The good old days . .7
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Leslie Old ridge has been looking at transport law at the turn of the century. Even then, operators had their problems
A CHANGE from trying to n avel the complexity of modr traffic regulations, I have 8-n on a nostalgia kick, re
e rching into what traffic law r s like at the turn of the cenJ . I find that anyone engaged
road transport at that time r uld have been troubled with I ost as much legislation as r are today! There was opposi • , from the owners of horses nu from the railways, to any r wth in the traffic carried by d.
uch of the restrictive leg isit on of that time came from • rces with interests in these e ds.
ou would probably have n driving a road locomotive n a beautifully restored Burrell h engine, No. 3444, registered u ber CK 3403 of this type ) oto No 1) was used by show) n to haul their heavy load ut the country and to genert electricity for their rides on ) fairground.
e drivers of these engines a to comply with the Locomo ✓ Acts of 1861 and 1898. The er Act gave road authorities wer to erect "weighing ) chines" and they were
II wed to borrow money to do I) Having provided themselves ri h weighbridges they had the
o er to require persons in harge of locomotives and
ded waggons to "proceed ii her" to have them weighed.
owever, to be fair, road u horities were required to pay ) any loss caused by the delay he weight was in the limits u horised by law.
ocomotives were allowed to r w three loaded wagons but an additional trailer was allowed for carrying water for use in the engine. Two persons were required "in driving or attending to the locomotive" and except in the case of a steam roller another person had to be employed to accompany it. This third man had to give assistance to any person with horses, or carriages drawn by horses, meeting or overtaking the locomotive.
Where three waggons were being drawn a fourth man had to be employed. I suppose labour was cheap in those days.
The road haulage industry is plagued at the present time by orders restricting lorries from entering -certain areas and the anti-lorry brigade is agitating for more restrictions of this kind. I was surprised to find that the same kind of thing was happening in 1898, for Section 6 of the Act gave borough councils powers to make bylaws prohibiting or restricting the use of locomotives in their area "on account of the highway being crowded or unfitted for this sort of traffic". (!)
Locomotives were required to be licensecj for a fee of two shillings and sixpence (121/2p) and councils had to provide a plate carrying the registered number. Most of the offences carried a maximum penalty of a £10 fine, a lot of money in those days.
There were several acts which dealt with "furious" driving. The Town Police Clauses Act of 1847, for example, made it an offence to the obstruction, annoyance or danger of residents or passengers, to ride or drive furiously any horse, carriage or cattle. Mechanically propelled vehicles were classed as carriages. There was a maximum fine of 40 shillings (C2) or 14 days jail.
There is a particular danger at Christmas time, especially after work's parties, of drivers having had too much to drink, but the drunken driver was a menace even in those early days. The 1872 Licensing Act made it an offence to be drunk in charge of a carriage, horse, cattle or steam engine. This offence carried a penalty of a £2 fine or one months' imprisonment.
It was not until the appearance of the Road Traffic Act 1930, that a law dealing specifically with the motorist who had been drinking was available. Under the Licensing Act the prosecution had to prove the driver was drunk but under the 1930 Act it was only necessary to prove that the driver's condition was such that he could not have proper control of the vehicle through drink or drugs.
This law is still contained in the 1972 Road Traffic Act although now most offences of this kind are dealt with under the breathalyser laws. There was difficulty in proving a case under the 1930 Act as a doctor's certificate stating the driver was unfit to drive had to be obtained and often, in borderline cases, the doctor gave the driver the beneft of the doubt.
The Motor Car Act 1903 seems to form the foundation on which modern traffic laws are built. Section 1 of this Act created the offence of driving negligently or in a manner dangerous while Section 6 required a driver to stop after an accident.
The same Act required drivers to be licensed; the licence cost five shillings (25p), and lasted for 12 months. There was no driving test; you just applied for a licence and it was granted automatically. The courts had power to suspend or disqualify a driver from driving for certain offences.
Speed limits were in force, motor cars were limited to 20mph and heavy motor cars at this time those which were over two tons unladen weight, were limited to 12mph if their axle weights did not exceed six tons and Bmph if they were over that weight. Commercial vehicles would have been fitted with solid tyres, or in some cases steel rims, so these speeds were probably all that could be achieved without a great deal of discomfort.
Present-day restrictions on the loading and unloading of vehicles are not new. Section 28 of the Town Police Clauses Act of 1847, made it an offence to cause any public carriage, sledge, truck or barrow, with or without horses, or any beast of burden, to stand longer than was necessary for loading or unloading goods, or for taking up or setting down passengers. (Penalty 40 shillings or four days' imprisonment.) The 1920$ were the hey-day of the steam wagon. Photo No. 2 shows an immaculate 1929 Roden, which was originally used for tar spraying, a common task for this type of machine. It has been fitted with a 1,200-gallon tank, by its present owners, and now often serves as a water tender for supplying other steam vehicles attending vintage rallies in the West CoUntry,