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We welcome letters for publication on transport topics. Address them to Commercial Motor, Dorset House, Stamford Street, London SE1.
Hgv driver shortage: the reasons why
It is difficult to know how to reply to Mr T. H. Thirkell (Commercial Motor, March 12) because from his letter he shows himself to be obsessed with the shortcomings of the RTITB yet oblivious to the reasons why his sector of the industry is without hgv drivers.
As a Group-employed training officer (not an RTITB official) I take exception to Mr Thirkeli's comment that the RTITB has "messed about with group training" and suggest that he gets out from his four walls and visits this or any other group in this country to see the great progress made in the training of hgv drivers.
It will also be found that groups have not concentrated solely on driver training—this group along with many others has been or will he offering management, supervisory and clerical courses geared to suit the industry. I suggest it is poor management and lack of manpower planning that has given rise to the lack of drivers.
The RTITB and the Ministry of Transport (as it then was) gave adequate notice of .the effects of the legislation concerning heavy goods vehicle drivers' licences. The Training Board went out of its way to finance the setting up and maintenance of cheap but first-class training courses by means of the Group Training Associations. The opportunity was there for all levy payers to join these groups, and indeed, this opportunity still exists in most groups.
Now. Mr Thirkell and his members complain that they must be a member of a training group to get a training course that then may be vacant months ahead, they must pay wages to the trainees and must be up to date with levy payments. At least it is an indication that Mr Thirkell has at long last given some thought to training drivers but perhaps I can offer him some advice which may show his remarks to be misleading.
Any company may use the driver training facilities of a group training association irrespective of whether that company pays levy to the RTITB. The numbers of out-of-scope trainees are limited to 25 per cent of the year's capacity.
Preference for training places is given to group members because they have had the foresight and the conviction to invest both time and money in an association which can only be of benefit to them. The members are also planning their training requirements for long periods ahead which means that companies that have sat on the fence and thrown stones at the training groups will have to wait their turn and possibly see more of their drivers out of work through inadequate training and leaving hgv tests too late.
Why should an employer not pay for a trainee's wages when the end result is a continuance of useful employment (through passing the hgv test) and an improvement in the standards of work performed by those employees? How would Mr Thirkell feel if his association sent him on a course but offered him no salary?
Lastly, it is essential that all RTITB-registered companies enjoying the facilities of a group training association be up to date with levy payments. The fact that these companies are taking advantage of first-class training at fees far below those charged by commercial concerns is only possible because the RTITB is making available grants which help the groups offset some of their running costs. If companies have not paid their levies, how can those same companies expect to get a great deal for almost nothing ?
So. Mr Thirkell. the answer to your question is in your members' hands: plan your labour requirements for the future, taking into account those whose licences expire and need to take a test: apply to join a local group training association and make protracted bookings for as far ahead as you wish. Only in this way can groups plan their recruitment of instructors and obtain vehicles on which to train. T. DAVIES, Group Training Officer, RI-IA Essex Group Training Association.
We were pleased to see that Mr Swiss was able to make extensive use of material provided by us in his excellent and informative article "A Sober Look at LPG" (March 12 1971).
A small point of correction concerning the supply of LPG at Hemel Hempstead Motors; BOC are pleased to have been associated with the success of this first forecourt facility in the UK as suppliers of LPG in conjunction with Motorgas Ltd, who provided specialist assistance based on experience of similar operations in Holland.
C. N. WALTERS, Manager Autogas Development Gases Division, British Oxygen Co Ltd
Driving in fog
At the official opening of Exeter District Haulage Group Training Association on February 12 1971, one part of the opening address by Mr J. R. C. Samuel-Gibbon, the Licensing Authority for the Western traffic area, was of particular interest to one of our principal guests --Col Greenwood, the Chief Constable of Devon and Cornwall.
This was a reference by Mr Samuel-Gibbon to the need for special training for driving on snow and ice and particularly in fog. Ice and snow can be combated to a certain extent by treated roads or specially equipped wheels, but fog is a condition which at present can only be coped with by vigilance and even then to a very limited extent.
The subject of vehicles travelling in foggy conditions is something to which the Chief Constable has given much thought as is shown by his short paper which he was kind enough to send to me six days after the official opening referred to in the first paragraph.
It is with considerable interest I have read with in the last few days that the Road Research organization has come up with conclusions very similar to those of our Chief Constable.
As a training association we obviously share the Chief Constable's desire to devise means of alleviating the risks inherent by adapting driving techniques to prevailing conditions.
So may I ask all road users who may feel so inclined to write to me on the subject of driving in fog if they have any ideas on how to combat the worst effects? Even if they feel that their idea is extreme or difficult to apply, I would still like to hear from them. Every suggestion will be seriously considered and all information carefully collated and presented to the Chief Constable. He will then judge what collective ideas could be translated into training.
The Exeter Training Association is willing and able to act as a proving ground for any ideas on this subject. Our pilot tests could receive amplified testing by the Road Transport Industry Training Board to a point where, perhaps, a national advance might be achieved in this, the worst of driving conditions.
J. F. CRUWYS Chairman, Exeter District Haulage Group Training Association [The Chief Constable's paper, referred to in this letter, suggests that in concentrating on following the vehicle ahead in fog, drivers lose their sense of speed and their awareness of their position on the road, possibly in a degree of hypnosis. An inevitable reduction in the safety margin gives the situation the ingredients fora multiple crash if a leading vehicle suddenly reduces speed. Spacing between vehicles in fog must, he says, be very different from that in clear weather. The Chief Constable advocates research into this and other fog-driving aspects, especially in relation to motorway pile-ups.--Ed]
You referred last week to the Private Bills now before Parliament which seek in various ways to restrict the overnight parking of goods vehicles in residential streets. Progress of all of these is being closely followed by the Freight Transport Association and the Road Haulage Association.
In the case of the Haringey Bill, for example, the Associations are pressing for the introduction of a one-hour exemption to the overnight ban to allow for short-term parking ;the removal of the restrictions on Sunday and the retention of the standard £2 maximum spot penalty in respect of commercial vehicle offences as opposed to the £10 spot fine proposed.
, An exemption allowing one-hour parking has already been 'accepted by Aid ridge/Brownhills UDC in its proposed ban on goods vehicle parking in gardens.
Similar one-hour parking concessions are being sought by the Associations in the Scunthorpe, Lancashire, Manchester, Surrey, and Oxfordshire Bills.
J. M. GUTTRIDGE Public Relations Officer Freight Transport Association.