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Freight Exchanges: the Adval a Material Loss to the Natio] Short Hauls. Idle Vehicles ing the Vehicle to the Load.
HOW MANY VEHICLES are standing idle for want of a replacement part of some simple yet essential detail for which the market has been searched without avail? Hew many of such vehicles could at the expenditure of a small amount of material and labour be again quickly put into service to relieve the present tense situation in the matter of the transport of food and other essentials I Is there not a department, the business of which is to see that every ship afloat is carrying a cargo, and should there not be a department with like powers to deal with land transport I
Readers can help us in our campaign to secure the efficiency in the country's transport arrangements by sending us particulars of idle vehicles, giving us brief simple details of the reasons for their inactivity. We think we shall be able, on collating the evidence, to present a strong case for more considerate treatment.
Freight Exchanges as a Relief.
IT HAS BEEN frequently stated that the life of a. trade is bound up in its transport. This truism may at the moment be repeated, but with much wider significance. The life of this nation at present is greatly dependent upon its transport. We are, therefore, justified in examining every possible suggestion for the alleviation of the present unhappy • situation as regarda the facilities for the distribution of foodstuffs, which facilities are undoubtedly far below our essential needs. It has already been pointed out in these coluaana that reform is, to all intents and purposes, limited to that section of our transport which is effected by mechanically-propelled vehicles traversing the roads, the reason for this limitation being that the railways are already occupied up to the limit of their capacity with the transport of munitions of war ; a.ctually, requirements in that respect really extend beyond those limits. The horse-drawn vehicle is, in all probability, employed to the best advantage, considering. its limited application and restricted radius of operation. The most obvious suggestion is that steps should be taken to eliminate the running of vehicles empty by the provision of return loads. We would that the solution of this difficulty were ail ythi,ng like so obvious as its existence. The problem has been tackled time and time again. This journal, in the earliest days of the war, foresaw a shortage of transport and established a freight exchange. The venture was only temporarily successful, and to a slight degree. It was suspended sine die because the dislocation of traffic which made itself evident in August, 1914, was a temporary. one and was succeeded by conditions which were almost normal. These conditions have long since reverted to the abnormal, so long since, in fact, that the abnormal has almost become the normal. One or two other attempts have been made to cater for "return loads" by private companies during the war, and, notwithstanding the fact that these companies were, to our certain knowledge, established by men who possessed wide knowledge and experien i
ee n the subject of transport, they, too, had but a short life. The advantages which would naturally accrue from the success of such a venture, however, are undoubtedly great.
In November, 1916, it was apparent to us that, as thne wore on, the difficulties of transport would become more and more marked. The shortage of fuel was then beginning to be felt. There was a pressing and increasing demand for men on the part of the Army and, whilst realizing that it was not the office of this' ournal to act as an intermediary in respect of the provision of return loads, we suggested certain methods by means of which exchange of freights could be facilitated, and, following our suggestion, "The Times" devoted a section of its advertisement pages to the publication of inquiries anent vehicles available and loads offering. This attempt also proved finally abortive, although it met with a little success at first. We have written enough to show that, whilst numerous attempts have been made to solve this problem, none has been successful. The difficulty, moreover, would appear to be one fundamental to all classes of transport, and the railway. companies, even, have been entirely unable to eliminate it, notwithstanding the advantages under which they work in this respect. The causes of failure are few, if important. In the main they can be covered by few words. The difficulty is the large proportion of "misfits."
Matching Transport and Loads.
It is invariably found that, whereas ample offers of vehicles and routes are available, the coincidence of loads offering which are timed and routed so as to be able to take advantage of these vehicles is, except in a few instances, lacking. This disability must invariably apply to what may be termed the civilian attempt. The conditions in this respect under Government supervision should be considerably improved. A private freight exchange depends upon offers. One in the -hands of an efficient Government department could allocate. The difficulties in the way of the establishment of a, departmental freight exchange, therefore, although they are still great, may be much less than those which, in the past, have operated to prevent success on a. commercial scale. It must be borne in mind that our state is such that the transport must be obtained and the cost counted afterwards.
Freight Centres : Short Hauls.
It is more than likely that the best solution of the difficulty will be found in the establishment in various centres of collection and delivery stations. If these are, in the first place, carefully selected, in view of the known conditions of traffic existing in the localities concerned, a higher average of loads available per vehicle per journey should be experienced than is possible if long-distance Tuns are generally attempted. The method is open to the disadvantage, in the case of goods which must eventually travel a long way, that increased handling is inevitable. Besides the advantage we have already claimed for the system of short runs, there are to be reckoned the increased convenience afforded for the employment of women drivers (who cannot, as a rule, be sent on journeys which involve being away from home during a night) and for the use of coal-gas as fuel. Furthermore, the transport of any class of foodstuffs for long distances will have to be discouraged except in miasmal circumstances when such a procedure is unavoidable. Food will have to be consumed, so far as is possible, within a given radius of the locality in which it is produced. Incidentally,, we might mention_direction wherein the
utilization of return-load facilities might be Of direct assistance. . We refer to the carriage of, returned empty packing cases, the holding up of which, owing to the inability of the railways to accommodate this class of transport, is undoubtedly one of the causes of failure equitably to distribute our edible produce.
Low Bridges and Entrances : Expedients.
We have already referred to the unwillingness of some owners of large vehicles to convert them to coalgas because of the added height of the flexible gas container and the troubles anticipated with low bridges and low entrances and overhanging tree branches. As we have pointed out, these cases cannot be very numerous, and if any great delay occurs in conversion to gas, the result may be very unwelcome. At the present time a. small number of vehicles could be equipped with apparatus for carrying gas -under compression, BO, if it be imperative to use this system, the work should be put in hand at once. There is need for more enterprise on the part of users. Why go on using petrol in those districts where gas is available? Why not see if the difficulties cannot be overcome ? If the bridges or entrances are low, use the trailer : if the manceuvring space is small, unhitch the trailer and draw the gas for manceuvring from a small supplementary bag carried on the vehicle. If a bridge at a certain point of the journey be -low, time the journey so that the bridge is passed under when the bag is partly deflated. There are dozens of expedients for the man who is willing to employ them.
Idle Transport: a Startling Amount.
The Editor, THE COMMERCIAL MOTOR,
YOUR ARTICLE on "Read Transport" is timely. That a, large part of the food difficulty is a distribution problem is without a, doubt. The curious situation of a short time ago, withregard to the Potato, was manifestly wholly a, question of transport. That -chaos reigns is only to true. A census of the number (*commercial rectors idle for want of drivers, or parts for repairs would be startling ; and a computation of the potential loss to the nation, and consequently to the winning of the war, would shook some.
To gird at the War Office does not carry us far. In a war those who are responsible -for maintaining the fighting line and directing its operations dominate the satiation.
That this is bound to have injurious reaction upon the ways and processes of -commerce and industry is due to the inherent antipathy between a state of war and the conditions of free action and free m.ovement necessary to the normal life of a, civilized people. It is to be hoped that we all, even our Chauvinists, will have learnt the salutary lesson by the time the war is over.
Waste, prodigal waste, at one end, and restriction to the extent of grievous loss to the community at. the other are inseparable from this condition of things. The War Office is organized to wage war and not to weigh the "profit and loss" of commerce; • and so business men can always point to wasteful and ridiculous excesses in its arrangements. But we are all—even the War Office—coming to see thatefuaanciad resources are second only to actual fighting, in the winning of such a war as this is. Financial resources depend on the maintenance of commerce and industry ; and so we get down to the importance of providing food and other necessaries for the workers, in which transport plays as great a i part as it does n the operations of an army. The railways simply cannot do it all—although some railway men, still jealous of a-ny other form of transport, would like to try. Road transport has its own part to play, -supplementary to the railways, not antagonistic to them. For the transport of perishable produce, that deteriorates so much from handling, like fruit and vegetables, that part is beCorning every day more generally recognized. Organization in this direction will take the form of shortening the length of journeys by disposing of produce, as far as possible, to the populations nearest to the source of supply. The back load is usually assured in the shape of manure or "empties." I do not like your suggestion of a, direetor—it smacks so much of another ll, viz., a "dictator." Have we not already directors enough to punish us for our sins ? Why cannot the C.M.U.A. be empowered to carry out this urgent work? There would then be no; dominating railway interest, and the work would be in the hands of men who know their business.—Yours faithfully, W. G. LOUJOIT. (W. J. LOBTOIT AND SON.) (The well-known farmers and market gardeners).
• A Skeleton "Return Load" Scheme. The Editor, THE COMMERCIAL MOTOR_
f AM CLOSELY following your article on "Trans
port," port," and sincerely trust that it is not necessary to appoint another Government Controller. I believe it is possible to find a, body of experienced mechanical transport owners who could, after a few conferences, devise a permanent scheme to utilize all mechanical transport economically, to prevent useless and unremunerative running, which would also be found workable and acceptable throughout the kingdom. I have had this matter in my mind for a while, and have thought out the following skeleton scheme which may be found partly workable.
First of all, I would either use the C.M.U.A. or some similar body as the head directing office. I would then divide the country into districts, say, each county to form a. sub-committee composed of experienced traction owners. Afterwards I would appoint experienced traction owners as agents ; one or more to each town, according to size. These agents could advertise for loads or part loads. If part loads, a warehouse would have to be found to act as a depot. Rates of freight per ton could be pre-arranged. Expenses could be met by a charge on the owners carrying the loads. (This could also cover headquarters expenses.) It would then only be necessary to ring up an agent and ask him for a return load, or the agent could invite the traction owner to accept one.
I am prompted te write this letter by having to leave my regular work to carry food into our town of 18,000 inhabitants. The food is in the vicinity, but owing to want of traction we have lade or nece here. To-day it is a needy cause, and we should work in combination to give all the assistance we can.—Yours
faithfully, J. ELGEY (Timber Importer).