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What Coach Owners Think About Rate-cutting.

30th January 1923
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Page 1, 30th January 1923 — What Coach Owners Think About Rate-cutting.
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Which of the following most accurately describes the problem?

IT WAS unusually interesting to observe the attitude of the coach owners who travelled to Nottingham from different parts of the country to be present at last Tuesday's meeting. The discussion was keen and full of earnest, whatever the subject might be, and it was refreshing to find an entire absence of hot air or of useless talk. In other words, the matters presented for gonsicieration had evidently been well discussed beforehand, so that only considered opinions were advanced.

The obvious outcome of this business-like attitude was that a lot of work was got through in a sitting of nearly three hours. We deal with the discussion and the decisions on another page of this issue, so that there is no need for us to go into any of the details here, but we would like to draw attention to the conclusions at which the meeting arrived upon the , vexed question of the prevention of rate and farecutting. It is by no Means curious or coincidental that, in our last issue, published a few hours before the meeting opened, we anticipated those conclusions, for, after all, they, are the outcome of sheer logic.

Men who have had many years' experience in the passenger transport industry testified to the efforts made in the past to secure co-operation amongst owners of vehicles, in order to prevent undercutting, and to the ultimate failure of every one of them. Human nature is stronger than any agreement, whilst the men who are the cause of all the trouble are the very ones from whom it is impossible to secure penalties or forfeits.

Being convinced of the utter uselessness of further attempts at securing co-operation, the big concerns would determinedly decline to be drawn into any scheme for stabilising rates, but they all agree that something may effectively be done by boycotting the rate-cutter—by refusing to help him or his passengers when his vehicle breaks down on the road, or when he takes on a bigger contract than he can handle. But, better still, they agree with our own conclusion—namely, that education is a useful moral force. Teach the man what his working costs amount to, show him how to record his costs, what reserves he must put by to cover repairs and replacements, and what he must put down for his own wages, interest on capital and administrative charges. He will, if he follows up the teachings, at least know whether he is heading towards bankruptcy or to the building up of a sound business. Desert Transport and the Prospects Opening Up.

THE progress of the motor-vehicle expedition across the Sahara Desert, which was arranged by the Citroen Co., was followed with a great deal of Interest, and we have received a number of communications in which the commercial aspect of the suecessful accomplishment of the task is discussed, but we think it will be advisable to wait until full particulars of the . journey are available before dealing with tNe prospects which are thus opened up.

This expedition will have cost a very large sum of money,. and the results of the trial Will influence, either favourably or adversely, efforts of a similar nature which are being made in other paris of the world—e.g., the Syrian Desert transport scheme, as dealt with in The Commercial Maimof January 9th. Desert transport brings home to us the importance of roads ranch more forcibly than that of transport over ordinary highways, no matter how bad they may be. It has been Stated that motor vehicles do not pay, by ordinary taxation, a fair share of the road mainteeance charges. Motor vehicle owners are not likely to agree to this, but, when it comes to running vehicles on desert routes, the whole cost of road maintenance will have to be borne by the commercial transport. The economic limit at which expenditure on road maintenance and repairs to vehicles can be set will then be largely dependent on definite experience gained. . As the economic side of desert transport will be dealt with by us at an early date, we do not, at the moment, intend at any length to go' into the question of the commercial advantages likely to result from the Citroen-Kegresse expedition, feeling that it will be better to await the receipt of the full facts relating to the journey.

The -Weight Limit of 30-cwt. Military Vehicles.

ALTHOUGli thegeneral call for reduction of Government expenditure may make it highly improbable that any new scheme of subsidy for military motor vehicles will be introduced at an early

date, it is generally agreed that it is upon such a scheme rather than upon direct purchase that the availability of a sufficient number of vehicles of suit able type must depend. , It is, therefore, distinctly desirable that, so far as possible, the requirements of the military authorities of various portions of the Empire should be brought into line so that, should their forces collaborate, a Uniform and easily workable system of transport will he available. These remarks are suggested by consideration of the position in respect of 30-ewt. vehicles and the re quirements of the British War Department and the Indian Government respectively. At one time it. appeared probable that both Governments would specify pneumatic-tyred vehicles, but more lately the opinion of the advisers of the Indian Government appears to have altered, and solid-tyred vehicles are now specified. The British Government, on the other hand, adheres to its intention of fitting its 30-cwt. vehicles with pneumatic tyres. This deviation from uniformity is not in itself important, but becomes important immediately when one considers its bear ing upon chassis design. In our opinion, it is not reasonable to expect manufacturers to produce good 30-cwt. vans designed to run on solid tyres and fitted m%ith towing attachments—evidently indicating the intention to use trailers from time to time—while limiting weight to much, if at all, below 35 cwt. The limit at present imposed by the British War Department is 29 cwt., and it is argued that certain vehicles are already in existence which conform with this limit. So far as we are aware, this is only true of vehicles intended to be run on pneumatic tyres, It is, of course, desirable to cut down weight so far as may be without sacrifice of strength or relia

bility; but it is obvious that the cost in each case will be increased, and, at the same time, desirable c2 uniformity will be sacrificed, if different types have to be manufactured for the Indian and British military authorities. We would, 'therefore, with all deference, suggest that the British War Department would be well advised to increase its weight limit by 5 cwt. or 6 cwt., so that the type approved for the one service will be eligible for the other.

At present only a very limited number of commercial users would run vehicles of this capacity and type on pneumatic tyres. For everyday, work the solid tyre is likely to continue the more popular for some time to came, and if, as appears to be the case, the solid-tyred vehicle cannot be satisfactorily made to conform with the weight limit of 29 cwt., then the success of any subsidy scheme that might ultimately be adopted would be much decreased by adherence to that limit. Conseouently, when one considers the whole case, it would seem that the disadvantages resulting from slightly heavier weight are more than balanced by the advantages, the character of which we have indicated.

Chassis for " One-man-operated " Buses.

THERE IS a rather natural tendency to regard the production of a " one-man-operated" bus as primarily, if not altogether, a matter of body design, it being assumed that any chassis proved reliable and suitable in other spheres will be equally so when applied to this purpose. This assumption is to some extent erroneous.

In the first place, it stands to• reason that a "oneman-operated " bus will suffer longer delays at stopping points than a vehicle of equal capacity staffed by a conductor in addition to a driver. At some point a limit is reached beyond which the principle of one-man operation becomes undesirable owing to the extent of the delays occasioned. In other words, money which is saved in respect of a conductor's wages is lost on account of the lower mileage covered in the working day and the inferior popularity of a vehicle which proves slower on the average over the journey.

In view of these facts, a very long and heavy chassis is unsuitable for a "one-man-operated " bus. The limit of efficient capacity is probably somewhere in the neighbourhood of 21 to 22 passengers, but there is a partial exception to this rule to , which reference will be made Inter. A still more important factor is, however, that which is concerned with the driver's power of endurance. The extra physical work and the responsibility involved in—not merely driving, but in operating the door and taking the fares—impose an additional strain on the driver. If the controls and the steering gear are heavy, this strain becomes such that the driver's efficient working hours must be reducer] without any corresponding reduction in his pay. Thus, although we save conductors, we are merely ' robbing Peter to pay Paul." .It follows that the chassis suitable for a ' one-manoperated " bus must be provided with particularly light steering and controls, more comparable perhaps to those of a good private car than to those of a large commercial vehicle. In this way the driver's endurance is economized. The process is carried still farther if the driver is provided with comfortable accommodation and thorough protection from the weather. In these circumstances, the vehicle, being rather below the -usual capacity, can probably make up between the stopping points the loss of time caused at these points by reason of the taking of fares on, entry. This, however, depends—as does the general popularity of the vehicle—largely upon the efficiency of the springing, which should 'he particularly good, reaching a standard of excellence not commonly regarded as necessary on a goods-carrying vehicle of the same dimensions. Good springing, again, eases the strain upon the driver. Thus, it is apparent that to a large extent the production. of a really good " one-manoperated " bus is a matter of chassis design or, alternatively, of careful and intelligent chassis selection. We mentioned above that there is one partial exception to the general rule limiting capacity. This is in the case of a service upon which the full capacity of a large vehicle is absolutely essential during a very limited number of hours, while for the rest of the day a much smaller vehicle would be adequate. In such a ease the body can be so designed, particularly as regards the rear emergency door and rear platform, as to make the vehicle alternatively a oneman and a two-man-operated bus. A conductor can be carried at rush hours, when all passengers will enter at the back and leave at the front, the fares being collected en route. At other hours the emergency door will he closed, the vehicle will be one-man operated, passengers will leave and enter at the front, and will pay their fares to the driver. We have assumed that, at these hours, the custom is small, and from this it follows that delays at terminals will not be longs We do not, however, overcome in this way the difficulty inseparable from the fact that the ha,ndiing. of a really heavy vehicle is hard work, and that, if the driver is asked to shoulder additional duties, the strain upon him is severe, and his working hours must be curtailed.

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