bird's eye View by the Hawk • Dispatched
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Out West recently, I received striking confirmation that the resourcefulness of parcels operators knows no bounds. Euan Roberts, BRS Parcels branch manager at Skewen, near Swansea, tells this story.
An Australian died in Ireland and his relatives wished his body to be embalmed and sent home. This was duly arranged, but there's many a slip.... The Irish undertaker crated the coffin in an excessively large box —some 10ft x 4ft x 4ft.
BRS Parcels had expected no difficulty in collecting the consignment from Swansea docks and handing over to a local undertaker for the journey from Swansea to Tilbury, for embarkation, but the crate proved far too large for any normal hearse and so Skewen depot laid on a special vehicle to take the crate to Tilbury.
There was no boat for three weeks and the poor deceased presented a major parking/ storage problem. With much difficulty an undertaker in the Edgware Road was prevailed upon to take charge of the crated coffin for three weeks. BRS Parcels nevertheless felt obliged to see that the final transhipment suffered no hitch, and Euan Roberts personally visited Tilbury to speed the departed. He told me his last memory is of the crate at the dockside beneath an amplifier pouring out Pop at full blast. . . .
• Out of Trap One
Another unusual traffic carried by the resourceful Welshmen from Skewen is greyhounds. It seems there is a sizeable import of greyhounds through Swansea on the B & I service from Cork. BRS Parcels take them from the dockside to the railway station for dispatch all over the country.
One day a greyhound bit through its leash and escaped, the driver reporting that "it ran like hell up the street". The dog was found early next day in the centre of Swansea, perched on a ledge quite close to the station. Tired and hungry, it cheerfully surrendered—and Euan treasures the driver's straight-faced report of the occurrence.
• Do you come here often?
A fine new Skewen depot will soon take over from the incredibly antiquated premises, dating back to the horsedrawn era, which have been endured for too long. I admired the splendid beechwood flooring—costing some £4000 on the new platform. This ought to be christened by a dance or some other suitable jamboree before the official opening in October.
I had not realized, until it was pointed out to me, that beech wood floors, despite the tongued and grooved jointing of the blocks, move and stretch in use. Special edging is provided and periodically contractors plane off the odd half inch to accommodate the movement of the main area of floor.
• No part-timers The low labour turnover at Skewen is probably a just reward for the time spent by the branch manager on promoting sound relationships. South Wales parcels area manager, Brian Bennett, told me that for the first time in South Wales it had not been necessary this year to recruit any holiday relief drivers—a situation bringing some small consolation perhaps to transport managers whose business is less brisk than usual.
The TGWU will not permit part-timers in South Wales, though they are allowed at Gloucester. How much more easily traffic fluctuations could be coped with if parttimers were permitted everywhere.
A valuable by-product when staff turnover is negligible is that work and driving standards improve vastly. Brian Bennett told me that the best safe-driving depot in his area was at Hereford, with a record of around 80,000 miles between incidents. As well as the high proportion of long-service staff, detailed improvements in parcels vehicles in recent years are considered to be a factor.
• Blurred edges
I gather that before BRS Parcels decided to go-it-alone with the new Skewen depot, prolonged talks took place with National Carriers Ltd and Freightliners Ltd to try to devise a formula for a joint depot site. The difficulties were insuperable.
The rock on which the "integrationship foundered was company responsibility. Whatever the theoretical savings from joint activities it seems to be beyond the wits of accountants to separate out the financial factors in the "grey areas". The divorce of Shell/BP perhaps reflects the same dilemma.
Managers running their own show can face the challenges of profit targets with equanimity; if responsibilities are blurred there is room for endless argument.
Unfortunately for transport, there are now many areas where depot or district operations are a small feature of a costly infrastructure provided by taxpayers. Sooner or later transport management must grasp this nettle. Perhaps accountants must yield first place to marketing men in the next decade?
• Hgv bait Private enterprise lorry driving schools are not hesitating to offer attractive baits to youngsters with an eye to big money. The T1R Driving School (23 Horfield Road, Bristol, 2), heads a recent advert: -£30. £40, £50 a week—yes, with a class I licence". Lessons are offered outside normal working hours. To add to the inducement, personal loans to drivers are offered for £1.20 a week. If there is a local shortage of drivers it is understandable that some youngsters will be tempted to have a go. Where does this trend leave the established group training activities? Capitol House please note.