MODERN TRANSPORTATION OF NEWSPAPERS.
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The Replacement of the Horsed Cart by the Motor Van Tends Largely to Increase Newspaper Circulation by Accelerating Distribution.
THE distribution of evening newspapers in London has always been something of a. problem, because it strikes at the root of the efficiency of news circulation. The aim of an editor of a paper is to get the very latest news into the hands of his readers, however far they may be fron. the centre of newspaper production' with as little delay as possible. That has accounted for the introduction of the •" fudge box," by means of which information can be inserted in the late news column whilst the paper is actually on the press, and one of the finest 'exaniples of." hustle " is the scene, at a newspaper office as the papers are leaving the printing machines, already counted into quires, and passing out, within a few ,moments, to the vehicles waiting to rush the copies te their various selling centres.
We had the pleasure the other day of a few moments' talk with Mr. Crofield, the director in charge of the motor transport of The Daily News and The Star, two leading London journals. At one time the distribution was carried out by horse and cart (30 vehicles), besides a large number of cyclists employed in the work. Gone, however, is the familiar sight of only a year or two ago—the smart tarts of The Star with their beautiful cobs, and fewer are the cyclists with their bags of papers ' across their shoulders, swarming in large numbers down Fleet Street and branching out in all directions.
During and since the war, circulations• of papers have. largely increased, and, as a consequence, loads aro heavier, and the horsed/cart has been entirely displaced by the motor vehicle in the transport scheme of The Star. .
Fourteen Years' Motor Experience.
The transport department of The Star first started emperimenting in transportation by motor in June, 1907, when a West Aster chassis was purchased, followed: a week later by the purchase of a Unic, and, .few months later, by the purchase of a 25 cwt. Lacre made by the Albion Co. These three vehicles were entirely • suecessfal, The Lacre is still in the employment oPthe department, with over 12 years' service to its credit, its average yearly mileage being
7,800. Both the Unic and the West Aster were sold some little 'while ago, and the last-named is known to be still in existence and to be working regularly.
In 1910 it was decided, an the experience gained with these three vehicles, to extend the motor fleet, and the first choice that was made was the LeonBollee. Eighteen of these vehicles were ordered, and the choice has proved excellent in every way. The whole 18 vehicles have given splendid service with an absolute minimum of mechanical trouble. The last of these vehicles was obtained in 1914, but, prior to this completion of the Bollee fleet, a number of Talbots had been added, mainly for fast work running to and from the race courses. Altogether 17 of this make are employed, and the transport department speaks very highly of them. in addition, fiVe Calcotts have been purchased for light, quick work through traffic, such as running " off lots " with the latest news to the city, and the fleet also includes three 12 hp. Rovers, a Straker-Squire, two Napiers, a Daimler, and four Ford vans.
Horse transport was entirely abolished in November, 1919, the war, of course, having slightly delayed the complete change over.,
Speed of Delivery v. Low Running Costs.
It is very difficult, in the case of newspaper transportation, to set out any running cost.s in a way which would be of the slightest use for comparison. Loads vary considerably, and, often, it is not the ease of transporting a certain amount of weight. so much as the need for getting a parcel of papers to the selling point with the greatest possible speed. Frequently, a small load will have to be rushed to a railway station in order to catch a certain train, which might, at-first sight, not seem economical from the point of view of transport efficiency, but; on the whole, the department is convinced that all-motor transportation is cheaper than the mixed transportation had been for 10 years previous to the date of the change over.
Of course, the gain in efficiency is enormous, for the work which is being done by motors could not possibly be done by horses, and even the railways do not fill the needs in newspaper transportation,. because tne times at which the papers. have to be sent out are not necessarily the times when trains are timed to start. To certain parts of the suburbs of London there is a. sufficiently good train service to warrant the employment of this means a transportation, so that some points can be and are covered by the train service, although, lately, the congestion of traffic on the railways and consequent delays have been compelling the department still further to employ motor vehicles.
_Generally speaking, the .evening newspapers are distributed by motor vehicle as far out as Kew in the west, Merton in . the -south-''eat, Highgate in. the • north, and. Barking in the east," and Practically every newspaper shop within the area covered by those points is visited three, times a day, whilst many of thorn are visited no lower than five times a day.
During the 1919 railway strike vans were sent far afield, loads being transported by road to Swansea, Plymouth, Southampton' Stafford, Nottingham, Ipswich, besides many other places, whilst the record performance of that particular strike was that of two of the drivers each of whom, on nine consecutive working nights, travelled from London to Newport (Monmouthshire), leaving Landon at 9.30 p.m. and returning to London by two o'clock the net day,. leaving again after a few hours' rest, and taking a heavy load of papers on each occasion. This service was carried out with 25 h.p. Talbots, and without the slighfest trouble or delay.
The average load taken by a newspaper van is 15 cwt., andeach driver is made responsible for a particular vehicle and is kept on a definite round. As might be expected, this makes for the greatest of efficiency, because trouble with the vehiclesis -reduced to a minimum, and, so far a-s the newspaper sellers and retail distributors are concerned, the drivers know them all so Well that the work is carried out with the greatest of expedition and with the least possible amount of friction.
The loads to the railWay stations, in the ease of an. evening paper, are comparatively light, because one edition is dealt with at a time. In the case of morning papers, the whole of the day's circulation for many centres -is dealt with at once. Moreover, morning papers are largely distributed through wholesalers—this being the general practice—Whilst, in the 'case of the evening papers, the distribution is carried out diiect by the proprietors themselves. _It is interesting to learn that some of the LeonBollee cars have 'cOvered no fewer than 50,000 miles each. After seven years of constant work on the part of those bought in 1914, the first important mechanical renewal is now being undertaken, that is to say, the cylinders are being rebored and fitted with new pistons.
The transport department is equipped with an excellent workshop, where everything can be done in the way of running repairs and overhauling, with the exception of gear outting and cylinder regrinding. The driver of each vehicle keeps a log book and therein records faults and troubles, the foreman fitter being responsible for the correction of these faults.
The motor vehicle is.playing a very important part in the dissemination of news and, as the distribution improves' so, of course, will grow the demand of the public. It is one of the cases of supply nreating demand, although, perhaps, a better way of putting it would be to say that demand for the latest news is always there, and all that is necessary is to increase the facilities for distribution. The small van can do this as can no other mode of transportation.