told the conference that the Association sought other changes in the legislation, one of which related to the LA's power to take into account only those offences which had taken place prior to an application being made. It was not unknown for an over-eager applicant to start running vehicles without a licence while awaiting the LA's decision on his application. "Owing to a quirk in the law, the LA is not entitled to take these offences into account when, in due course, he hears the case."
Is security important to drivers? asks Mr Cropper
TWO fundamental factors had to be emphasized, said Mr Ralph Cropper, presenting his prize-winning essay on "Efficiency through good staff relations". These were that management was there to manage—it was their duty and prerogative; the other was that in the search for efficiency everything had to be exploited. And this included the "exploitation"—in an economic sense and a human sense—of labour.
Reading out extracts from his essay, he made the point that the primary responsibility for all staff relations rested on manage
ment. After talking of staff satisfaction, he declared: "It is really essential not only to consider staff contentment but actively to promote it. Managers and directors expect to achieve a high degree of job satisfaction for themselves and this concept should be encouraged to permeate the whole of a firm. Work should be made as pleasurable as possible for drivers, porters, fitters and every grade of staff."
A very critical point, he said, was the fact that the kingpin of all staff relations was to have the right pay for the right job. "This has been a difficult topic for generations," added Mr Cropper, "but how do you fix the right price?"
In the discussion which followed, kIr R. J. B. Knell (Met and SE) wondered whether Mr Cropper was not putting too much emphasis on the management responsibility. Should he not place more emphasis on the staff responsibility?
Mr E. B. R. Smith (Eastern), last year's essay competition winner, said that in mak
ing Selections from the essay, Mr Cropper had omitted the paragraph dealing with the advantages of the very small firms against the very large ones. "The future," said Mr Smith, "lies not in the giant consortium but in increasing collaboration between hauliers.
"The unions are better faced with acombination of firms than with the small individual one. I am not sure that we should deal with employees in a simple, paternalistic manner —they don't want kid gloves." Mr G. Ostroumoff (W Midland) asked if Mr Cropper did not think that giving a man a bonus meant he was being paid twice. Mr Cropper said he did not agree, so long as the bonus was based on increased productivity.
Mr D. 0. Good (D and C) said that in his experience bonus schemes lowered the quality of the service.
Mr J. Silbermann (Met and SE) asked whether the abtence of a career structure in road transport was not the root cause of many problems.
Mr Cropper said he would like to see such a structure but he thought that only the larger firms could bring one in. "It does involve new thinking by drivers and employers," he added. "Do drivers want this degree of security? They are generally of a roving nature, often seeking pastures new."
CAPS report will reveal large cost increases
A PAPER on the "RHA's cost and productivity scheme (CAPS)" was presented by Mr L. Taylor Harrington, deputy director of the Centre for Interfirm Comparison. Mr Harrington said he would explain what the scheme was about, the results it had achieved and its benefits and advantages.
"Firstly," he said, "it is not a universal panacea for the industry's ills, it is not a means of getting better rates and it is not a scheme by accountants for accountants. Its purpose is to provide information to help people run their businesses better and will possibly help them to get better rates. It shows how costs are changing."
CAPS covered two areas of study. One was an analysis of indices which showed changes in cost and productivity, and the other was the interfirm comparison which enabled participants to compare like with like.
The scheme was in its fourth year and was based on five groupings of haulage activity. Mr Harrington quoted some example figures from thelong-distance group, and the long-distance and general haulage group. The results of the interfirm compari
son were confidential to the participants.
Average figures from the first survey. year one, showed that a total vehicle operational cost per mile including overheads and financial cost was 34d against a revenue of 36d per mile; these average figures were taken from a very wide range.
Using the previous figures as a base of 100, year three showed an actual result of 121 against a predicted 115, a 21 per cent increase in costs due to increases in duty on fuel and lubricants, and larger costs for maintenance and repairs, parts and labour.
Moving to the latest figures—year four—for which only 30 out of 150 expected replies had been received so far, the figures given by Mr Harrington showed substantial increases in cost. On an average for the period January to October 1970, when projected for a full year the operational cost per mile would move from the year three total of 121 to 135, a 35 per cent increase since year one. These larger costs were due to a 74 per cent tyre cost rise, the cost of repairs being up by 10 per cent since January, wage rises (including the Road Haulage Wages Council recommended E5 increase in basic rates from October 1) and heightened vehicle depreciation.
Over a period of two years the longdistance group operational cost per mile had increased by 27 per cent and the general and long-distance group figure by 23 per cent.
Rising costs confirmed These figures should be confirmed by the end of the year when the results were published and then it would be up to the RHA to decide what rate increases were justified.
Increasing rates by 27 or 23 per cent would only cover costs without improving returns on capital; it was not yet known from the survey what proportion of these cost increases operators had been able to recover through raising their rates.
Mr Harrington said the firms which had the least trouble in obtaining increased rates were those who had a means of showing concrete evidence of cost increases; CAPS enabled participants to do just this!
Shipper pleads for help from transport
THE speaker at the business lunch on Tuesday was Mr Richard Hill, chairman of Dart Containerline Ltd and chairman of Charles Hill of Bristol, whose subject concerned road links for container services. There were two needs, he said. One was the provision of adequate track, which was the responsibility of the Government and the local authorities; the other was the need for adequate vehicles, which depended on tht level of investment in the industry. So far as the provision of adequate track was concerned, he said, there was a lack oi understanding between those who provide( the funds and those who did the work.
The transport axis of the country wal now London, Birmingham, Manchester Glasgow (with its electrified rail link), M1 and M6 motorways and containerports a Glasgow, Liverpool and London. "God hell Devon and Cornwall where people an industries have been encouraged to move bl Government," he added.
In Mr Hill's company they realized tha containerization was the key to their futur4 when they saw the transatlantic shipping o break bulk cargo losing money. One of thi advantages of containerization was tlu single port of call for ships. However, thil had placed a considerable load on the in land transport system of road and rail links.
Mr'Hill said they needed help from tb. road transport industry on three points; oi the provision of adequate pulling power with documents and document control ii ports and terminals; and an indication tha hauliers would be prepared to discuss tit merits of the interchange of equipment "But," he added, "I realize this has it difficulties."
TV image, steam engines and training
AN INNOVATION at the conference wa the presentation of three committee reports Mr J. B. Wild, vice-chairman of tb. education and training committee, Mr G Hands, chairman of the public relation committee, and Mr K. S. Robinson, chairman of the technical committee, made their separate reports and invited questions.
Mr Wild said his committee had found some difficulty in bridging the hostility gap which had existed between operators and the Road Transport Industry Training Board. However, a great deal of work had been done since October 1967; he thought they were now breaking through.
Mr Wild told the delegates that although the proposal for a statutory transport manager's licence had been abandoned, the syllabi compiled by the TML committee could be used as the basis for the proposed voluntary licence.
His committee was now to extend its activities into universities, full-time colleges and Colleges of Further Education in an endeavour to improve the level of recruitment in all sectors of the industry.
The group training associations were being asked to meet at regional and national level to discuss their programmes and any problems which arose in their working. He hoped the group training associations would be represented on the education and training committee.
Mr Wild criticized the members for the apathy they had displayed to education and training at area level and called on them to become more training conscious. Except for that of the members of the E and T committee there was no interest shown in this important sector of the Association's activities.
Mr E. Smith (Eastern), who asked how far the gtas liaised with the education and training committee, was, told that the committee had asked that gtas should be represented on the RHA's executive committee.
Mr P. H. R. Turner (Met and SE) suggested that the activities of the RTITB were too diversified. Mr Wild, who agreed, added that representation had been made to the Department for Employment and Productivity and the RTITB asking for road haulage to he more specifically represented on the Board.
Mr T. Burt (Yorks, Hull) wanted to know what apprentice training scheme had been envisaged for drivers. Mr Wild said that before any training scheme could be considered the age limit had to be reduced from its present 21-year-old level.
Mr G. Hands, public relations committee chairman, said each of the Association's 18,000 members was his own best PR man. Each member was vitally conscious of his public image. The work of the public relations committee was designed to help members to conduct their businesses within the law and out of trouble, but members could do a great deal for themselves in this respect.
Mr Hands divulged that the Association is to publish a reference manual in the New Year as a basis upon which members will build up their own file of information on those subjects which are their particular concern.
His committee was well aware of the problems which arose because of the lack of overnight parking and driver's accommodation and he hoped that it would, together with members of the FTA, exert considerable influence on local authorities in this respect. "I am well aware that the setting up of a sub-committee is no substitute for action," he said. "But I see no solution to this national problem except the long, tedious one of persuading the various local authorities to co-operate."
If members were concerned to improve their image then they had to identify themselves to the public.
Mr J. Wells (Met and SE and a national vice chairman) suggested the activities of the PR committee were not sufficiently extrovert and that the Association was too defensive. "Get on the offensive with the national Press," he said, "and present a new image to the public." Mr Hands felt that the Association should not be "gimmicky" and suggested that such an activity would not improve its public image.
Mr A. McFarlin (Devon and Cornwall) thought that much could be done through the media of television and radio. The Association should write scripts to present its image to the general public. "The RHA PR committee could present a real challenge to Dad's Army", he said.
Many other delegates supported Mr Mc Farlin in these remarks.
Mr R. J. B. Knell (Met and SE), while agreeing that the Association should project its image with interest programmes on radio felt that the popular Press was not interested in the work of road haulage. Mr Taylor said the local Press in East Anglia had shown a great deal of interest recently in the activities of local hauliers.
Mr J. R. Evans (North Western (E) ) suggested that the public relations committee was out of touch with some area activities. In his area alone two new large parks for commercial vehicles had recently been opened withoui publicity. Mr Hands replied that he appreciated that there was activity at local level but his committee was concerned that the Ministry of Transport should take the matter up as a national issue. Mr Taylor rejoined the discussion to suggest that drivers' accommodation was not merely a local authority consideration. He felt that group training associations should set up facilities but foresaw that it would be argued that group training associations would be asked to set up facilities for visiting drivers and not necessarily for their own members.
Mr K. S. Robinson, chairman of the technical committee, told the conference that the work of his committee had increased in recent times with the continuing introduction of new legislation, and he listed the main recent activities.
Mr Robinson said complaints from members on vehicle subjects occupied two hours of each committee meeting. Next in priority, he said, was the question of overloading and he suggested that axle weighing machines were inaccurate and members could expect an error of 10 per cent in their readings.
Mr K. Rodgers (Eastern) asked the technical committee to provide a "child's guide" to legislation showing what legislation became effective when. "Please put it in simple language," he said.
Mr P. H. R. Turner suggested that the technical expertise required for the maintenance of internal combustion and CI engines was gradually becoming inadequate. The transport industry was heading for a crisis in this respect and he believed that these engines were inherently unreliable. While he thought that the solution might lie in the sealed units of gas turbines, he wanted to know if the technical committee was doing any research in this field and went on to suggest that the real answer lay in returning to steam-powered units.
Mr Robinson replied that this has not been a subject which had been considered by the committee but he felt that it was one to which members would turn their attention very soon.
Hauliers must work with users
"WHAT the user wants from the haulier" was the subject covered by Mr Frank Taylor, a group distribution manager, of Unilever Ltd, in his paper on Wednesday morning.
The events of the past few months had led to the steepest increases in road haulage rates in his experience. Mr Taylor said. Furthermore, with the wages explosion continuing and a further cut in drivers' hours clearly in prospect, more of the same bitter medicine had to be expected.
Unfortunately, he said, the road haulage industry was more vulnerable than most to inflation because it was labour intensive, so large wage increases inevitably gave rise to large increases in hauliers' rates. And events in the transport industry across the Channel were quite likely to add to the inflationary pressures.
Road haulage had been subjected to so much change already and there were so many more radical changes in prospect that the user /haulier relationship would be affected. A large section of the industry had been unprepared for the recent flood of legislation despite all the advance publicity.
Mr Taylor said there was a high incidence of vehicles not reporting for loading at the agreed time because of mechanical defects. "Hauliers," he said, "put some of the blame on the vehicle industry or their agents who appear to be unable to supply spares on demand, or even within a reasonable time. It is high time that this problem was sorted out."
Turning to the subject of costs, Mr Taylor said there were still avenues through which they could be contained or reduced but to do so delegates had to be willing to work with the customers. Mr Taylor took as an example the question of terminal delays which, he said, accounted nowadays for a significant share of road transport costs.
"In Unilever we are currently investigating the practicability and economics of a trailer park system which could enable us to eliminate waiting time," he said. "We would expect the hauliers in the scheme to make effective use of the driver's time that would be gained by eliminating waiting time, by re-scheduling and to reflect the additional work they should get from the same resources in the rates they charge us."
If hauliers were prepared to face up to the meaning of professionalism, then he thought they could view the future with confidence. Otherwise, many more users would enter into own-account transport.
Good too good for the North
• TWELVE members of the Association formed two teams to join battle in a north v. south quiz which provided some light relief for the delegates. However, the questions were far from facetious and demanded a comprehensive knowledge of the industry. They covered matters of historical importance, current legislation, C and U Regulations, operators' licences, training and conditions of service.
The South of England team defeated the North by 50 points to 44—but depended largely on one man for their victory. He is Mr D. 0. Good, of Devon and Cornwall and a past national chairman, who displayed a remarkable knowledge on the most complex questions. The team from the North was better balanced but had no one to counter the depth of knowledge of Mr Good.
The following are examples of the questions asked: 01. Under the Contracts of Employment Act 1963, an employer must give notice of the termination of employment. How much notice must be given to an employee whose employment amounts to five years or more?
02, What are the maximum permitted gross weights of (al rigid vehicles with three axles: lb) an articulated vehicle with three axles?
0 3, What is the maximum permitted length of a rigid goods vehicle used under C and U Regulations?
04. What are the present rates of RTITB levy?
Name the faulty vehicles
PREDICTABLY, vehicle faults and spares shortages were the imain, and virtually sole, topic in the members' forum at which delegates were invited to air their grievances. There was widespread support for a suggestion by Mr G. J. H. Hands (Met and SE) that faulty vehicles should be named publicly. If the RHA were to publish a record of vehicles found faulty by members, he said, this might perhaps affect sales and force some necessary changes.
Mr G. E. Telfer (Scottish), who complained of British vehicle unreliability, asked whether hauliers should not consider buying foreign as overseas manufacturers seemed to pay attention to the smallest details. He was supported by Mr A. E. Papworth (Eastern) who said that foreign makers had given him good service, even flying in urgent spares. But Mr K. Rogers (Eastern) said although his company (Silver Roadways) initially had experienced excellent service for foreign vehicles it now had more trouble in getting spares for them than for its British vehicles.
Mr D. F. C. Hill (National Carriers Ltd) said that in the first 12 months new vehicles averaged 11+ days undergoing warranty repairs, mainly to long-established components. Operators should help manufacturers by providing detailed reports; too often hauliers complained, but never to the manufacturer. Association members should centralize their complaints and let the RHA take them up with manufacturers. There was support for thi proposal, though Mr G. D. C. Ostroumof (W Mid) said that his area had started sucl a reporting scheme but members' responst had been poor. Since most faults arose it new vehicles, he thought type approval wa: overdue.
Mr D. 0. Good (D and C) claimed tha pre-delivery inspections were skimped: Mol inspectors should check vehicles at tht factory and the RHA should provide fielc inspectors. Mr J. R. Evans (N W (E)) saic his area already had such an inspector.
Mr K. S. Robinson (E Mid), chairman o: the technical committee, approved of the idea of reporting faults and shortage: centrally but warned members they woulc have to co-operate by providing theit names.
He revealed that one manufacturer hac suggested holding regular quarterly meetings with the RHA to discuss members future vehicle requirements.
Can you help?
MR J. R. ADAMS, chairman of the Manchester and Salford sub-area, brought E contentious note into the proceedings wher he criticized the Association's ruling that 0-licence objections could be made only by hq. Local knowledge was vitally important he said, and the RHA should reconsider it! opinion.
The influx of Irish and Commonwealtl immigrants to haulage in the North West was causing concern and members viewee the future with apprehension. Many of the new entrants were undesirables, according to Mr Adams, but there had been no RHA objection to their applications.
The conference chairman ruled Mt Adams out of order. He told him to lodge hi complaint at the the proper place and time.
Mr E. B. R. Smith (Eastern) asked fot assistance in finding return loads and emergency services. He wanted the Ion) distance functional group to compile 4 register of its members who were prepared to assist in these ways. Mr J. Reid said tha Manchester Hauliers Ltd had been set up tt do just that and would be happy to help. M Smith pressed the point that he wanted national register.
Mr G. D. C. Ostroumoff (W Mid) saic that such a register could be useful if thc RHA became selective over membership He felt that many ,who would register might prove to be bad payers. Mr E. J. Barbet (Eastern) told Mr Smith that the RHA die not exist to assist members and that the members must help themselves. Mr Smitt. took issue on this point—he believed that helping members was one of the RHA'E functions.
Mr W. McMillan, national chairman. thought adequate facilities existed now, so long as operators used the services of area secretaries.
The 1971 RHA Conference will be held in Brighton.
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