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30th January 1923
Page 24
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Page 24, 30th January 1923 — COACH OWNERS IN CONFERENCE.
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Which of the following most accurately describes the problem?

A Healthy Discussion Aiming at the Removal of Difficulties, and Expressions of Opinion Upon Taxation, Methods of Preventing Fare-cutting, etc.

IF THE gathering of motor eeach owners which had been called together at Nottingham on Tuesday last was small, it was at least representative, for owners had come from all parts of the kingdom, and they represented not only large organizations, each running a number of motor -coaches, but also the smaller men. On the whole, the. discussion was lively and vigorous, and the 'meeting, which started promptly at 2.45 p.m. (that is to Say. Willem, a quarter of an boar of the arrival by train of the contingent from London and the south), did not conclude initil nearly 5.30,p.m. Each matter was thoroughly thrashed out, and much was:undoubtedly due to the ability of the chairman, Mr. E. S. Slarapnell-Smith, C.B.E., the president of the Association, -who put each problem lucidly before the meeting, stating the proe, and cons, and then tactfully encouraging those present to contribute their quota to the eolution. The proceedings opened. with a short speech of welcome from Mr. Dalgleish, the chairman of the East Midland Division of the•C.M.17.A., and thenithe chairman explained. the reasons for calling the meeting, saying it was hoped that by the-gathering itwould be possible to. devise ways and means for eliminating some of the diffieultieetby which the, coach industry is beset. Attthe same time he was: entrusted with thee-task of reporting the, action taken by the Association in certain directions.He pointed out that, with a membership of 5,069 vehicle owners, many of the members were quite mall men, -owning one, two or three vehicles, and it was eminently desirable that every vehicle owner should join, because that is the. beginning of co-operation. The chairman then.went over the various subjects that had been referred to the Passenger Vehicle Committee and, where it was necessary, subsequently asked for further Instructions under the different beads.

'Demonstration. Demonstration of.Coach Safety Control.

With regard tothe proposed demonstration to the public of the safety and control of motor coaches, Sir Henry Maybury had promised. to co-operate. It is highly likely. that the demeniseration will take place in Derbyshire early in the. spring, between Feeter and Whiteun and it is loped that 150 coaches will take part. The demonstration will last one day and the vehicles: will be called upon to show their capabilities on tertnens roads and aver hilly country. A film will be -merle, an that the greatest' possible publicity can be obtained and a substantial effort putforward to enhance the confidence felt by the road-travelling public in motor vehicles. There is no intention ter-set up a freak standard of performance, because that could only react to the disadvantage of motor coaching in the future. What would, be demonstrated would be that which should be commercially practicable. The chairman announced that the Passenger Vehicle Committee -was preparing a seeeial list of parking places for motor coaches throughout the country; to be issued early in the year, probably free to all members. It will be remembered that The Commercial Molar last year instituted a feature which aimed at dying the necessary particulars concerning the parking arrangements in various cities and towns, together with a plan showing the approachee, the parking plaees, garages, etc. As there would be no advantage in two institutions issuing the same matter, all the information in the possession of The Commercial Motor will be placed at the disposal of the C.141.11.A.

Is Bill—posting Good Publicity?

With regard to the question of publicity for mator coaching by means of pesters, the advisability of inattg.urating a campaign lia,e been considered, and complete information will be available when the Passenger Vehicle Committee meets next month, but it seemed to be the general opinion of the meeting that this kind of publicity, except in certain favourable cases, was very expensive and not altogether satiefactory, mainly because of the difficulty of securing good billposting sites.

A difficulty which has always confronted coach-owners has been that the licences of their drivers have fallen due for renewal on various dates throughout the year, and that there was, in consequence, no really satisfactory means of super

vising their renewal by the fleet manager. Representation had been made to the Ministry ofTransport, and the Minister has now agreed that, in the nexte Ministerial circular to licensing authorities, permission will be given for the surrender by a coach proprietor of the whole of the drivers' licenses so that new ones can be taken out on a given date, thee securing uniformity throughout the staff. All that will be necessary then will be for a record of the date to be kept cci thatiapplication for renewal can be made well in advance by every member of the driving staff. The advantages and disedvantagee of agreeing to a scheme for the examination and certification of drivers on the score of fitness -.and capability had been considered, and t he eonclusion-s of the conimittee were laid before the meeting. It was generally felt that the employer was the best judge of the suitability of a driver, because his own besiness requirements ensured the vehicles being planed in charge only of good men. Generally, it was coneidered to be inadvisable to take any action which should show that the men:deers of the Asseciation approved,of the idea of official certification,

The Futility of Certification of Coaches.

With regard to the suggested certification of vehicles and the issue of special badges to show that the vehicles, to which they were attached were up to a 'required standard, here, again, it was felt that, whilst the idea looked geed at the first blush, on close examination it presented nn great advantage and involved the risk of increased difficulties. It would be necessary to have a panel of engineers in every area. These, engineers would have to be absolutely impartial, and there would always be the doubt whether the public would pay much attention to, or even appreciate, the value of the suggested badges, probably attaching more importance to a lower fare offered by a competing uncertified vehicle. In any case, should the licensing authorities be empowered to demand such certificates of condition, the C.M.I7.A. will take measures to ensure that it is appointed the badly which shall nominate the panel of engineere. Difficulties are arising out of the efforts which are being made by the Ministry of Transport to limit the number of licensing authorities, because every municipal authority with the necessary qualifications desires to become a licensing authority, so as to be a,ble. to eonteel„ and to cexact fees. in connectian with, all vehicles operating within their areas. The proposal at present is that there should be a limited number of licensing authorities, and that licences for vehicles and drivers issued anywhere shall enable the vehicles to run anywhere, 'with, of course the proviso that vehielest must not ply' for hire except in elistriets, in which they have obtained their licences.

Grotesque Licensing Inspections.

, In the course of the disenseion it was clearly shown that there is a universal need for higher qualifications on the part of the examining officials, in. one Irliclland city public service vehicles are examined, every ails months by an engineer and by a bodymaker, each independent and impartial, and each rendering reports to the licensing committee. In. the case of the refusal. of a licence, the grounds of such refusal are stated, and, when the faelte have been remedied, the vehicles may be resubmitted for examination. In some places however, the examinations a.reepnrely grotesque, all the vehicles that are required to be licensed heir ordered to parade on a single day in the year, and (as one speaker said) "after standing in the Market gquare, one of some hundreds, from early in the morning until four o'clock in the afternoon, the examination: consisted of the chairman of the licensing committee endeavouring to pull the wing off the vehicle, whilst, another member fried to turn the steering _wheels, and on this perfunctory examination the licences would be' granted Or refused.!'

In most cases,, where an examining engineer was employed, he was responsible to the local authorities, and as many of

these local authorities wereAnterested passenger-carrying undertakings it was difficult to_ secure impartiality. The opinion of the meeting' was that all . examining engineers should' be responsible to the Minister of Transport and not to the local authorities,: and that, where the local

authority is itself interested financially as the owner or lessee of a passenger undertaking, it should not be the local licensing authority for road transport, but the licensing functions should be exercised by an individual official not, as we have said, responsible to the kcal authorities. London is particularly fortunate in that its police, who are the licensing authorities; come directly under the Homo Office, and are not in the pay of the licensing authority.

One of the big questions of the day, occupying the greater portion of the attention of the meeting, was that of proposed changes in the scheme of taxation. The chairman set out the position arising out of the meinorandom which has recently been lodged by a number of motoring associations for examination by the Departmental Committee, and clearly explained the attitude of the National Council of the C.M.U.A. towards the scheme. Their idea was that the tax, if based upon the petrol cons wised, would not produce enough for the roads and must be supplemented; that it would cause more money to go into the pockets of the petrol companies; that, the private car owners would get a reduction of taxation to the disadvantage of the commercial users • and that there would be considerable evasion of the petrol tax by those people who could get supplies of petrol ostensibly for purposes other than the propulsion of motor vehicles. Without doubt, there was a big point in the argument that it would be easier to pay one's tax as one went on rather than to pay in a lump sum at the beginning of the year, or of a quarter, and it was admitted that something should be done to ease the burden upon the small man whose vehicle only covers a small mileage in the year. If this could be effected, the greatest grievance against the yearly licensing duty would be removed. There was an excellent discussion upon the whole subject, one speaker averring his conviction that the tax of .the future is the petrol tax, and that the majority of owners are favourable to a system of taxation on tise and not on ownership. The present system introduces bad inequalities, injustices, and iniquities. He was able to quote one case in which the mileage covered by a group of vehicles was so great that, taking the tax at 3d. per gallon, they had the free use of the roads for five months of the year. He instanced another firm with 42 vehicles which was on the point of signing a contract for their employment, and, in expectation that the agreement would be completed the next day, spent, .B650 on licences. The contract failed because the other company immediately went. into bankruptcy, and none of the £650 was recoverable. In the case of the coach its cost was invested for 12 months, and only six months' use was obtained from it.

Another speaker said that dealing with 28-seaters, taking the tax ef 6d. per gallon and the consumption at one gallon per six miles, the vehicles would have to cover 4,300 miles per quarter in order to equal the amount paid on licensing duty. In the case of Many coaches the tax is only covered during the September quarter, so that. during the other three-quarters of the year the taxation is excessively heavy, because the necessary distances are not easily accomplished.

One speaker put the problem in a nutshell by asking whether the advantages gained by some individuals:(th° long mileage interests) outweigh the disadvantages to the whole of the community involved by paying down lump sums, the shutting down of the use of vehicles for six months of the year, and the loss of trade in allied industries. At the close of the discussion it was agreed that the right course was for the C.M.U.A. to urge the need for the reexamination of the proposals to tax • vehicles on their petrol consumption, and if that, is not found to be practicable, and if the vehicle tax is to be retained, to press for (1) monthly and quarterly licences at not more than the actual proportions of the present: annual licences; (2) an allround reduction of one-sixth on every annual licence; 0) facilities for the transference of a licence from any vehicle laid up to any unlicensed substitute vehicle; (4) annual licences from any date ; (5) facilities for daily licences for motor coaches between October 1st and March 24th. Efforts are also being made through the Ministry to secure the adoption of some of these schemes at the earliest possible moment. As one speaker said, some improvement in taxation methods is required before next October.

Can Rate-cutting be Stopped ?

The last important question confronting the meeting was the' possibility of securing co-operation in order to control rates and fares and to prevent, cutting. The Association has asked that owners should formscommittees in the various areas to settle the rates qUestion' for themselves, and the principle has been laid down that certain bases should be decided, such-as the maximum and the minimum charges per passenger-mile, and then came the difficulty as to the means by which the decision should be enforced.

This question was discussed and evidence given by various speakers to show that, in the course of their experience extending over many years, no such scheme had ever proved successful, because the very men that one wants to hold have not the money to put into a pool to cover penalties and forfeits. It is often the case that a man will take any job to enable him to raise funds to pay off the next instalment -or to meet some urgent outgoing. The only possible way seems to. be tosrefuse to help them when they get into difficulties, such as when they have a breakdown or take on a job too big for them.

One speaker took the line set, out in our Editorial on the subject in last, week's issue, showing that the force to be used must bo the moral force of education. The Association must set, out to show coach owners what it costs to run a coach and to provide them with a working costs sheet, Only by educating the men and than by the economic law of the survival of the fittest would the coach industry be able to emerge from its present difficulties. It was decided_ to approve the committee's proposalto issue a model working costs sheet, and to do -everything to bring the importance of this .sheet before every coach owner, showing him graphically and by figures whether he is slipping into bankruptcy or is building up a sound business.

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