HELP FOR HAULIERS.
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In Which "The Skotch " Carefully Analyses the Fare Charges of Motor-coach Concerns and Shows Their Relation to Costs and to Profit.
IT IS at all times interesting to compare prices with someone who is in the same line of business as one's self, for which reason I make no doubt that each one of my readers who is concerned with passenger transport is eagerly, and in sonic cases, no doubt, apprehensively, scanning the fare lists of his competitors, great and small.
This is, at any rate, the one branch of motor haulage in which publicity, as regards rates, is practically compulsory, for everyone, to attract custom, must state the fares for his trips. I should think that particular interest attaches to the doings of a big concern like Samuelson's, whose published rates for certain Easter runs are now (I am writing before Easter) being widely advertised. This is the beginning of the, motor coach season, and we May with advantage see what is being offe.red.
We need only consider three trips-from London to Southend, to Brighton and to Margate. The mileage (one way) is 42, 53 and 74 respectively, according to Michelin. For these runs the single ordinary fares in the same order are 7s. 6d., 10s. and 125. 6d., which is equivalent to 2.14d., 2.27d. and 2.03d. a mile. The return fares for the same journey are 12s. 6d., 17s. 6d. and 22s. 6d, respectively, amounting to 1.80d., M. and 1.83d. a mile.
Now, according to theory, the fares should drop a little, measured per mile; as the length of the journey increases, for with a longer run there is less waiting time to be paid for. On that basis we might have applied our own time plus mileage method of calculating rates in order to compare notes with this large haulier. It. is clear, however, that the old dictum basis of the law of supnly and demand-namely, that the, price of a commodity is what it will fetch-to which I referred a week or two ago, is again operating. It seems to be clear that Brighton is likely to offer most attractions, and that the higher fare of 2.27d. per mile will, therefore, willingly be paid. This is a point that each individual haulier, in every district, must keep in mind. Even apart, however, from the effect of local conditions, it is most difficult to fix upon a scale of fares, owing to the different ideas which prevail as to the feasibility of winter trips, and because of the varying length of summer seasons.
Samuelson's average for single journeys is 2.15d,, and for return journeys 1.98d. The reason for lower rates for return tickets should be obvious ; it reduces the risk of empty coaches, made empty because people are returning by train or delaying their return. The all-round average fare is, as near as may be, 2d. a mile, and it may be worth while to see how this would work out in the case of the smaller business.
The running cost of a 28-seater should be about 10d. a mile. The standing charges, reckoning the annual interest on first cost as spread over six months only, would IA apprQxirna.tely E.10 a week, We must n22 assume that, on the average, the vehicle travels filled to two-thirds of its capacity only ; that is to say, that throughout the season it carries an average of 18 persons per trip. At 2d. per passenger per mile, therefore, the return would be 3s. Per coach-mile. The question we have to answer is-What is the minimum weekly mileage which must be run if the service is to pay?
It has ta be borne in mind that, besides the 10d. a mile running costs and the .210 a week standing charges, there are overhead and establishment charges to reckon in. These, in the case of the onevehicle man, need not be very high, consisting mostly of advertising costs, and might be kept down to 22 weekly. Then there is the question of profit. Not less than El 10s. a week should be sought in these circumstances. Since little may be earned during the winter, more should be obtained if possible. Let us see.
Returns are going to average 3s. a mile. Outgoings are 10d. plus 219 10s. a week. We must therefore cover sufficient ground during the week to en-: able the balance of the 3s. a mile, after paying 10d. a mile running costs, to be at least 219 10s. That balance is 2s. 2d.-26c1.-and 219 10s. is 4,680d. Twenty-six into 4,680 goes 180, which is the minimum mileage. It is a poor business and a slack season which will not permit that mileage to be doubled, or even trebled.
To consider the matter in another way, suppose a man with a 28-seater coach can see his way to run 500 miles a week during a six-month season, what weekly profit will be obtain at 2d. a mile, assuming that, on the average, be carries 18 paying passengers each trip. His income from 500 miles is 1,500s.' or 275. His expenditure is 500,times iod.=g20 16s. 841., plus 210 standing charges, plus 22 overhead and establishment charges, total 232 .16s. 8d.-a difference of 242 3s. 4d. a week, which surely allows an ample margin for eventualities.
Personally, I think I should fit pneumatics to such a bus. The extra cost is pretty considerable, amounting to about 4d. a Mile, or 28 Ss. 8d. a week ; but, if it brought in an average of three more passengers per trip, it would be well worth while. Alternatively, it mig,ht enable an extra hundred miles a week to be covered, in which ease we should have receipts 290, expenditure 247, showing extra profit even with the 4d. a mile additional costs, and without reckoning on the tyros having attracted a single new client.
The man with the smaller bus is not, to my mind, likely to make such profits. With a 14-seater, his running cost, with pneumatics, will be 10d, a mile, his standing charges will be about 27, and his overhead still 22 a week. His return will be, for ten passengers, Is. 8d. a mile, so that, for a 600-mile week, his balance sheet works out at: income 250, expenditure 234. THE SKOTCH.