THE HAULIERS' INQUIRE WITHIN.
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A Brief Survey of Some of the Laws Relating to Bus Operation. An Inquiry Referred to the C.M U.A.
IT IS one thing to be a haulage contractor, or even a plain motor coach proprietor—so far as the law is concerned—and quite another to be an owner of motorbuses. The laws relating to motorcars are complicated enough, goodness knows, but those governing the operation of stage coaches and hackney carriages run them very close.
A man may be quite .in order when running his .yehicle as a goods lorry, or as a motor coach conveying booked parties from point to point, but so soon as he stops to pick up a stray passenger, not one of his hooked party., then so soon does he beCome liable to an entirely new set of restrictions, which are piled on top,of those with which he must already
comply as a plain owner !of a motor vehicle. .
As an instance—and, I imagine, a little-known one —a steam wagon, in the ordinary way, need only have one brake; as such : the engine is admitted as serving as.the second. If, however, the vehicle be used either as a stage carriage or otherwise to convey passengers for hire or for gain, then it must have two independent brakes apart from the engine. Since that is a sample of the sort of thing which has to be provided for, it is no wonder that I feel rather put out by a request from a reader to advise him on his legal position, in view of the fact that he is proposing to buy and run motorbuses.
Regulations Peculiar to Plying for Hire.
In the first place, I had better make it clear that the regulations which I am about to enuirierate are additional to these which apply to any ordinary -motor vehicle which is not used as .a stage coach. For example : every driver of a motor vehicle must havehis ordinary driving licence : if he drives a bus he must also be licensed to drive a hackney carriage: In the same way, the owner of a bus must pay the Excise duty on it, according to the number of seats. The fact that he has paid that duty and got his licence does not, however, entitle him to pick up passengers : he must, in addition, have a special licence to ply for hire.
IL is important to note that the regulations governing the issue and use of hackney carriage licences are not the same in London as they are in the rest of the country. As the particular inquirer to whom I have referred comes from the country, I propose to give the provincial regulations, leaving London alone, for the time lieing—and, indeed, until someone asks me for them I
A would-be motorbus owner must have a licence for each bus' one for each driver, and one for each conductor. Application for these licences must be made to the borough council or urban district council, whichever may be the authority in the area in which the vehicle is going to ply. These licences are absolutely necessary. if the bus is going to be used by ordinary passengers, paying fares separately for their seats in the bus. They are not needed if the vehicle is always hired, as a whole, by the party using it. A 'licence for the vehicle must be got from each and every town in which passengers are picked up, but not if the passengers are only set down. If, fqr example, a country carrier, living in a small village, desires to carry passengers from the village to the local market town, he need only take out a licence from the urban district council which is responsible for the village. If, however, as .is most likely, he wants to be able, occasionally, to pick up passengers in the market town itself, then he must also take out a licence there. The fee, if any, for licensing of the vehicle is merely nominal : that for drivers and conductors is one shilling.
A special point was raised by this correspondent. He wanted to know whether, if he put the drivers and conductors into uniform, he would have to pay a tax on that account. Now, strange to say, I had never had that point for consideration before, and I could not come to a definite conclusion on it myself. I had no evidence anyhow, and triedto draw a parallel between this case and that concerning -the Excise duty on a male servant, considering the driver of a car as a male servant. Apparently, there is no need to pay the male servant ditty, for a man is exempt if he " has been bona fide engaged to serve his employer for a portion only of each day and does not
reside in his employer's house." Is he also exempt from any duty on account of his uniform? Eventually I turned to Mr. Bristow, general secretary of the C.M.U.A., for guidance, and he advised me as follows :—
"The wearing of livery by a motor driver does not of itself render the employer liable to male servant duty. The text is not whether or notsthe person employed wea,rs..the employer's livery, but the nature of the services rendered by the person employed. The fact that the person is employed for the purpose of the employer's trade does not of itself exempt the employer from payment of the duty. In the case of mol.or drivers the. employer is liable only if the drivers are employed in the capacity of domestic or menial servants, to render personal service for the
comfort and enjoyment, of their master, his family, guests, servants, or other persons indicated by him as part of his domestic establishment.' "
This has been interpreted " not to exclude employment of male servants for trade purposes. A tradesman or manufacturer may employ such persons for the purpose of his business to render domestic services to himself or his business staff or customers.
. But, if the servant--is employed for business purposes in such a way that his services are not of that personal character that I have described, then, though he may come under the style named in that definition, he is not taxable.'
"In the ordinary case, the driver or conductor of an omnibus company, or the driver for a firm of merchants who is supplied with livery is not the subject of the duty. Duty is, however, usually payable if the driver is employed for the purpose of driving his employer, or members of the staff. Net general rule can be laid down in these cases, as each must be dealt with on its own facts."
There you have the whole thing in a nutshell, as it were. Evidently, in my own non-legal way I was getting very close to the truth which, but for that non-committal last sentence, seems to be all contained in the second paragraph of the above statement. My answer to my correspondent, at any rate, has been to advise him to go ahead and chance it.
I have had a letter from a haulier correspondent which is rather typical in being deficient in material upon which to enable me to form a judgment.. In a good-humoured way I asked the Editor if I were not entitled to demand the fullest information in every case before I could be called upon to reply, and he merely smiled wanly on me and,' said: " My dear Skoteh,' our friends the hauliers are busy men and they say to themselves that The Commercial Motor and its staff constitute an organization with imagination—it can fill in all the blanks and equal the achievements of the scientists who, with •a footmark in the fossil rock as a sole guide, can give you. full particulars of a hitherto unknown prehistoric animal and tell you its life history. Go thou and do likewise!"
The little footmark supplied as a guide to me is cnntained in the following question :—" I" have noticed, from time to time, an advertisement in The C.M. of a Fordson tractor hauling a two-wheeledi trailer, the Eagle. I am doing some contracting for the local council, and I wondered whether or nof I .._ could usefully empldy an outfit like that. I sbOuld, 'therefore, esteem it a favour if you would let me have your opinion on the point."
Now, there's a query for you—much as if someone was to pop up suddenly and say, " NY,hat is the price of eggs 1 " without quoting the type of egg, age, district where laid, district where sold, or any other distinguishing marks or characteristics. The only additional information given me by my correspondent is that he is in doubt because he has seen trailers offered for sale.
Despite the excellent example of the powers of deduction set up before me by the Editor as a model, I feel I must ask for certain further particulars, and for these I have, accordingly, written. THE SKOTCH.