Was the "Panel" Too Placid?
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JWAS interested to read, in your January 4 issue, of the panel of four experts whom you have gathered together, and to note their comments on the probabilities and prospects of 1957.
May I have a little of your space to review these and go back to some of the events of the past two years?
In 1955, the British Transport Commission, under Act of Parliament, commenced disposing of vehicles and taking hard cash from old and newcomers to the transport industry. Unless very high figures were offered, the tenders *ere turned down.
En 1956, the Government decided that sufficient vehicles had been sold and, contrary to the intentions of the 1953 Act, the Government decided that they wished to keep some vehicles in order to compete against the free-enterprise haulier. I would emphasize that this competition is far from fair competition and to add strength to this point may I mention the following:—
(1 ) The preferential terms that the British Transport Commission obtain in buying their supplies; (2) the special rating which applies to their premises; (3) the ease with which they are able to obtain capital; (4) the fact that they can operate at a loss each year.
Towards the end of 1956 came the Suez problem, and hauliers have been told that they must:—
(a) Accept large cuts in their fuel, which is the raw material of their industry; (b) because of the difficulties of supply, face an increase in cost.
On top of this, the British Government decided that they shall pay another Is. tax on this fuel, with the request that this be not passed on but absorbed by the industry. I have heard of some prominent transporters considering adding to their brass name plates the words "Tax Collectors."
We have extra records to keep in accordance with the wishes of those who grant supplementary issues of fuel, and extra clerical staff is required for this purpose. Also, because of the general position, the haulier is faced with increased prices for tyres and other essentials.
Now, in 1957, the haulier is issued with further forms in order to justify his application for a supplementary issue of fuel, and included in the questions is one askio why the commodity which was successfully dealt with for some time, cannot be handled by other means for transport. What a question to ask any human being: "Why cannot somebody else have your livelihood?"
The position today, to put it bluntly, is that the haulier has been slowly burdened with extra costs; slowly starved because of reduced fuel to operate and is now handed out pieces of rope so that lig can commit suicide.
At the same time we learn that British Railways are commencing more and more Diesel services for which they obtain tax-free fuel. Because of the difficulties in the coal mining position, more and more industrial users have converted their plants to oil burning. I appreciate that if they had not done so the coal supply of this winter would have been quite as serious as it was some three years ago. But, instead of the Government correcting the trouble at the source, the haulier is expected to meet further cuts.
It has been stated that the British Government have a definite policy of converting goods from road to rail, and this has never been denied. It must be realized that
a policy of obstruction and retardation could not be more wrong, and if insisted upon will ultimately cripple the nation.
I appreciate the remarks by your panel, but with all due respect to the gentlemen concerned, they have been far too forbearing and placid about the present chaos facing industry because of interference by the Government. I think it is time we examined the position as it is and endeavour to get sonic indication of common sense in the Government itt kale towards road transport.
Stockton-on-Tees. A. DARLEY.
Are We Ready For 30 m.p.h. ?
1HE recent promise by the Minister of Transport that he would, in the course of a few months, grant the 30 m.p.h. limit to heavy vehicles, has been welcomed by road transport operators in many fields. But what has been done in connection with the men since 1955? The Transport and General Workers' Union must have realized that the 30 m.p.h. limit would soon become law.
Maj.-Gen. Russell must also have been in possession of the facts, yet no one appears to have the slightest idea as to what form the wages structure will take, following the concession. " Janus" in the January 4 issue of your journal, suggests that with the new limit, a driver could reasonably hope to travel from London to Birmingham and back in a day and keep comfortably within 11 hours. If he did this for six days a week, he would be entitled to be paid for 66 hours including 22 hours at overtime rates, the latter representing, at time and a half, pay for 33 hours.
At present, with the time allowed for loading and unloading, a man could probably complete three trips in a week and be left with a load for delivery on the Monday of the second week, which would mean only five complete trips in a fortnight, and the operator would have to pay subsistence for 10 nights.
If we accept the opinion of "Janus," with which 1 do not altogether agree because of possible delays in loading and unloading, a 30-m.p.h. vehicle should be able to carry 10 one-way loads in a week, and the operator would not then become liable for any subsistence allowance. In such a case, the driver would undoubtedly believe a claim for a 50 per cent. increase on his basic pay to be reasonable. In any case, if an operator decided that at 30 m.p.h. his drivers would be able to cover as far in eight hours as they formerly did in 11, the additional three hours daily, at the overtime rate, would be equivalent to four and a half.
On the other hand, if the operator decided on a 44hour week, he would save 22 hours in overtime on a six-day week and this would reflect on the earnings of his drivers.
Time is, however, running short and I have yet to hear of drivers being consulted on the matter. Mr. Cousins must have devoted much thought to it, and he should be qualified as he has done the job himself. This responsibility to the drivers, however, calls for early negotiation and he should not allow the danger to develop into a stoppage of work.
Hounslow, Middx. W. YORATH.