Call our Sales Team on 0208 912 2120


27th February 1953
Page 49
Page 49, 27th February 1953 — Skulduggery
Noticed an error?
If you've noticed an error in this article please click here to report it so we can fix it.

Which of the following most accurately describes the problem?


ALTHOUGH there are occasional wordy skirmishes between hauliers under free enterprise and the British Transport Commission, there is nothing to compare with the abusive arguments between road and rail before the war. The two forms of transport have now established remarkably cordial relations in spite of the licensing courts. The hauliers have come to accept the opposition of the railways as natural, like the spines of a hedgehog. There is not quite the same attitude towards the Road Haulage Executive, perhaps because it tries so persistently to introduce the principles of the 1947 Act into the working of the Act of 1933.

The Licensing Authorities see no reason to amend an operator's licence because he may not be granted a permit for the whole of the work. The R.H.E. keeps on trying, and is no doubt content if from time to time it can persuade an applicant to modify his claim in return for the withdrawal of " nationalized " objections. Even these manceuvres now rarely give rise to an exchange of invective. It is to be wondered whether the polarization of road and rail following the dissolution of the R.H,E. will lead to a resumption of the old open warfare.

Rivalry between the two forms of transport in the U.S.A. has always been acrimonious. It is illuminating from time to time to catch the sound of the strife in a land where such things as integration and nationalization are merely 'skeletons rattling in a cupboard 3,000 miles away. The latest development is an onslaught on the railways by goods vehicle operators in Pennsylvania. They allege that their rivals are using every possible device to secure a transport monopoly.

Anti-trust Laws In the U.S.A. there are anti-trust laws, notably the Sherman Act, and it is in accordance with these that the Pennsylvania operators have filed their complaints against a number of railway companies and against a man by the name of Carl Byoir, whom the companies employ to carry out their policy with the help of a "Committee on Competitive Transportation." Just in case the British Transport Commission ever feels inclined to follow the example of the American railways, it may be as well to pay attention to what, according to the complainants, Mr. Byoir has been doing.

His campaign is described as vicious, corrupt and fraudulent ", and the list of allegations includes bribery of public officials; vilification and defamation; and the formation of " independent" citizens' organizations to circulate false and malicious propaganda. Statements that the railways have put out or sponsored are said to describe hauliers as unreliable, untrustworthy and inefficient in the conduct of their businesses. They are accused of having a reckless disregard for the laws of the States through which they travel, creating an extreme hazard to all other highway users. They neglect to pay their share of the cost of maintaining the roads, which they are said to be deliberately ruining. They are dishonest in their business methods, using bribery and corruption of public officials to gain their end.

Even the. "Square Deal" campaign by the railway companies in this country produced nothing to equal this indictment of road transport. To find anything like it, one would have to go back to the industry's very early days. However, propaganda and abuse by themselves would probably not have induced the Pennsylvania operators to take action. What seems to have annoyed them most was the effect of the propaganda upon the so-called "Fair Truck Bill" which came before the State's General Assembly in 1951.

SurroundingTennsylvania are the states of New York, Ohio, New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland. All of these States permit a weight limit of at least 60,000 lb. for tractors and twin-axled semi-trailers, whereas the maximum weight permitted in Pennsylvania is 45,000 lb. This obviously puts operators in that State at a disadvantage, which it was the purpose of the Bill to remove.

At first, everything went smoothly. The Bill passed both the House and the Senate, and all that was needed was the approval of the Governor of the State. But Mr. Byoir and his organization, according to the road operators, had not been idle. They persuaded numerous influential bodies to protest against the Bill. In the words of the hauliers lodging the complaint, "the Governor naturally assumed that this was a bona fide and independent protest, whereas in actual fact it was all plotted, created and master-minded in the Byoir office."

Distorted Account

While this was going on, an experimental test was taking place in Maryland to show the effect of commercial-vehicle traffic on the roads. The ubiquitous Mr. Byoir, so the story runs, set out to delay the Fair Truck Bill until the test was completed, and then suborned an official of the State of Maryland to publish a distorted account of the test to the disadvantage of the vehicle operators. The official analysis was not issued until April 1, 1952, but on the basis of the earlier report and of the protests he had received the Governor of Pennsylvania vetoed the Bill on January 21.

Even if half of these accusations of skulduggery in high places are true, they provide a lurid picture of road-rail rivalry in the U.S.A. One must sympathize with the Pennsylvania hauliers who are condemned for the time being to tote a load only three-quarters the size of that permitted to their neighbours, but at the same time one may be pardoned a feeling of admiration for the Committee on Competitive Transportation whose energetic and enterprising machinations have been brought into the light of day.

In spite of the changes shortly to be made, we have become so conditioned to the principles of the Transport Act that it comes as something of a shock to learn that people in another country regard as an indictable offence any attempt to set up a transport monopoly. The Socialists have never denied that a monopoly was their ultimate aim in creating the Commission, and the sentiment may remain when the Commission is left, on the goods side, with virtually nothing but the railways.

It will be all to the good if the effect is to make the railways go all out in competition with their rivals. Road transport cannot complain at receiving a dose of its own medicine, but it is to be hoped that the conflict does not become quite so envenomed as in the U.S.A.

comments powered by Disqus