Have "The Eight" Satisfied the Critics?
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The Case Made Cut for the Publication of the Booklet By and for the Views Contained in it is Not a Strong "Tantalus " One Likely to Change the Views of Those Affected THERE is a current topic of absorbing interest which. commands attention and merits comment. That relates to the reply which has emerged from the signatories to the booklet entitled " The Road tarrying Industry and the Fufure," in 'response to considerable criticism of the proposals contained:in that publication.
It cannot be said that this reply has enhanced the reputations of the authors, nor has it succeeded in dispelling the indignation hod apprehension experienced by s6 many hauliers Indeed, the suggestions contained in the booklet created such an unfavourable impression that it is doubtful whether, even with the passage of time, this ever will be completely eradicated.
Apart from the specific nature of the proposals, a great deal of criticism centred around the fact that the signatories —and particularly those whose names are prominent in association circles—should have presumed, as private individuals, to publish and market the booklet without reference to, or with the sanction of, their respective bodies.
It will be recalled that the A.R.O., C,„IVI.U.A. and S.J.C. all subsequently disclaimed any official connection with the publishing of-the document. On this point the signatories state that they took considerable pains to avoid any action which might conceivably compromise any body or person. They maintain that they have never offered the slightest Wounds which would lead anyone to conclude that the suggestions were anything other than what they are recorded • as being, i.e.:—" The considered opinion of some experienced in the road-transpdrt industry and .familiar with the position between it and other forms of transport." Such a statement is neither satisfying nor convincing, • in as much as it evades the real point at issue.. Why were the authors not content to place their considered opinions before a recognized body for consideration in a constitutional manner? They appear entirely to have overlooked the fact that members of the road-haulage industry regard statements made by persons prominent in association affairs as being quasi-official in character. When those concerned have been active for years past and have served on various committees, their findings in matters of such importance are regarded as the expressions of a considered policy. In circumstances of this nature, then, the private individual cannot be dii5-orced from theofficial.
Why Was the Booklet Published?
The question most frequently raised is what lay behind the publication of the booklet by the eight self-appointed reformers? Was the work undertaken as the outcoine of an unofficial request by the M.0.).V.T., the Transport Advisory Council or by an unnamed group of large operators? In any event, having regard to the fact that the signatories were prepared to take their courage in their hands and embark upon what they appreciated to be a difficult task, why ever did they not restrain their eagerness until such time as the proposals could have been submitted to the National Road Transport Federation? Particularly so in consideration of the fact that the Federation is due to commence functioning in the very near future., If, as there is still some uncertainty as to the commencing date, impatience could not be checked, there was still the S.J.C., before virhich body the proposals could have been placed;
The whole aspect of the case has aroused deep resentment and even indignation in haulage circles. Another matterof concern is the referenee in the booklet to the desirability of forming larger and snore stable units, as alsb the suggestion that the Minister should apply to Parliament for powers necessary to allow him to withdraw, from certain A and B -licensees the right, at present implied in most licences, to use their vehicles anywhere in the kingdom. The reference is-frank and admits of no ambiguity. There
cart be no misunderstanding or other interpretation of the context.
The authors, in their reply, assert that this " constructive suggestion " was not made, as has been understood in some quarters, with the object of putting the small -operators out of business. They further enjoin that any honest and careful examination of the proposals would effectively disprove that, and go on to say that the approach was shaped to provide for every opportunity and inducement to the long-distance operator to continue in the industry ; that those hitherto in a small way of business should continue and shire in the future progress of the industry by means of amalgamation with other operators similarly engaged. .. It would seem, judging by the volume of protest evidenced in all parts of the country, that many operators either are not honest in their investigations or are not possessed of the faculty of understanding the degree of intelligence necessary for the accurate reading of a plain statement,
Ainied,.at Reducing Ranks of Hauliers
If there be any implication in the suggestion that the Minister should be granted Parliamentary power to withdraw statutory righti enjoyed by operators in the pre-war era, it is obvious that the authors incline to the opinion that formerly there were too many hauliers on the road. Moreover, it if an accepted fact that a certain section of the road-haulage industry thinks on similar lines.
There was made in the booklet no specific mention of "long-distance," but of A and B licences, whereas, in reply, reference is made only to long-distance operators: Is this to be regarded in the light of a modification of the original intention? Some support is given to this view by the remark made by the signatories in their reply, to the effect that reversion to the status quo of 1938-9 would not be a panacea to cure all the ills affecting the industry.
Hauliers are not unduly credulcius in these matters. They are, however, of the opinion that' in instances where they have lost licences through no fault of their own, these should be restored in the post-war period. This angle is different from that submitted by the signatories.
No constructive thinker will disagree with the view that • " it is useless to attempt to build merely for one form of transport ; in particular to shut one's eyes to those features of the road-transport situation which have, in the past, exposed the industry to such a volume of restrictive legislation, and to their direct relation to the railway problem." In this respect it must be conceded that the representative bodies cannot escape responsibility.
It may be remembered that the Salter Report caused a division in the industry, and the Road and Rail Traffic Actof 1933, a revolt. From that time onwards all hopes of unity were for long banished, with the resultant loss. of much-needed strength and effective action. Such a position presented to the Government an open door for the admission of further restrictive legislation.
The " eight " must be credited with reasonable modesty in that they admit they would be the last to claim that their proposals are the only, or the best, solution to the problems of the road-haulage industry. Their attitude is " If anyone can put up a better and more practical solution, good luck to him."
Surely the answer is that, tithe alone can tell. It may be that the untried National Road Transport Federation will approach all matters relating to the future of the industry in an open and balanced manner.
In general terms it would appear that the reply has had . little result in mitigating the effects of the storm ,of protest. It might perhaps have been better had the sleeping dogs been allowed to lie.