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Twelve Years' Progress in the Application of Commercial Motors.*

3rd December 1908
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Page 2, 3rd December 1908 — Twelve Years' Progress in the Application of Commercial Motors.*
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Which of the following most accurately describes the problem?

There were, twelve years ago, no commercial motors in existence or use. The range of to-night's Paper may, therefore, be said to embrace every stage of evolution, and numerous instances of misapplication. One is reminded, however, by the presence in the chair of Sir David Salomons, Bart., of the interesting demonstration which he organised, so long as 13 years ago, at Tunbridge Wells, on the tsth October, 1895, when the de Dion-Bouton steam tractor presented to the public gaze, for the first time in this country, the embryonic details of a system which might well have been more successfully developed for commercial purposes. Practically one year later, or, to be precise, on the 26th October, 1896, Sir David inaugurated the North of England branch of the Self-Propelled Traffic Association, by the delivery of an address at the Liverpool Royal Institution. On that occasion, as reference to the text of his address shows, he was unable to indicate a single vehicle for utility purposes, which fact is now quoted in confirmation of the opening sentence of this paper. Liverpool merchants and shipowners, in the months of September and October, 1896, were particularly anxious to obtain information about the prospects of this branch of motoring, but neither Mr. Sennett, who read a paper before the British Association meeting, nor Mr, Worby Beaumont, who addressed the Incorporated Chamber of Commerce, was able to adduce one example of practical application. Mr. Beaumont, indeed, concluded his address with this statement : " Great as the promises are of motor vehicles for light work—for carrying a few persons or light loads—I am satisfied that the commercial motor vehicle for heavy traffic has yet to he designed." A little more than a year later, when Mr. Beaumont, on the 26th November, 1897, opened the second session of papers at the Liverpool Royal Institution, he was able to describe early Coulthard, Leyland, and Thornycroft vehicles, a petroleum-spirit lorry by the Anglo-French Company, and a Serpollet-type lorry which had been constructed by Messrs. Samuelson, of Banbury ; he also spoke highly of the Scot te and de Dion-Bouton vehicles of 1897; yet there was but meagre evidence of advance at this date. The situation eleven years ago was, accordingly, one of non-application, but this statement does not imply that there had been no effort to encourage the construction of self-propelled vehicles of all kinds, for there had been several such attempts. The principal of these was essayed by the proprietors of " The Engineer," which journal had announced, on the sth July, 189:5, an 1, too-guinea competition for motors of all classes. The conditions, however, did not appear until some months later. Two of the classes, in respect of which prizes value ,(400 were offered, were open to commercial vehicles. One of these was for a vehicle which should be capable of carrying not more than one ton of goods, in addition to the driver, and of which the gross weight should not exceed two tons; the other was open to vehicles which were capable of carrying 5 cwt. of goods, in addition to the driver, and which did not weigh more than one ton gross. After a postponement, it was decided to endeavour to carry out the tests at the end of May, 1897, when it was proposed to hold a practical run from London to Birmingham and bade in addition to others, From a total of seventeen entries in the commercial sections, only one van was presented at the Crystal Palace, this being a steam-driven vehicle by the Liquid Fuel Engineering Company, Limited, of East Cowes. The entries by the Clarkson, Coulthard, Leyland, Merryweather, and Thornycroft firms did not, for sundry reasons, lead to the arrival of the vehicles themselves.

A second competition was announced in September, 1896, by the Royal Agricultural Society of England. Two classes were arranged : one for vehicles to take the place of light spring carts, and to carry loads " up to 2 tons "; the other for vehicles " capable of taking 5 tons." Three entries were received for the lighter class, and none for the heavier class, but only the Leyland van reached Crewe on the loth June, 1897, for tests at the hands of the judges. The prac tical collapse of these two competitions was very disconcerting to those who had a belief in the future of the commercial motor, but plenty of evidence was subsequently forthootning to show that builders and designers, notwithstanding the tremendous difficulties by which they were confronted, were able to make headway. .

It is not, of course, possible to include a complete historical' retrospect in this Paper, even were it desirable. The object is rather to put on record certain facts which must be held to support the contention that there has been a remarkable and satisfactory growth in the number of successful instances of use for commercial purposes. It is open to anybody who desires to make a closer study of successive developments to turn up a Paper on the subject of " 'Heavy Motor Traffic," which was read in this morn, under the chairmanship of Sir John I. Thornycroft, on the 5th November, 1903, since which date the opportunity for the wider employment of commercial motors, whether vehicles or tractors, has been increased by reason of the less disadvantageous conditions of the Heavy Motor Car Order, 1904. Before that Order CallilO into force,: the unladen weight of any motorcar might not legally exceed 2 tons 19 cwt. 27 lb., whilst any development of public-service vehicles was virtually prohibited by their falling within the speed-limit category of five miles an hour. It cannot be maintained that to--day's legal position is entirely satisfactory, but it is, none the less, one under which a large measure of advance has been rendered possible, and has been achieved. It is not out of place, in these circumstances, to acknowledge

the influences which brought about the issue of that Order, and to congratulate this Club, the Commercial Motor Users' Association, and the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders upon the manner in which they harmoniously co-operated to secure the ends in view.


There is a sharp division of opinion as to the continued value of road trials under independent observation. A

debate on this subject took place a few weeks ago at a meeting of the Society of Road Traction Engineers, when a motion to the effect that their value is nil was defeated by a large majority. The accompanying table has been specially prepared with the object of showing the improvement to which such open trials testify, and attention may more particularly be drawn to the column which sets out the percentage of lost mileage, Not every competition is included, but there are sufficient for the purpose, and none of these have been picked to suit the occasion. They constitute :t representative series, and examination of the figures must be held to establish a very good case for the utility motor. It N1 ill be obseryod that, going back eleven years, no less than 2.1. per cent, of the attempted mileage was not accomplished by the machines which started in the first " Poids Lourds " of the French Club; the first trials at Liverpool resulted in a comparable loss of 14.7 per cent.; the third trials at Liverpool, in 1901, demonstrated an improvement by the reduction of this critical figure to 12.0 per cent.; the big French trials of i9o5 showed 9.5 per cent. of lost mileage; the largest and most important commercial motor trials which the world has known, those which the Royal Automobile Club organised in the fall of 1907, gave the really splendid result of only 7.3 per cent, of lost mileage. It is submitted that no dispassionate man of business can afford to ignore these proofs of steady progress towards reliability. In fact, my own view is that the day and necessity for such trials is over—that they have admirably served the purposes of their promotors, and that no more are aanted.


11 goes without saying that a not inconsiderable proportion of those who, during the years 1899 to 1902, purchased vans, lorries, or other commercial motors were disam)ointed in the results which they obtained, and one may cut a long and somewhat painful story short by stating that every pioneer buyer passed through the most troublous of vicissitudes. One might cover pages with examples of mechanical faults, working inefficiency, and financial loss, all of which fell to the lot of those who bought such plant a few years too soon. The memory of those days is naturally unsavoury, but it is both unfair and short-sighted for any people with haulage interests to be influenced by old and out-of-date results. It is true that these references apply to occurrences which were experienced only from six to nine years ago, but it roust be remembered that improvements in the heavy section of the industry have been not one whit behind those which are so apparent in connection with the lighter branches. In proof of this assertion, which is the outcome of close personal observation on my own part, it is

satisfactory to be able to produce evidence of the revulsion of feeling which has taken place in favour of the muchabused business motor during the last few years.

By the courtesy of the proprietors of "THE COMMERCIAL MOTOR " I have full access to a very complete list of owners. This list is sub-divided into no less than 16 classes, follow : a(t) Bakers and (lour dealers; (2) brewers; (3) brickmakers; (4) building contractors; (5) cabinet makers, general furnishers, and stores; (6) carriers and transport companies; (7) gas companies; (8) hotels (omnibuses); (9) laundries; (to) market gardeners and fruit growers; (II) millers; (12) mineral water manufacturers; (13) municipal and other local authorities; (r4) provincial omnibus companies and proprietors of chars-it-banes; (is) quarry owners; and (16) various manufacturing and other trades. Communications were addressed a few weeks ago to close upon 700 owners, and the figures in the second table which accompanies this paper controvert any suggestion that purchasers are not increasing the number of their motors or are becoming disgusted with the machines which they have acquired. The summary of the 342 replies is instructive, and really conclusive. It is not suggested that these tabulated increases furnish a complete census or return, for many owners are either independent or indifferent when requests of this kind reach them. Some think it Unnecessary to reply at all; others regard the data as peculiar to their own businesses, and not to be divulged; and the names of a fair proportion are, unfortunately, securely retained in the possession of the clerks to the registration

authorities of the country. It is justifiable, notwithstanding the admitted deficiencies, to claim that the 342 replies in question are of a representative character, and in no sense selective, for nothing has been held back. Eight owners, and no more, gave adverse opinions, and expressed regret at their having spent money on road motors, or otherwise conveyed an intimation of dissatisfaction.

Two correspondents, who are large owners of vans and lorries respectively, Mr. Leyeester Barwell, a partner in the firm of Messrs. James Shoo'bred and Company, and Mr. H. W. Wigan, the general manager of the Eastern Motor Wagon Company, Limited, have given permission to me to quote their actual records of lost mileage for the past twelve months. Messrs. Shoolbred, for 30 vans in respect of the four months ended February last, and for i vans in respect of the eight months ended October last, lost a total of 562 van-days in a possible total of 9,446 van-days, or less than six per cent. No overtime work is done on these vans, and no mechanical night staff is kept ; further, "vans off the road " includes all accidents, all tire repairs, all dine occupied in re-painting and re-varnishing the bodies, and all adjustments and maintenance of the chassis. The firm has done its own overhauls, since the 1st January, 1907, and it keeps only one engineer, one junior, and two mechanics, for the whole supervision and running of a total fleet of 37 vans; the six newest ones are purposely omitted from the foregoing analysis. Mr. Barwell's own summary is that they have kept in /1 van per day throughout the year, one of these being in for its regulation overhaul, and the average of the other 1van being in for small repairs. This performance may be stated, alternatively, as less than one spare van for each 16 owned, and full work, continuously, from the rest of the fleet.

The Eastern Motor Wagon Company, Limited, now has twenty steam wagons in regular service throughout the metropolitan area and neighbourhood. Half of these work on the basis of a fixed five days per week (about 70 hours of service) under contract, each Saturday being reserved for examinations, adjustments, cleaning, and the like, and to give the drivers, some of whom average as much as 250 miles per week, a rest. The others work six days a week. The growth of this company's fleet has taken place as follows :—I905, three wagons; 1906, eight wagons; 1907, twelve wagons; 1908, twenty wagons. Of these machines, nineteen carry five tons each when used without a trailer, and haul three tons more when a trailer is used, which is ,generally the case. The remaining machine is a rubbertired vehicle, for loads of about three tons, and it averages 300 miles a week. The company's experience shows that The lost journeys are less than 5 per cent, of the maximum. This compares, from my own knowledge, with about to per cent. in the ...ears tow-1903. The improvement is, of (e)urse,

partly attributable to the progress in construction, but so reasonable a loss as 5 per cent, cannot be maintained, especially in contracting work, without capable administration, efficient mechanical supervision, and proper facilities for the making of overhauls and adjustments as soon as they become necessary. Practically, the kernel of my paper is this portion dealing with the decrease in lost mileage. It will be seen that all the figures tend in the right direction.


The development of motorbus traffic in London, and generally in various parts of the country, has specifically occurred within the last four years. The totals of motorbuses in commission in the Metropolis have been, at the 31St October in each of the four periods of twelve months 110W ended :--,19o4, 15; 1905, 162; 1906, 754; 1907, 917; and 1908, 1,089. The m_otarbus, as did the steam lorry and the one-ton van in earlier years, quickly gave rise to much trouble for those who became its pioneers. In London, heavy losses have been incurred, and these are attributable to several causes, of which five may be quoted : Excess of travelling facilities over public demand; the cost of training drivers; the absence of experience on the part of the managements; the excessive working hours; and, in some cases, unsuitable material, incorrect gauging, and bad fitting. It is unnecessary to labour any of these points, but it may be some consolation to shareholders to know that matters are now vastly improved, and that there is every reason to believe that the original estimate of an inclusive working cost of told per mile will prove to be ample. Skidding and side-slipping difficulties have yet to be overcome, although improved driving has greatly reduced the incidence of claims, hut this is still the largest uncertain factor which attaches to the business of motorbus operation at the present day. It is, unfortunately, one which cannot be eliminated until the ratio of motor traffic to horse traffic is something like four to one., because surface conditions must remain treacherous until that t.Ta is reached.

The accumulator-driven omnibus has been on the streets of London for sixteen months, and has proved that 2d. per vehicle mile is ample for battery maintenance.

So far as country motorbus services are concerned, the most satisfactory reports are those from railway companies, and it has to be admitted that a number of smaller undertakings have Mile to grief. Against these cases of failure, however, it is only right to note that others have paid moderately, and that the use of motor char-A-bancs is on the increase for touring and pleasure parties. Such country services appear to require, in a number of cases, a fare basis of not less than 2d. per passenger-mile, but this is not excessive, having regard to the convenient and expeditious nature of the transport a!'.-ortled,


There are not less than sixty motor vehicles now under -contract for the conveyance of his Majesty's mails, as compared with two—in the parcel mail between Liverpool and Manchester—in the year 1902. This service is, at the mornent, practically limited to the parcel mail, in respect of which the railway companies of this country charge an allround rate of 55 per cent., station to station, of the total amount paid by the Public for Parcel Post. It is obvious that the Crown is paying a rate which admits of huge economies, although the contention of the railway companies, that the rate does not pay them in the case of odd parcels which have to be conveyed between points at opposite ends of the United Kingdom, cannot be overlooked. There is, however, only a low percentage of " lean " work. In any 'event, the Postal authorities are certainly not unwilling to par as much as is. 3d. per vehicle-mile for a two-Ion van, but competition between the contractors has already witnessed a cutting of this rate to below is., a state of affairs which can only be regarded as wholly unnecessary. No breach of confidence is being committed when it is put on record in this paper that the next few years will unquestionably witness a very large development of the motor mail, both in this country and in certain of our Colonies, in the latter case in conjunction with passenger conveyance. In the London-Brighton service, which is conducted by Thomas Tilling, Limited, only two journeys (119 miles) were lost out of a possible 0008 (aggregating 59,976 miles) or a mileage loss of 13.198 per centOn the London-Hastings and London-Cambridge routes, for which Milnes-Daimler, Limited, contracts, only 72 miles were lost out of a possible 46,264, or 0.155 per cent.


Few people realise that the motorcab has jumped into popularity in so short a period as twenty months, but this is a fact. It was only on the 2ist March, 1907, that the General Motor Cab Company, Limited, gave an inaugural luncheon at its Battersea depot, and immediately placed upon the streets of London the first 70 Renault cabs which marked the departure from haphazard and small-scale exploitation in favour of a big organisation on a truly commercial scale. The motorcab, as a means of locomotion in London, is no new proposition. For example, one may recall the yellow-bodied electric cabs of 1897, which so quickly came to grief. Many critics, in the summer of 1906, when only comparatively few of these mechanical hackney carriages were on the streets of the Metropolis, expressed the view that the motorcab was not needed, in view of the convenience and speed of the motorbus. That estimate of the situation was, as is now admitted, a false one, and the privacy of the motorcab, apart from its greater speed and -range, necessarily prevented the motorbus from being at any time a competitor. It may be of interest to quote the totals of mechanical hackney carriages for which licenses were in force in the Metropolis at certain dates December, 1903, I; 31st December, i944, 2; gist December, 1905, 19; 31st December, /906, 96; 3oth September, 1907, i604; 31st December, 1907, 723; 3 5t March, 1908, 958; 3oth September, r9o8, 2,273. The practice in London i5 to pay the driver 25 per cent, of the registered takings, in addition to any gratuities which he may receive, out of which payments the driver has to pay for his own motor spirit, and to bear certairl small deductions for insurance and sundries. This revolutionary change in the habits and customs of the London cab world is proceeding apace, and the men appear to have accommodated themselves to the alterations with remarkable quickness. The proportion of ex-horse cabbies in the employ of the General Motor Cab Company, Limited, is no less than 67 per cent. Prior to the advent of the motorcab, these men used to pay jobmasters so much a day for the use of a vehicle and one or more horses, and to keep any balance of earnings for themselves.

Cosrs Axel PEavotnotxcE.

The undeniable progress of the last few years is measured by higher performance in relation to cost. The cost per vehicle-mile is uniformly less in each class for equal loads than it was even a couple of years ago, whilst lost earnings and disturbance of business generally are virtually disappearing factors in the problem. It was necessary, four or more years ago, for the purchaser to accept a great number of uncertainties. He paid a high price for the machine in the first instance, and he did not know what it was going to cost per annum. To-day, the purchaser is in a happier position. He can, in many cases, obtain guarantees as to maintenance, whether of indiarubber tires or the whole of the mechanical parts; he can obtain written assurances from users who have been employing vehicles of the same make; he can obtain drivers who have had experience on the road—a qualification which is certainly necessary for men who have to go far afield, and more particularly for those who are in charge of steam wagons; he can associate himself with a powerful central organisation, which now numbers upwards of 320 members, in the shape of the Commercial Motor Users' Association, and that at the reasonable annual subscription of one guinea ; he can obtain low and inclusive insurance rates, unless where exceptional risks are involved. Briefly, given ordinary careand supervision, he can take his choice, in the following classifications, with the knowledge that his total outgo per vehicle-mile will not

exceed the amounts indicated. One-ton van (petrol,), ; two-ton vehicle (petrol), 60.; three-ton lorry (petrol), gd.; five-ton tractor (steam), 8.5d.; five-ton wagon (steam), 9.5d. ; five-ton wagon (steam) with trailer, is.


In conclusion, I desire to emphasise two points upon which I feel very strongly. The first of these is that nothing has occurred to weaken my conviction that stem m is the better power for loads in excess ef three ions, exoept in circumstances where the higher speeds due to the use of Indiarubber tires are of marked advantage; the second is that any contractor, who purchases one or more motor vehicles or tractors for the purposes of hire, must, if he is to make any money and not to go bankrupt in a couple of years, obtain at least Oo per cent. more per mile run under contract than is set forth in the preceding paragraph, where the typical costs are for owners who can find practically full work.

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