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Plan Municipal Post-war Transport Now

31st March 1944, Page 22
31st March 1944
Page 22
Page 23
Page 22, 31st March 1944 — Plan Municipal Post-war Transport Now
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Which of the following most accurately describes the problem?

The Writer of thi4 -Article, Who is a Cleansing Superintendent, Suggests that no Time Should be Lost by the Makers of Special-purpose Municipal Vehicles and the Appropriate Authorities in Tackling Some Vital Post-war Problems

pLANNING is absorbing all our thoughts to-day, but, because its proponents attempt to cover too ambitious a. field of activity, it does tend to be far too theoretical.. It may be fitting for the world of some indeterminate future, but it is certainly not for the world of to-morrow.

On the 'other hand, road-transport people are being forced to plan. their future now, and are living through a severely practical transition from the world of small individual competitive units to a unified industry, forced upon it by the stark necessities of war. , Instead of being allowed slowly -to evolve over a •period of years, a§

• did the railways, the • birth of a unified system for the whole of the country is being compressed into a few months and the birth pangs are, therefore, the more severe.

The Non-trading Transport Angle

As a • Local Government official, concerned with non-trading transport problems, these upheavals am e not my official concern, but, as a sympathetic observer trying to . learn a lesson from problems corollary to my own, I would like to make the followjug observations:— • 1.-:-•-•It is obvious that the roadtransport industry, as such, is at last beginaing to realize its itnmense potential strength aS a unit.

2.—Tho operation of compulsory measures, initiated by the Central Government, carrying with them the .virtual extinction of small competitive units, tend to make those units coalesce and, in finding a common threat, find a common purpose.

3.—With such unity, waste of 'many kinds automatically gets eliminated, whether or not that is the objective.

4.—One form of waste is unnecessary and purposeless ' competition, without any established standards of comparison.

Here I draw my lesson, not in advocating the abolition of competi:

• tion, as such, but iri suggesting only the raising of the general competitive level for the supply of specialized vehicles to municipalities. To do this it is necessary to obtain a consensus of opinion as to the minimum standard l acceptable.

An authority, of which I have knowledge, and which is not a particularly large one, operates Some 70 vehicles, including lorries, houserefuse collecting vehicles, streetwashing machines, gully-emptiers, etc. The refuse-collecting vehicles are excellent for illustrative purposes. They include, not only two different types of container chassis, but • the ordinary side loaders, end barrier loaders and vehicles with compressing apparatus. The number of makes involved is numerous, and the mechanical horse vies with the complete unit. Obviously, no attempt at standardization has been considered, but an attempt only to choose the latest of any particularly novel and unusual design that came upon the market.

• The difficulties that the transport manager of this unwieldy fleet has had to endure during these years of war, Particularly in the acquisition of spare parts, need not be enumerated, and the extra cost involved and the miracles of improvizaiion That have been worked can best be left to the imagination.

On the other hand, numerous councils-have, for this work, gone into the pre-war market to buy the cheapest converted lorry available which will give a • minimum of coverage and dustless loading to the refuse carried, ignoring, entirely, operational costs in 'favour of low capital outlay. Now, is there any evidence that these mistakes are not going to be recommitted immediately after the conclu sion of hostilities? • During the war all wise councils have allowed their transport reserve accounts to accumulate unralded. The end of the war will see these councils able to enter whatever market is available• and, possibly for the first time, without having to apply to the Ministry of Health for sanction to borrow money to purchase.

They will have fleets the life of which has been prolonged beyond the economic limit, and which, in consequence, will need alinost immediate replacement. They will have, with demobilization, a return to peac&time practice in cleansing and public-health work, with the additional call upon their personnel, transport andplant caused by the immediate housing prograanrne to be undertaken by every local authority in the first year of peace.

Some Problems of the Transition-Period

As matters now stand they will be faced with the choice of buying hastily converted vehicles, surplus to the requirements of the Services, or, what would possibly be the wiser course, carrying out an extensive reconditioning of their fleets until those vehicle builders, with municipal sections, are able again to get back into production, and they can buy vehicles designed and built for the job.

_ The commercial concern, on the other hand, will be without stocks of suitable vehicles for sale, and, in most cases, not committed irrevocably to any particular design or type. Demand, therefore, for any , specialized vehicle can, within reason, be met, particularly if the suggested design were known to be largely approved by a representative body of buyers.

It may be borne in mind that each vehicle . manufacturer, having a municipal section, has to rely upon the reports of salesmen, the discussions at conferences, articles in the technical Press and contacts in various, ways with individual executive officers. Any revolutionary departure from precedent in design of

engine, chassis or body entails considerable experimental expenditure, losses (and these can be, and have been, considerable) on ventures that did not meet With approbation, and an increase in advertising and other sales expenditure in order .--to " put

the idea over." . .

Cleansing and transport superintendents, -as a whole, tend In be

tive, are .generally conservative, and rarely venturesome in matters of :this kind. . This is a very natural concomitant of -Local Government. BevauSe of this state of affairs, " over all " progress is slowed down, and, generally, the expenditure incurred ' by progressive concerns and Councils

• is ultimately borne by the general body of ratepayers. •

The moment, therefore, seems ripe for the consideration of these prObleins by both sides, and . it is interesting ,to note that, in a recent article in " The Municipal Journal dealing with cleansing problems after the war, the following occurs in a discussion of this very point:— " Is it too much to suggest that a committee.of experts from councils and commercial firms could now get

together and consider these questions in the light of past experience (and that not only in this country), future_ tendencies, commercial costs and the • like? Is it too much to expect that a council, prepared to go into the market after the war, can refer its appropriate committee to an authoritative opinion by the best brains of the cleansing and commercial-vehicle world as to the types of house-refuse vehicle, gully-emptier, street sweeper and, perhaps, vacuum collector it would be best to consider for purchase andstandardization?

" The difficulties are enormous and will have to be faced by all with resoluteness, but it is not too fantastic to suggest that some large measure of agreement might be reached."

Such a purpose is entirely practical, and whilst the advantages that would accrue to local authorities throughout the country have been stressed, those to the makers supply" ing municipal transport are equally numerous and every bit as important. This is, and will remain, nobody's business unless the general inertia be

• overcome by initiative action from the Government, or from either or both-maker and consumer. , There have, of course, been several exaMples of far-sighted technical council officers and progressive cOrn.indrcial concerns who have collaborated'. in producing the practical expression of a revolutionary design

in some particular which has been gratefully followed, and often slavishly imitated, by less bold and resolute characters. I am aware of an instance or two of this kind taking place now. All this certainly seems a redoubtable argument for its adoption on a far wider basis.

If nothing dse came from the deliberations of such a body of experts other than the fact that the industry was fully informed as to a definite minimum standard of vehicle and body construction adopted as a sine-qua-non recommendation to all local authorities throughout the country (particularly addressed to those comparatively ephemeral bodies of conncillors who form buying committees), it would more than .prove its worth.

It may well be, .however, that such

a body would become convinced of the necessity of perpetuating its existence in order to obtain and sift particulars of the best progreSsive elements in other countries. Possibly, too, it would undertake, -collectively, experimental work in new designs and the practical application of new ideas that would not only save the trade and the general body of ratepayers great expense, but would be af• inestimable benefit to both sides and help to keep the general standard of public-health work in England the best in the world.

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