HINTS FOR HAULIERS.
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An Occasional Chat on Subjects and Problems of Interest to Those Who are Engaged, or About to Become Engaged, in Running Commercial Vehicles for a Living.
AQUESTION frequently put is, "Should I charge a client for return journeys, when the lorry has to come back empty I" N ow, I have never been able to put myself in the same frame of mind as that of the man who asks this question; the answer seems to me to be so obvious. Prior to the Armistice, when the present keen interest in the subject of motor haulage (amongst those who had not hitherto given it a thought) began to make itself felt, I should as soon have expected to be asked: "Should I stop the engine of my lorry before leaving it for the night?" Of course you must charge for the return journey, and, unless there are special circumstances attaching to the contract, you must charge the same mileage rate as on the outward journey. Someone has got to pay for it anyhow, and that person is the customer, whether he pays directly or indirectly.
Charging for Empty Running.
Look at it this way. Your lorry costs, on the average, a certain amount per mile to run. The standard charges per mile are worked out on that cost as a basis, so that you are assured a, certain gross profit for every mile which you run on contract. Unless you are paid for the mileage which is unavoidably run without load, you will not oraylose the profit on that mileage, which profit is essential if you are going to make the business pay at all, but you are going to have to find, out of your own pocket, the wherewithal to pay for the cost of that empty mileage. Assume that you are the proud possessor of a threeton petrol lorry, and that you have contracts which enable you to keep the lorry on the road for 300 miles per week, on the average. Now, according to "Run ning Commercial Motors for a Living," the standing charges on that lorry will amount to 26 2s. per week. The running costs, at 9.76 pence per mile will tot up to 212 4s., and the total cost to you of the 300 miles will, therefore, be 118 6s. Let us assume, for the sake of argument, that of the 300 miles 200 are run with the lorry loaded and the remainder with it light. It might easily be worse, as my readers will agree. The gross returns, if payment were received in con nection with the loaded mileage only, would be, at the rate of 2a 6d. per mile, 225. The excess of incomings over outgoings would thus be 26 14s. Out of this you will have to pay all the establishment expenses in connection with the running of the business. Rent of offices, wages of any staff, even if' it be only a boy, postages, telegrams, telephones, travelling expenses, etc., will all have to be paid out of this excess,
as no allowance is made for them in connection with the running costs of the, lorry. In the result yon will very likely find yourself left with a. bare 13 a week, and, if you read the Daily Mail, you will know of what little use that is in these times.
No, you must .charge for the whole 300, making a gross profit of 219 4s., out of which you will be able to put something by for those occasions when, owing
to an accident or breakdown of your own machine, you will have to hire another in order to fulfil your
contracts. This is an important item of your overhead charges to which I did not make reference in the preceding paragraph. One correspondent puts it to me that, as it surely , costs less to run an empty lorry than a. light one, the client ought to have the benefit of the difference. Quite true, he should, but since, in those cases where it does really cost lees, the difference is a bare fraction of a penny per mile, the contractor must not ex
pect the client to be overwhelmed with gratitude on account of the concession. .As a matter of fact, strange as it may seem, it may even cost more to run an empty lorry than a full one.
Cost of Running Light.
Of all the items which go to make up the cost of running a motor lorry, only two, petrol—or coal or coke in the case of a steam wagon—and maintenance, will be affected by variation in the load, which the lorry is carrying. A chassis that uses a gallon of petrol every seven miles when loaded is not likely to do much better than nine miles for the same quantity of fuel when it is empty. The cost per mile for petrol in the two cases is 4.42 pence and 3.44 pence—difference, practically a penny a, mile. On the other hand, except in rare instances, the maintenance cost of a wagon is higher when it is running light than when it is loaded. Particularly does this apply to the bodywork, but it is notably so in connection with axle casings and components of that order, which are likely casings, suffer from the effects of high speeds and bad springing. Extra maintenance may very well eat up a farthing out of the saving on fuel, and our benevolent correspondent is, therefore, left with a matter of three fartMnge a mile to return to his client for empty mileage. The latter, on being offered this rebate, might well be forgiven for coming to the con elusion that his contractor is trying to pull his leg.
A correspondent, who signs himself " W.D' . Bristol," wishes to know what staff he would need to keep a, dozen lorries in going order. I suggest five persons —a foreman, tviro mechanics, and two apprentices. The foreman will have to be an experienced and efficient man, and he must be put in supreme control of the garage. The drivers as well as the garage staff, must be responsible to him. Such a, man will not be obtainable for less than 1350 per annum, and he may possibly, and justifiably, demand more. The two litters will be paid from four to five pounds per week, according to their capacity, and the boys in view of the fact that they are learning a trade, boys, come for from 10 to 15 shillings per week,
Mr. " Bristol" tells me that it is his intention to purchase up-to-date vehicles, for which he can readily obtain spares, and he evidently realizes the importance, in a fleet of the size named., of keeping a stock of spare parts. In view of this fact, it will not be necessary for him to go to any greatexpense in fitting his establishment out with machine tools, but I recommend hint to install a sensitive drill, and, if he can see his way, a email lathe. Both may be electrically driven. The possession of the latter machine will make it incumbent on him to have, as one of the two fitters, a. man who, although not necessarily 'a-n experienced turner, c,an, nevertheless, make himself useful on the lathe. It will be necessary to keep a service wagon for running out to assist chassis which have broken down on the road. A Ford van, or, better still, a Ford chassis specially equipped for the purpose, will -serve admirably.
Out of 12 chassis, one will be in for overhaul each week, so that each will have that attention Once in three months. By overhaul, I do not netesaarily
mean that the whole diesels will have to be entirely dismantled each. time, but that it. will-he in for inspection once in 12 weeks, at which times certain of the parts may have to be taken down; others will be known, from previous inspections, to be in order and, therefore, not in need of such attention. One of the fitters and the driver of the wagon which is in together with a boy, will -be continuously engaged on this work. They will, of course, be available for lending a hand with emergency work as occasion arises. The other fitter will be on hand for emergency work, and, particularly, for running out to attend to any wagon which has met with trouble on the road. The second boy will be occupied in many ways, some of ' them, perhaps, usefuL With a good type of _chassis, coupled with good fortune in respect of the class of driver employed, it may be found possible to dispense with the services of the second fitter.
I are assuming that the duties of the fdreman will be mainly managerial, and that he will, in consequence, be able only occasionally to don overalls, and lend a hand with the actual operations which will be going forward in the garage.
Finally, I would advise Mr. "Bristol," if he has not already bought his lorries, to specialize, so far as possible, on one make and type.
Figures of Cost not Sacred.
There is just a point which occurs to me in con. nection with the figures for running costs, which appear from time to time in these articles. They are not sacred or inviolable. I should not be in the least surprised to learn that many of my readers are able to improve on them. Nay, more, I hould not consider it necessary to go out of my way to compliment such a reader. The figures are the same as those which are given in "Running Commercial Motors for a Living," and, as stated clearly in that book, they are averages only, based on experience. Where there has been. any doubt about any item, the line has been taken of allowing a margin on the top side, so that it could not be said that any 'exaggeration had been made in favour of the motor vehicle. Readers should be able to improve on the figures given. The man who has cause for alarm is he who exceeds those costs by any considerable amount. He is running his machine uneconothically, and to him I extend my offer of assistance. I shall at all times be glad to receive communications concerning working costs, and would welcome the co-operation of ieaders in keeping up to date the available information on the subject, which information, although naturally treated as confidential as regards its sources, would, nevertheless, go into the common stock, and be.at the service of all readers of The Commercial. Motor, whatever their particular line of business, and entirely, f may add, regardless of their politics.
No Need for Secrecy in Regard to Costs.
I would like to emphasize this request for actual figures of running costs. A few weeks ago The Commercial Motor was asked to go and observe the methods of running a haulage contractor's fleet. Our representative said, when he saw the fleet, "Yes, very fine; well-kept. Now, how do your running costs pan out?" "Oh!" said the haulage contractor, "I could not give you my cost figures. Why, I should be giving away information vital to i he business' for the benefit of my competitors, and, as to my customers, why, they would be able, with those facts before them, to drive very hard bargains." But I doubt very much whether his argument was sound. It was hardly likely that he was effecting any saving in his items of cost as compared with his .competitors, and, if he were, and would state the fact, his competitors would find an incentive to secure greater efficiency in running, all of which in the long-run would redound to the credit and popularity—and the profit--of motor haulage. As for his customers, we do not suppose, in these days of close competition that ire is able to get .such freight rates that they could be regarded as out of all reasonable proportion to his total costs. Moreover; running costs are only part of the expense— the part which can usefully be published for purposes of comparison; the overhead charges vary materially in relation to circumstances and are not always comparable, and there is quite sufficient cover" in them to help to camouflage the running-cost figures. TEE &MOM