Non-restrictive and Mutually Productive
If you've noticed an error in this article please click here to report it so we can fix it.
By P. A. C. Brockington,
A.M.I. MECH. E.
ERE all-in men here. The driver who's decora ting the office next door returned from a Paris
tour last week. Coach drivers on tours like something useful to do in between times and off-season. One of my sons is the engineer and the other is the traffic manager of the company, but they both drive school and works buses in an emergency. The mechanics drive as required. So do I on occasions' and we fit in the shoppers' stagecarriage services without much bother. I've been driving for 50 years—since 1913 that is. Some of our men have been with us for over 30 years."
Hearing these comments by Mr. H. F. Warner, of Warners Motors Ltd., Tewkesbury, Glos., was a heartening reminder that the restrictive mentality of larger labour groups in many industrial communities is completely lacking in typical undertakings in country areas. And Warners Motors is fortunately typical of the smaller p.s.v. operators in the.district. in one or
• two eases, repeated attempts to make an appointment to visit the concerns were unfruitful. The _bosses were too busy— driving. It seems that on a mutual-aid basis country services can be made to pay for the time being and it is evident that all-in work-sharing promotes efficiency as well as harmony.
Mr. Warner started coach tours in 1920 and to-day operates 38 vehicles, centred on the Tewkesbury depot, and a further seven vehicles from a depot in Bristol. The Tewkesbury buses and coaches are engaged in school and works services on the stage-carriage services (on Wednesdays and Saturdays) and to some extent on tours and private-hire work. All the Bristol coaches are operated on tours.
He emphasizes that it would be impossible to run stage carriage services in a country area economically unless they could be married up with other services. Typical of the majority of country areas, school traffic has increased some 200-300 per cent since the war as a result of the closure of smaller village schools and the centralization of schooling at larger establishments. In the Tewkesbury-Gloucester-Chelten
ham area this development has been concomitant with a steady demand for works services, which can be operated in conjunction with the school runs by the same drivers and vehicles, Fourteen full-time drivers are assisted by 14 part-time drivers and, as mentioned, by the fitter-mechanics, of whom there are five. About 27-28 vehicles are mainly engaged on works and
school services and average 50-60 miles. a day The fleet includes three to four spare vehicles.
The stage carriage services on Wednesdays (market days) and Saturdays cover a route from Tewkesbury to Strensham, distance of 5.5-6 miles in whole or in part, and a circular route of 11 miles from Tewkesbury to Longdoni Bushley and back to Tewkesbury via Chaceley, the run being also operated in the opposite direction, A late-evening service is provided on Saturdays in each case in addition to five services in each direction on the "Iewkesbury-Strensharri run (in three of these the bus turns round at Twyning or Hillend) and two morning services on the circular route on both days, together with an extra early-afternoon service on Saturdays. Coaches with a capacity of 41 seats are used for both services, the average number of paserigers being 30. Two vehicles are operated in the morning and one in the evenings, conductors being carried on the morning runs only.
The fleet includes 16-17 older types of double-decker (based at Tewkesbury) of Daimler, Guy and. A.E.C. manufacture, the coaches mainly comprising Bedford Duple and A.E.C. 37and 41-seaters, or.c A.E.C. 47-seater being normally employed on Continental tours. Ten or more vehicles are "taken home" by the drivers and are left overnight in approved parking places near their houses (the cost is met by the company in every case) which enables waste time and mileage on some of the runs to be substantially reducd. This applies to a number of drivers living in the Winchcornbe, Evesham. Pershore, Upton-on-Severn, Malvern and Stanton areas. Overall, five works services and eight school services are operated by the company, the largest number of vehicles (two double-deckers and three single-deckers) being employed on the works servicebetween Tewkesbury and
Bishop's Cleeve. Manufacturers for 'whom services are operated include the Dowty, Rotol and Smith's companies.
Apart from crankshaft grinding,complete engine 'overhauls are performed in the workshops, and it is noteworthy that no bearing troubles can be attributed to the practice over the past 10 years of operating on a heavy-duty detergent oil of S.A.E.10 viscosity. The use of this oil affords easier starting and appears to be favourable to engine operation generally. Changing from petrol to dieselhas redueed average fuel consumption from 8-9 m.p.g. to '1647 m.p.g:, a greater iinprovement in consumptionbeing provided in some .cases .by the use of a two-speed axle.
Partly because of the all-in approach to their jobs by the employees, it is possible to equalize overtime and to ensure that every man draws "a decent average wage ". The men have the benefit of a company pension scheme, the normal retiring age being 65.
A VARIATION on the ." all-in" theme is provided by the drivers employed by ,Perrett and Sons, Ltd., Shipton Oliffe, Glos., who build bungalows in -.theit spare time—and a free bungalow in the village is included in the drivers' perquisites. Mr. A. C. L Perrett reports that there is no difficulty in obtain-ink,. drivers of the right calibre and temperament for the job. Mr. Perreit's, two sons, Brian and.Peter, assist him in running a fleet of 18 coaches, the Post office and a stables, Peter's main Preoccupation in the winter being steeplechasing. • Both sons regularly drive the coaches, which also applies to-the mechanics, and Mr. Perrett drives in an emergency. •
Although the majority of the vehicles in the 'Perrett fleet are garaged in Cheltenham, 15 ofthe 17 regular, drivers live in Shipton, free transport being provided by the concern's stage carriage service between the centres,' the frecluency of which varies between three buses in each direction on Sunday afternoons to seven on Saturdays.A new garage in Cheltenham, based on •Alcast frame sections, is being clad by Perrett employees. . Vehicles are employed on this service to accord with other dernalids on the fleet, the overall requirement. being equivalent to one full-time. vehicle. As far as possible, the vehicle on a particular run is selected to comply with the anticipated loading. The fare to Cheltenham is 2s. 2d. return and the weekly yield is about i47-£49, the total mileage covered being about 587. On weekdays the buses are one-man • operate,d, but
conductors are carried on Saturdays. •
The increasing use of private transportand the general addiction to television viewing has reduced the passengers carried on a number of runs, notably the mid-morning and late-evening -services, and Mr. Perrett envisages that operations will become uneconomic apart from workers' and shoppers' services. Some form of subsidy for country services is an urgent necessity, Mr. Perrett considers, and in his view this should take the form of a fuel-tax relief, based on the use of coloured fuel for the vehicles to which reduced tax is applicable.
Of horse-coach origin in the days of Mr. Perrett's late grandfather, Mr. C. Makepiece, the concern first operated motor vehicles some 30 years ago when Mr. Perrett's father, Mr. Fred Perrett, controlled the business. Mr. I. A. C. (Jim) Perrett graduated from the village school at the age of 14 in 1924 to take a job at the Victory Motor Co. Ltd., Cheltenham, and joined his father in the business in 1935. The "big break" came in 1944 when vehicles were required by the Dowty company for a works service between Cheltenham and Ashchureh, and today the concern's entire fleet is engaged on this service, which is run in conjunction with school services and private-party work, whilst a number of coaches (41-seaters) are hired to Associated Motorways, with drivers, for week-end services. Because of the centralization of schooling in the area, schools traffic has progressively increased over the years and a number of runs now exceed 35 miles a day, eight vehicles being now engaged in this service.
Two Bedford VAL 52-seater twin-steer coaches are included in the all-Bedford fleet and Mr. Perrett says that he cannot speak too highly of their performance, fuel consumption and spares availability. It is expected that the majority of the smaller Bedford-Duple 41-seat coaches in the fleet will eventually be replaced by VALs, which offer a comparable consumption of 15-18 m.p.g. Tyre life is also (unexpectedly) favourable, and again . is comparable with the fleet average. Original-equipment tyres are replaced by Michelin Xs which have a mileage life of about 70,000. This is approximately double the average life.
Each vehicle runs about 30,000-35,000 miles a year and average life is three to four years. All repairs are performed in the garage, a spare power unit, a generator, a dynamo and two gearboxes being available for emergency replacements. Detailed histories are maintained of all vehicles and component parts.
OVER at Winchcombe, transport is even more closely integrated with the local community: a member of Winchcombe Parish Council and housing committee, chairman of the Rural District Council. president of the Football Club, Mr. A. W. Gillett also takes an active interest in old people's welfare and is a member of the flower show committee. He took over his late father's horse-drawn coach business in 1922 and some time later purchased a Ford Model T which he fitted with a canvas top to give weather protection to passengers seated in two rows along the sides. The journey to Winchcombe by 24-seater two-horse coach cost Is. each way for the eight miles and passengers had to pay an extra 3d. (each way) if they were not prepared to walk the last half mile up Cleeve Hill. Before the Second World War the motorbus return fare was Is. 6d. return and has increased to only 25, 10d. over the years. Raising the fare to 3s. 2d. has recently been authorized, but is not considered necessary by Mr. Gillett.
Because of the closure of a factory in the area, Mr. Gillett recently disposed of a number of vehicles formerly employed on works services and this necessitated a reduction in fleet size to five coaches (Bedford-Duples) and an Austin minibus. One coach, a 41-seater, is operated on a four-runs-each-way stage Carriage service to Cheltenham and, over the past 10 years, on a schools half-fare carriage service on the same route, the latter catering for the majority of private schools in the Cheltenham area. The average number of passengers on the public service is about 75 per cent of rated capacity.
Although the centralization of schooling in the district has increased the demand for schools contract services, the number of children carried is tending to decrease, the main reason for the decline being the dearth of houses suitable for newly married couples in neighbouring villages. Saleable cottages are generally snapped up by Birmingham businessmen on retirement or for week-end use, and the population is an ageing one.
Works services to the Dowty factory, in Ashchurch are co-ordinated with schools' services, the longest school run being 16 miles. Whilst excursions and tours and private-party work have tended to decline in recent years, Mr. Gillett reports that car drivers frequently prefer to go by roach with a party to football matches and so on rather than use their own vehicles. In some cases, an excursion will be run to "fill-up" a coach carrying a private party.
Mr. Gillett regularly drives schools-contract coaches and returns to stage carriage driving in emergencies. Active partner in the business, Mrs, A, W. Gillett is secretary of the undertaking and copes will all the office work. In Mr. and Mrs. Gillett's view, stage carriage running in many country districts, including the Winchcombe area, is doomed to extinction by the increasing use of private cars, and they point out that this will create hardship in the case of the minority who cannot run their own transport. Mr. Gillett deplores the fact that the lack of a workable formula is the only practical obstacle to granting a subsidy to the operators of country services. "Everyone is on our side," he observes, "including the Government."
The concern's drivers are all of the "old school" (one driver has been Continuously employed by Mr. Gillett for 35 years) and are first class at their job. Recruiting younger men of the right calibre has so far proved impossible, however, irregular hours and late nights being the most common deterrent.
Apart from one 15-year-old petrol-engined Bedford, the coaches are powered by diesel engines, which on average improve fuel consumption from about 8 m.p.g. to 16 m.p.g. But it is notable that the petrol-engined Bedford is frequently the only vehicle that will climb Cleeve Hill when the surface is icy. Coachei are normally replaced after five years, in which time they cover about 150,000 miles.
The petrol-engined coach and one diesel are 29-seaters, a reduced capacity of this order being preferred for typical excursions and private-party runs. Although the minibus is useful for fill-in work and thereby helps to retain goodwill, its operation is not fully economic and drivers prefer handling the larger vehicles. To maintain a high standard of appearance and maintenance, the vehicles are washed daily. and greased weekly by the drivers, who also, on occasions, assist the mechanic in repairs and overhauls. The mechanic also drives in his spare time.