THE ROMANCE 0 4—NIGHT HAULAGE.
If you've noticed an error in this article please click here to report it so we can fix it.
An Important Branch of Road Transpor
6, It Is Being Carried On. The Lighting Electricity ?
Problem : A
DURING the past few years the use of commercial motor vehicles on the road has extended enormously and, perhaps, in no branch of the work has this extension been more notable than in that concerned with road haulage by night. Quite apart from the comparatively limited number of large firms specializing in this form of transport and running nightly scheduled services, there are numerous small hauliers; owning perhaps three or four vehicles, who often find it desirable to carry loads from point to point during the dark hours.
This work is of considerable importance, because, by carrying a large load from one town to another through the night, much time can be saved, the whole of the preceding day being available for collecting sufficient goods to load a large-capacity vehicle, whilst deliveries can be carried out early on the day follow ing. Then, again, -the roads are naturally much clearer of traffic at night, so that, given favourable conditions, there is no doubt that all-night haulage will develop still further.
We have recently been making some personal in vestigations on the roads, particularly on the main highway leading from London through Barnet, St. Albans and Dunstable to Coventry and Birmingham. This highway is one of the busiest all-night traffic routes in the country. From six o'clock onwards one meets with a steady stream of commercial vehicles of all types, proceeding northwards from London. Here and there, stops are made at a wayside shack where the drivers obtain refreshment, and it is particularly noticeable that such places where coffee, cocoa and similar refreshments can be obtained are very well patronized, almost to the complete exclusion of the public house. This fact speaks very well for the type of man engaged on night-haulage work. The coffee hut has, indeed, become quite a feature of the Birmingham road, each one being marked by a line of half a dozen or more leviathans waiting patiently for their drivers to proceed on their way. - Realizing that the lighting problem is, perhaps, the most pressing of any which must be solved in order to make night haulage a practical proposition, we took particular care to inquire from drivers as to their Views and to examine the vehicles drawn up here and there beside the highway. Invariably, oil lamps are employed at each side and at the tail, but a more efficient headlamp of some type or other is nearly always used in addition. Acetylene headlamps are, undoubtedly, the most popular, the gas either being formed by a generator mounted on the running board or supplied from a dissolvedacetylene cylinder of the type popularized by AllenLiversidge, Ltd. The " D.A. cylinder," as it is known, certainly constitutes a very handy source of acetylene gas, there being stockists throughout the country who will exchange discharged cylinders for new ones at moderate charges. Of course, a stock of cylinders must be bought in the first place, but to avoid capital outlay it is possible to buy them on the hire system extending over five years.
In very many cases we found that two headlamps, mounted on the front dumb-irons, were used, but other drivers, again, were provided with one only. It -was quite clear that the drivers themselves had made some attempts to solve the dazzle problem, because certain of the lamps were fitted on brackets which had been bent so as to throw the rays downwards, whilst others, again, had the glasses painted over at the top portion in order to cut down the amount of light thrown upwards. In several cases we noticed drivers using a single acetylene searchlight mounted beside the dash on the near side, and tilted to throw a beam of light along the edge of the road. It appears that the men think this system an efficient one, because, even when facing private cars with particularly dazzling headlamps the powerful near-side beam still shows sufficient Of the edge of the road to guide the lorry. on its way. Incidentally,. we 'noticed but one vehicle provided with oil lamps only, this being a steam wagon in charge of a hero who was using it to tow a 4-ton lorry all the way to Birmingham. The standard of illumination was so poor that one wonders how he could proceed, even at 10 m.p.h. Inefficient lighting of this kind is apt to be a danger not only to the vehicle concerned but also to other road users. On several occasions, when driving a private car along the Coventry road, we have met with a poorly lit lorry, the driver of which, dazzled by our lights, has deliberately pulled over to the wrong side of the road. While we believe that the driver who does this acts in self-defence, because he can see absolutely nothing ahead, it is a practice which cannot too strongly be condemned. The use of a powerftil near-side light overcomes the difficulty to a certain extent, although the general use of a satisfactory and .compulsory anti-dazzle lamp would be the only complete solution of the problem.
An Electric Lighting System.
Despite the number of acetylene-fitted vehicles, electric lighting is also employed to some extent, notably by a firm so experienced as Messrs. McNamara, who fit their Scammell lorries, employed on the Birmingham express service and others, with a pair of electric headlamps in addition to the oillighting sets. They say that they have found the electrical system perfectly satisfactory and reliable, which is certainly a strong argument in its favour coming from a concern noted for keeping up a wonderful regularity in night services. It is interesting to notice that each Scammell is provided with a footcontrolled dimming switch, and that these are used has been proved by our personal investigations on the road.
Hauliers engaged on regular London -to Birmingham night services find it necessary to allow about 12 hours for the trip, which includes a one-hour stop for meals and, perhaps, one or two stops of shorter duration. The distance is actually 110 miles, so that
enough petrol can be carried to journey. Drivers the Drivers engaged on such work .regularly must, of course, be picked men for intelligenceand physique.
Apart from large concerns such as MesSrs. McNamara, there are many small hauliers engaged on night traffic, and in some cases the conditions for the drivers are not too favourable. This generally arises from the concern attempting too .much, so that a driver may be call6d upon to operate his vehicle for the best part of 24 hours. Long spells of this kind are not to be encouraged, because they are bound to lead to accidents, and we are informed that several occasions when lorries have run off the road or come into collision with other vehicles have been found due to the fact that the driver, through fatigue, had actually fallen asleep at the wheel. These, of course, are extreme examples, but nevertheless there must be many more instances where minor troubles have occurred simply because the driver is too fatigued to act sufficiently quickly in an emergency. It would appear highly advisable that two men should travel on each lorry.
Views of the Drivers.
A visit to the wayside coffee shack provides one with an excellent opportunity for getting at the points of view of the drivers who do the job. The first we entered was situated on the main St. Albans Road, about a mile beyond Barnet, and on going in we found a steam wagon driver attending to the stoking of a coal stove placed in the centre, around which were grouped the men-in charge of the variety of vehicles parked outside. The owner of the shack was busy dispensing coffee, sandwiches and other fare from the counter, and seemed to be a popular figure: he was affectionately known to his familiars as " Barnet Bill."
An interesting sidelight on the overloading question was obtained from a conversation going on between two drivers, one in charge of a steam wagon whilst the other was piloting a 4-ton lorry with trailer attached. The former was inquiring as to the load :which the latter had on board that night. " Oh, nothing to speak of," said his friend ;. " only about 8 tons. My firm do not usually think a load is worth taking unless 'it is over the 12-ton mark."
The conversation, in general, concerned the work_ on hand, and several of the men displayed a remarkable knowledge of towns, villages and highways throughout the_country. Some exchanged useful information as to when and where police traps were to be:expected, and we gathered that it.is quite a notn_ Mon occurrence for a trap to be worked on the main roads. at night: The police concentrate particularly on the lorry.which has a trailer in tow, because the
legal limit in that case is only 5 m.p.h. The men become exceedingly • wary at avoiding the traps,
because, .should they be summoned, they are held
responsible -for paying the fines involved—a system which -does not seemto be entirely fair when one considers that quite frequently the scheduled time for the journey, to -which the man has to adhere, may compel him' to exceed the 12 mph; limit considerably.
What to Do When Trapped.
One driver told us that he had avoided many summonses by ehalienging-the Way in Which the trap was being werked, and ref using to give his licence to the c,enstable who stopped him: He quoted a case in point, where a constable made him pull up about one o'elock in the morning with the words : "You are .exdeeding12 in..P.k." The driver replied: "How do you kii-oW.; who timed 'meOh," said-the constable; ".we have two more .men 'on the job, who are just coming *round the corner." • , . Shortly after this the.other men appeared, in close conversation and with-watches in hind, ,and, according to our driver friend; these-watches -were probably being set as they came towards him! At any rate, he considered he had sufficient grounds for refusing tobelieve that he had been timed properly, and he did not give up his licence.' He told us that, although the constable took the number of his lorry,:be heard no more about the Matter, and had since had Other experiences -0f.a similar nature.
In order to obtain the photographs at night we had to use a flash apparatus, and this caused great interest amongst the men. They were all very keen •
to know when the photographs would appear, and in what journal. We told them that it was The Commercial Motor, and one driver said, " We shall not miss them then, because we sea that paper every week." We asked several drivers for what destination they were bound, and found that many were proceeding to Birmingham, but others were going so far afield as Sheffield, Leeds, Bradford and Liverpool. The vehicles employed appeared to be mainly of the heavy type capable of taking a load of at least 4 tons, with, of course, a fair sprinkling of tractorlorries carrying up to 12 tons. We noticed a few lorries towing tour-wheeled trailers, but, apparently, the main difficulty which militates against greater use of the trailer is the legal speed limitation. Many vehicles have the box-van type of body, but there were several platform lorries with heavy loads of machinery and similar goods covered by tarpaulins. In addition to the petrol-driven transport, steam wagons are quite popular for this night-haulage work, and there were several instances of these vehicles where the funnel was extended to a length of 10-12 ft. in order to clear the top of a high box body.
We have already described the wayside coffee-stalls which have sprung up, but in addition to replenishing the driver there is the replenishment of the vehicle to be considered. For this purpose the-garage which is open all night is of valuable assistance, a typical establishment being the Markyate Garage, on the Coventry Road, about 35 miles out from London. This is open all night, and the extent of the business done can be gauged from the fact that over 3,000 gallons of petrol are sold per week, mainly to night-haulage vehicles. We were told that when this business was started some three years ago, the sales did not amount to more Ulan 50 gallons per week.
Another helpful feature of the road at night is the A.A. scout with his motorcycle and sidecar outfit, who is always available to assist a lorry in distress. We are told that many hauliers have joined the industrial-vehicle section of the Automobile Association in order to avail themselves of the assistance which. the road scouts can offer.
Tosum up, the business of night haulage is one which will undoubtedly extend beyond its present large proportions, and is carried on by men who, although their lot it not always a happy one, have a wonderful fund of humour and an admirable abilitY to carzy on in adverse circumstances