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Volunteer Mechanical Transport in Relation to Returned Vehicles When War is Over.

25th March 1915, Page 3
25th March 1915
Page 3
Page 4
Page 3, 25th March 1915 — Volunteer Mechanical Transport in Relation to Returned Vehicles When War is Over.
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One reason for our devoting some portion of our energies to interest in and support for a scheme for the formation of Mechanical Transport Columns as part of the volunteer organizations which are now attracting so much attention throughout the country, and which ate particularly finding adherents amongst men who have commercial interests, is our belief that this movement will tend in the direction of helping to relieve the situation which must develop when several thousands of war-finished commercial motors are sent back from the Continent.

We have been at some pains, since October last, both in print and by private effort, to lay the foundations to the end that a favourable reception may be accorded hereafter to the proposal that such returned commercial motors shall not be sold at auction for what they will fetch, to the considerable detriment both of users and the industry at large, but shall be utilized to provide the Territorial forces of Great Britain for the first time with transport. The problem of arranging for the disposal and absorption of the many types of vehicles, ranging in load capacity between 30 cwt. and 5 tons, which will come back to this country at some indeterminate date in the future, remains amongst the uncertainties by which everybody possessed of commercial-motor interests is confronted. The reduction of the total national expenditure that would result from any auctioning of these returned vehicles is relatively negligible, when one looks at the huge outgo on the war as a whole, The opportunity to pass the returned vehicles on to the Territorial forces will be a splendid one ; many of the Territorial regiments will already have been served by the vehicles in France and Belgium, and by the Mechanical Transport Companies which have been established from the personnel of their old Transport and Supply Columns. Taken as a whole, however, there will be a very considerable shortage of officers and men with transport training after the partial disbandment of the Army that must occur, although there will be an excess of vehicles which are Government property. We look forward to the possibility of an adjustraent between the number of vehicles that will be available and the reduced personnel, and we believe that, with the exercise of a little care and discretion, the opportunity will arise for the personnel of not a few volunteer Mechanical Transport Columns to make good the deficiencies, and thereby to become incorporated as part of the Territorial forces of the country after the war. Anything that can be done to ensure the retention of the majority of these war-finished vehicles in military service will appeal to us. A high percentage of them will not be fit to go back into everyday commercial service, but the same vehicles will none the less be well suited to the occasional employment that is involved by their being retained as part of the military establishment in the Territorial branches. The best of them, no doubt, can with advantage be kept for the Regular Army, but all cannot be so used.

The Use and Misuse of Statistics.

We have sometimes occasion to complain of the way in which statistics are handled by road authorities and their officers, in respect of allegations against motorbus and other commercial road traffic. Our protests of last year, when the county surveyor of Middlesex was alleging that he must have 3d. per raotorbus-mile in order to recoup himself the damage to a modern highway, paved with wooden blocks, laid on 6 ins, of concrete, will be within the memory of the majority of our present-day readers and supporters. That toll of Rd. per motorbus-mile has been held, in many other instances, to be fully enough to recoup a highway authority in respect of an ordinary macadam road. The critical case of Ca,stelnau, in the

area of the Barnes Urban District Council, which highwa,y connects Hammersmith Bridge on the Surrey side and the entrance to Ranelagh, will become, in our opinion, of increasing importance as a test case to refute other unsupportable allegations of the kind for whicia the Middlesex Council allowed itself to be made responsible through its surve-yor. We feel we are not wasting space when we repeat the facts about Castelnau. In the year 1907 some 7i furlongs of highway were converted to wood paving on 6 ins. of concrete at a cost of 29,500. Since this conversion, not one penny has been spent for repairs due to traffic, and the roadway is still in excellent condition.

The latest case to which we must take exception, in the absence of some explanation, comes from Lancashire. Mr. ..A.klerman Aspen, when commenting on the budget of the Lancashire County Council for the ensuing financial year, referred to certain alleged damage on 4 miles of road between Barrow and Ulverston. He stated that the cost to the county ratepayers, for every mile run by these motorbuses, had been la. We consider that this is a most unfair way of representing the circumstances, unless, as we know not to be the case, the Lancashire County Council had an incompetent staff of road engineers. This figure of " Is, per mile run" has been repeated in various papers, and not only throughout Lancashire, with results which cannot be good for the cause of the motorbus. Mr. Alderman Aspell must know that, even if the expense to date has been so high as that which he asserts, more than 95 per cent. of the outlay, if the money has been properly expended, can be regarded as unexhausted. His statement as to the cost per motorbus-mile concerns a figure which is no less than 32 times as high as the sanctioned and adequate figure for a macadam road, viz., id. per motorbusmile. Are we to believe Mr. Alderman Aspell, or are we to believe that several impartial and independent committees of both Houses of Parliament have been wrong, as in the case of the Sheffield Corporation's traffic on county roads, and of motorbus traffic under other private Bills to which we might refer in detail?

Strange Recruits for Motor Vehicle Sales Organization.

During the week that has passed we have had requests for information with regard to various phases of the commercial-vehicle industry from a jeweller, from a bootdealer, from a monumental clockmaker, from a corn merchant, and a silk mercer.

These inquiries were not from men who were desirous, as special traders, of becoming users of industrial vehicles, but from those, who, finding their own concerns suffering very severely through the war, and impressed with the enormous possibilities of the motor lorry, foreshadowed by its remarkable and complete success behind the field of battle, have jumped to the conclusion that there was an opportunity for them to share in the boom which will inevitably follow the conclusion of operations.

We have nothing to say detrimental to the perspicacity revealed by such keen business minds as these, i but developments n such unlooked-for directions, and to such an extent, are bound to Cause .a little uneasiness to those who realize that the exploitation Of the commercial-motor vehicle is a business which calls for very specific knowledge of conditions and, as a rule, actual personal experience of models and their behaviour under service conditions.

Most of us are aware that the pleasure-car branch of the industry has not, in the past, altogether benefited by the participation in it of inexperienced men, who rushed, 'with opportunist desire, into this business of which they knew but little. We are, of course, anxious that nothing of this sort should militate against the suceessful exploitation of industrialvehicle conditions which will inevitably rule when Germany has been brought to book. With every desire to be generous and to be helpful to those who are suffering, as a consequence of present economic conditions, we must nevertheless give warning that suitable commercial vehicles can only be placed to the satisfaction of customers and to the industry as a whole by men who have very special knowledge of what those machines will have to do, and with experience of what they are capable of accomplishing.

We need write no more, as we feel confident that missionary work which has been done in the past and the steady education of buyers as a body have, at this stage of development, resulted in the production of a very large body of users and would-be users who actually know what they want. The jeweller or the stone-mason who wants to sell the five-tonner of which he perhaps hardly knows anything mechanically, and less theoretically, will only, in exceptional cases, succeed in effecting a sale on satisfactory lines. We trust that the extreme busyness of almost everyone connected with the commercial-vehicle industry will not result in the recruiting of a large body of people bent on exploiting both buyers and sellers without having any useful preliminary knowledge of true needs. Such development would be harmful.

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