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Why Not Larger Petrol Imports?

24th January 1918
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Page 1, 24th January 1918 — Why Not Larger Petrol Imports?
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Which of the following most accurately describes the problem?

ONE OF THE CLAIMS that may reasonably be put forward in support of the suggestion that the whole question of transport and traffic by motor vehicle should come under a department, the purpose of which shall be to ensure that it is utilized with economy and efficiency, is that such a department could present motor road transport in its true perspective to the War Cabinet. So far, the great efforts of those departments which have been appointed to deal with the subject have been directed towards restriction.

• The Petrol Controller and the Petrol Economy Officer each has his mission in life—to limit and restrict the consumption of petrol. But who, on behalf of the Government, has carefully weighed the debit. and credit sides of the use of petrol for transport purposes and presented a balancessheet so that the War Cabinet can see whether or not it can be made profitable--in other words, be productive of advantage to the nation '1 In pre-war 'days there was not the slightest question about the matter. The commercial vehicle was, obviously, a soundly profitable investment, serving the nation well and economically. Fuel has risen in price, but the extra cost being borne by the consumer, the moving of goods by road is still a profitable venture. The only matter, therefore, left for consideration is the matter of the availability of shipping space. And here one is led into a calculation.

A gallon of petrol weighs 7-1 lb. Given shipping space at •Government rates, it can be landed here for a figure which makesit a very cheap fuel. ft is neither the producing, handling, insurance, nor distribution which makes petrol dear, but merely the exigencies of supply and demand. Now, this VI, lb. of petrol will, when used for road transport, produce 50 ton-miles of work. Taking one half of the weight of the loaded -vehicle as dead weight, we get a net figure of 25 ton)miles out of that gallon of petroLor a lorry loaded with 3 tons of foodstuffs will carry that load 8 miles.

Compare the value to the nation of the service that can be rendered by motor vehicles, if the requisite fuel be made available, with the value to the nation of the large amount of inert imports now coming from America, and the conclusion must be arrived at that, by comparison, the former value is considerably the higher. It is only a department staffed with qUalified men which could present a case to the War Cabinet for vastly increased petrol imports, as all the material requisite for a conclusion would be at the disposal of such a department. Has the existing department controlling the importation of petrol sufficient strength to drive home to the War Cabinet the significance of the maintenance of an adequate petrol Supply to meet the needs of essential civilian transport.

How the Restriction Order Hits the Taxicab.

WE expressed the opinion, in our Editorial columns of last week, that the Motor Spirit and Gas Restriction Order, which came into force on the 10th inst., was a reasonable and practical document, and, considering the difficult circumstances Which-surround the question of the supply of liquid and gaseous fuel, we think there has, on the whole, been very little heartburning over its provisions. The taxicab interests, however, are adversely affected by the restriction which limits the sphere of operations of a taxiieab to not more than three miles beyond the boundary of the area where it is licensed to stand or ply for hire. The restriction, as we said, certainly does with advantage Stop those little trips by taxi to Brighton, and the London district being so widely spread, the taxicab owner and worker in the Metropolis are not largely affected, but in the provinces there must be a hundred-and-one instances where the provision of the Order will work unfairly, as, for instance, in, the case of two important places where much need of inter-communication exists and where the distance of the one beyond the boundary of the other is more than three miles, We believe that representations on the subject are to be made to the Home Secretary by the London and Provincial Union of Licensed Vehicle Workers, and we hope that the reception of the representatives of the union will be sympathetic and followed by useful action.

The Four-gallon -Emergency Ration.

.I N connection with the Motor Fuel Restriction Order, an announcement was made by the Board of Trade explaining some of the pro-Visions of the new Order, emphasizing others, and adding the statement that whilst a gas permit and ..a. motor spirit licence would not be granted for the same vehicle, a licence for the purchase of a small quantity of motor spirit will be granted for emergency purposes, varying in amount aacording to the size and power of the vehicle, but in no case exceeding four gallons per month. Two questions arise out of this. The first deals with the size of this emergency ration. Our contention is that it is insufficient, as it merely represents, at the best, about 30 to 35 vehicle-miles. A vehicle compelled to -make a double journey outwar.d on gas and homeward on petrol, or to make a few journeys each a mile or two beyond the Capacity of its gas container, ;would use up. its emergency ration long before the month wag. out. In our opinion, the allowance should be at least 10 gallons per month. Unless it be so extended we believe that the conversion to gas as a fuel for consmercial motors will be materially retarded.

The other question which we wish to put in connection with the Board of Trade statement is whether the omnibus proprietor is not to be encouraged, by a similar facility, to employ gas in those districts where it is likely to be available? The Order separately defines the trade vehicle and the omnibus, but the announcement of the emergency ration of petrol is made in respect of the trade vehicle only.

As a matter of fact, considerable developments have already been made, or are being made, in connection with the conversion of omnibuses to run on gas. In some districts, where the single-deck bus fills the local need, the flexible container carried on the roof affords a ready means for conversion. Where the upper deck is used and cannot be dispensed with without seriously affecting the efficiency of the service, compressed gas must be employed, and the work of devising a simple and practicable system that can be entrusted to the present staffs of drivers and garage men will entail a considerable expenditure of time. And, after the omnibus proprietors have antisfled themselves about the safety and reliability of the system, the licensing authorities have to be convinced or powers must be sought which will remove the onus on to shoulders higher placed. The enterprise of those who are seeking to effect a saving in petrol by the conversion of omnibuses to run on gas will be encouraged if they, too, are assured of the issue of an emergency petrol ration, and we urge that this assurance be given to them.

And So, Ad, Infinitum.

yOUR TRANSPORT will cost you snore " is but another addition to the already long list of similar warnings to which we have unfortunately become accustomed during the past few months. Almost everything is costing us more— rightly or wrongly. The commercial motor user and the manufacturer alike, the maker and user of all the many supplies and accessories upon which the efficacy of road transport depends, all are meeting exceptional difficulties in connection with the steadily-increasing cost of labour and material. We include material, but a moment's consideration reveals the fact 'that almost the whole of the rise in the cost of material is duealso to the increased labour charges involved in , . its production.

. The present difficult economic position is due almost exclusively to the necessity of meeting the worker's claim that it costs him more to live. That this has involvedthe granting of increases in certain cases where the needfor theni in their entirety has not been fully proven does not affect the niain consideration. The whole nation isfaced with a situation in which the purchasing power of the sovereign is steadily diminishing, and if some remedy be not -found, there appears to be no end to the oscillation between increased cost of products and increased cost of labour. To use a time-worn phrase, we, in this country particularly, and in others, no doubt, comparably, are revolving in a' vicious vicious circle," and may apparently continue so to do until war ceases.

There appears to be only one way in which the continuously ascending cost can be checked, and that, apparently, is to invoke the aid of the law to secure that no further rise for anything anywhere in this B18 country shall be permitted, under heavy penalties, sinless it can be proved to be based exactly on increased detail cost. Were such a national restriction to be made, there would, from a fixed date, be a, slowing down of the pace at which further increases would take place. The worker would not have to complain of greater cost of living, except in the case, perhaps,' of imported articles ; the food producer would be in similar case, and so on right down the scale. There would be an intermediate period of absorption of rises which would already have taken place on material of all kinds that had only become available for consumption after unapproved additions became illegal; but there would appear to be no reason why, for all home products at any rate, we should not, before long, reach a stage when prices would become comparatively stationary. The application of such a law would have to be universal, or it would be useless. Manufacturers and users alike are faced with this problem, as, indeed, is everyone in the country, and the question is, of course, a national one. The remedy suggested would, at any rate, put the profiteer (as a profiteer) right out of business "for the period of the war," and that would be one excellent and far-reaching result at any rate.

The Standardization Problem.

IN OUR ISSUE of last week we recorded the fact that Mr. A. G. Duncan had proposed that the subject of standardization of the chassis should be approached from a new standpoint, the assembler, unit manufacturer, accessory manufacturer, repairer and user being brought together in an association which should be the authority for fixing standard dimensions, in order to secure interchangeability of units, and also the " middleman " between the users and the makers so as to secure continuity of policy. We promised to prepare a9. article on the subject and have done so, but we rearize that to send it to press within a few days of the publication of the first announcement of the subject would not entirely give the scheme 'the fair chance which it certainly deserves. Our own conclusion is that the scheme is not likely to receive the support of the manufacturers, but we feel that we would rather hear further arguments before committing ourselves to that conclusion or stating our reasons for coming to it.

The Difficulty of the Emergency Load.

MANY CLEVER MINDS have been busy, particularly during the past few weeks, in the endeavour to suggest practical improvements in connection with the nation's internal transport at the present time—transport is the life of trade, and tlferein lies the reason. We ourselves, as our readers will have gathered, have had the particular advantage of discussing this most. insistent problem with some of the best authorities in the country on traffic and its problems. Apart from certain efforts which are being made to maintain existing transport at a level of efficiency at least no lower than it is at present, as well as to endeavour to increase the extent of such facilities, there appears to be a fairly general concensus of opinion that any attempt to organize the nation's road transport as a whole must fail almost entirely because of the peculiar and insuperable diffi: culty of effectively matching lorry with load, with sufficient promptitude and in a sufficient number of instances to render the attempt worth while. That is, we fear it must be admitted, the.rock upon which any widespread national scheme would split. In a way, this is in itself evidence of the widely-diverse nature of the services which motor transport is yielding for the nation in its present. hour of need The • percentage of cases in which-lorries with empty spaces furnished with suitable loads, without delay

• and without much warning, would, it is felt, be so small that any scheme founded on the attempt to use such occasional facilities would prove unworkable, as it has, indeed) under less-clistinguished and less farreaching considerations in the past. Much, however, can be done to make what we have in the way of motor transport continuously available. A 'certain amount of relief can be anticipated in respect of the increase in the number of vehicles available, if spare part and maintenance facilities are left reasonably available. •Moat of all do we anticipate that the best results will be those accruing frena well-organized and well-considered local attempts• to match requirements with facilities. In the aggregate, this• should amount to much, and motor vehicle owners in their great numbers, and alive as they are to these problems, can do a very great deal to help this national effort by local

• co-operation and the elimination, so far as is humanly possible, of waste mileage and unloaded lorries. In that direction, perhaps, after all lies the most speedy opportunity of alleviating the nation's increasing internal transport difficulties. The master haulier, as well as the ordinary commercial vehicle owner, is a very keen and Competent member of the community, and, given a modicum of encouragement and help, he can do much of great value in the present circumstances.

The Reorganization of the Board of Trade.

A memorandum was' iseued last Thursday detailing the arrangements for the reorganization of the Board of Trade, which will be organized in two main divisions, each in charge of a joint permanent secretary. The first division will be the department of commerce and industry and the other the department, ef public services administration. Included in the first named will be the overseas trade (development and intelligence) branch and a new department for industrial power and transport which will be charged with the consideration of allquestiens_ of general policy relating to transport in its commercial aspect, including shipping, canal and 'railway rates and facilities, through railway and ocean rates, shipping conferences, etc. It will also deal with questions of policy relating to industrial power, • including electricity, gas and water power for industrial purposes, the conservation of fuel, petroleum, etc. Motor transport will, obviously, come within the purview of this department.

The Gas Traction Committee's Sittings. .

The representatives of the Motor Gas Equipment Association attend before the Gas Traction Com.mittee to-day to give evidence Upon the urgent questions agitating the manufacturing side of the coal-gas movement. It is to be hoped that flexible gas container output will be dealt with first and placed on a, satisfactory basis, as it is an immediate palliative of the present trouble associated with fuel supply for the ,nation's transport. The matter of compression must, 'in all the circumstances, stand for a few weeks. We should imagine, from the progress already made in the deliberationsof the Gas Traction Committee that its first report should be available in a couple of months' time. The whole question of fuel for transport being urgent, we hope that every effort will be made to produce the report thus expeditiously.

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