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Road-Rail Licensing Sub-committees

25th October 1946
Page 35
Page 35, 25th October 1946 — Road-Rail Licensing Sub-committees
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Which of the following most accurately describes the problem?

COUNTER-ATTACK by "Tantalus " WHEN, in the issue of " The Commercial Motor" dated August 23, I first made the canto "scrap the licensing sub-committees," it was with full knowledge that this would arouse criticism and perhaps even resentment. This, however, is all to the good; for the greater the; publicity that is given to the work of the sub-committees the better it is for the general body of hauliers and, in particular, the small operators.

The number of operators who have written describing their experiences with the sub-committees has shed a light upon what takes place behind closed doors. Both the quality and quantity of the, letters—received from various parts of the -country—have left no room for doubt concerning the reality of dissatisfaction. With few exceptions, the correspondents are in favour of scrapping the sub-committees. The exceptions include two officials of the Road Haulage Association—an area secretary and the rates and charges officer, Mr. F. L. Sabatini. There is also a letter from Mr. R. G. Crowther,

who sits on a Yorkshire sub-committee. .

Why Were the Committees Formed ?

It is surely in order to inquire for what purpose the bodies were established. According to the letters received from an area secretal y of the R.H.A. published in the issue of "The Commercial Motor" dated September 13: " . . . The whole purpose of the licensing sub-committee is to endeavour to reduce the number of objections, especially in those cases ,where the evidence given in the traffic court brings to light some facts which are not obvious from the way the application is framed. It is hoped that by finding these facts before the hearing takes place, objections will be withdrawn."

In considering this working • basis, there is a point which must not be overlooked, namely, that the scheme was agreed between the four main-line railway coin-. panies and the R.H.A. Now, why should these two sections of. the road transport industry be-so concerned about reducing the number of objections? Perhaps "applications "would be the more appropriate word to employ. In this connection it is hardly conceivable that the Licensing Authorities have solicited the assistance of the railway companies and the R.H.A. These' officials • are endowed with statutory authority and are equipped with an administrative machine to meet all demands.

What Was the Real Motive?

It is somewhat strange that there was no suggestion to appoint lice-sing sub-committees in the pre-war years, and in an endeavour to find the real motive for their establishment, it-is necessary to loolelmsch deeper than the surface of objections.

A step towards the answer may be found in the figures quoted by Mr. F. L. Sabatini, which, however, are of little value as they stand. To get at their full meaning• they must be broken up. It is necessary to know how many applicants in the figure of 1,189 owned one to three vehicles; how many owned three to 10, 10 to 20, and over 20 vehicles respectively. Also, it would be' interesting to know whether any of .the railway companies and the large operators has appeared before any of the sub-committees for cross-examination. Further, with regard to the 411 agreed cases, how many applications were withdrawn as a result of questioning by the sub-committees?

According to Mr. Sabatini, the railway companies and. the R.H.A. regard the results of the first eight weeks of

working as highly 'satisfactory, in as .much as 50 per cent, of the cases beard resulted in agreement being reached. Is the satisfaction caused by the reduction in the number of objections or because of the number of applications withdrawn and modifications agreed? It is gratifying to know that the railway companies and the R.H.A. are pleased. What about the feelings of the dissatisfied and disillusioned operators who have described their experiences with an understandable bitterness? The sub-committees have not brought satisfaction to them.

Not All are Satisfied

Mr. Crowther states that at least 90 per cent. of the applicants who have met the particular sub-committee on which he sits have gone away satisfied. The operators, indeed, are fortunate in appearing before such an understanding sub-committee, the members of which, apparently, are blessed with patience and tolerance. it is obvious that the operators who have written complaining about their treatment have not enjoyed equally good fortune.

In the 'original article on this subject I used the following words:—" There is no doubt that plans which,. on paper, seem to be sound and well laid, do not always work out as intended. Always the hurpan element must be considered and allowed for—that unknown quantity which asserts itself in unsuspected and different ways.' It is ,this psychological aspect which presents one of the weaknesses of the scheme. Probably, if all the sub-committees could claim results as favourable as those reported by Mr. Crowther, such a large number of complaining letters would not have been written.

The matter, however; must be judged according to information collected from operators' personal experiences. This source of evidence cannot be decried by sarcasm os removed by vitriolic language. A personal experience is something which lingers in the memory. So, however vigorous may be the defence of so. staunch a supporter of the sub-committees as Mr. Crowther, nevertheless the memory of experiences remains.

The accusation made by Mr. Crowther that 'the

whole of ' ' argumentis simply the accumulation of his own vivid imagination " has no relation to the facts, as may be gathered from the foregoing.

Do the Railways Appear ?

In quoting the letter of invitation to. attend the meetings of the sub-committee, this Yorkshire critic states that the big fleet owners and the railway companies are not excluded from this act of courtesy. Whether they accept or otherwise is a-different matter, and one which can be decided -only by an analysis' of the figures

quoted by Mr Sabatini. If it transpires that such invitations are not accepted pr are ignored by the railway companies and the largest fleet owners, the case For scrapping the sub-committees is afforded tremendous impetus. If, in fact, only a section of operators accepts invitations, the purpose of the sub-committees fails.

No contribution that has been made by the defenders of the scheme has strengthened the case for itscontinuance. I would draw attention to the statement by Mr. W. E Macve, North-western Licensing Authority, . who, during a recent sitting, said: "I am not going ro have my duties done for me or my prerogative usurped. It; is wrong that a man should go before a committee unrepresented and be cajoled into doing something he does not wish to do."

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