Poor Service and Poor Chassis
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Twin Troubles that Beset the Haulier : a Commendation of S.T.R.'s Address at the Seddon Conference, and an Expansion of it to Include References to Manufacturers and Licensing
By E. B. Howes,
Chairman, .4, Saunders and Son Co-operative Group THE report of S.T.R.'s address to the Seddon Conference was read by sue with a great deal of interest. In my opinion it was excellent and contained nothing more than the truth, albeit I appreciate that, in making his point and driving it home, he probably emphasized and maybe slightly exaggerated some of his arguments.
It says much for the fearlessness of S.T.R. that he is not afraid to stand up and speak his mind. In this instance he exposed what is undoubtedly a weakness in the motor trade, one of which nearly every haulier is painfully aware.
In my own case, for example, out of a fleet of 22 licensed vehicles, it is rare for more than 18 to be on the road at any one time; the remainder are out of commission because of the lack of service facilities. It is no uncommon thing, either, for a vehicle to be off the road for five months or even longer because of lack of spares, and whilst it is obviously not fair to lay that at the door of the retail side of the motor trade, there is, nevertheless, a feeling sometimes that, had service been rendered as it should, that part would never have gone, the spare would never have been needed and the delay thus avoided.
I find, too, that service is bet%er in connection with American vehicles, and, bearing in rind S.T.R.'s point that the buyer will go where the service is best, there is a warning there to British manufacturers.
They must be more discerning in their choice of distributors and agents. It is not going to be so satisfactory in the future as it has been in the past (if it ever has been satisfactory) to rely on loyalty only when making an appointment. Efficiency, especially with regard to service, must be the criterion.
This theme of S.T.R.'s could, however, quite usefully be expanded so as to embrace the manufacturers as well as their distributors, the former for the poor quality of the vehicles on the market, as well as the latter for their inability to keep those vehicles constantly on the road. Perhaps, indeed, it is on the manufacturers that the blame really rests, for if their products were of better quality, the service needed would be les; and thus fall witlain the capacity and ability of the agents to render it.
Strong Criticism of the Lightweights ,
'Take the lightweight vehicle of to-day, that of :50-cwt. unladen weight. This is something on which I can write feelingly and to the point I have just purchased two such machines, at a total cost not far short of A1,000.
They are flimsy in construction from front to rear, from near to off side. The metalwork in body and wings is 18-gauge steel instead of 12 gauge, with the inevitable result that they will not stand up to their work. The wings, in particular, give constant trouble throughout the life of such a machine: they dent almost at the pressure of a hand and they are constantly splitting as the result of vibration, so that I am for ever having recourse to the welder for repairs to them.
There is no weight of metal in the king-pins and bushes, which wear out in no time.
It is a fact that I have many vehicles in my garage the frames of which have had to be plated.
Charges that the haulier, by misuse of his vehicles, is to blame for much of the troubles that befall him may be taken, in my opinion, with more than a grain of salt. Such charges certainly cannot be upheld in cases where there are sold, as suitable for 5and 6-ton loads, vehicles which would hardly give satisfaction for 3-ton loads.
tremble to think what would happen to some of the lorries I have seen on the raid; Calibrated to carry, 5-6 cubic yds. of sand and ballast, if they were ever loaded to that extent, I am sure that they would burst their sides.
The two new vehicles to which I nave referred above were just inside 2 tons 10 cwt. unladen weight. Another coat of paint and they would have gone beyond that. No doubt the use of 18-gauge metal instead of 12-gauge was made necessary by the need to build down to a weight. That is one of the biggeit troubles of the heavy-vehicle industry to-day. It ought never to be necessary.
But why did I insist on vehicles of that category ?
The answer is that the R.T.C. would grant me licences for two vehicles of that grade only, as replacements. I did not want 50-cwt. vehicles, for I know what they are and what they mean in trouble and cost of service and repair. I wanted two of 3 tons unladen weight, not because I wished to carry heavier loads, but because I wished to carry legitimate loads with safety and freedom from breakdowns.
Bad Effect of Licensed Tonnage The use of .unladen weight as the basis of allocation of licensed tonnage is the greatest burden ever placed on our industry. It transcends by far that almost parallel case, taxation according to the same measure. it is, much more than the latter, the reaSon why so many hauliers must use vehicles which are not up to their work, not safe on the road and subject to frequent breakdowns. The cost of transport in this country is thus enormously increased Nor does the trouble end there. Presumably these same chassis, built to comply with borne requirements as to weight and scantlings, are also exported. These flimsy vehicles have been—and will be—sent all over the world, to countries where road surfaces are bad -as well as to where they are good, to places where service is even worse than it is here, to create trouble for their users and thus damage, perhaps for many years, the prestige of British manufacturers of commercial motor vehicles.
What I cannot understand is the apathy of the manufacturers in this matter. The facts must be well known to them. Why do they not do something, why not make the strongest representations to the Government and keep on making them until the remedy is applied.
At present the manufacturers seem unable td help themselves; certainly they do nothing to help the operator.
Part of the trouble, I am afraid, is that they just have not the guts. Part also, no doubt, is due to the difficulty of getting M.P.s to understand the position, as they have no knowledge of the peculiar difficulties of our industry and, without such knowledge, cannot appreciate the seriousness of the position.
I sometimes think it would be a good idea to establish a sort of Polytechnic for M.P.s, so that they could go to evening school and there learn something of the trade and industry of the country they administer. If such a school could be arranged I think the subject of road transport should have a high position in the curriculum.
Alternatively. and perhaps this is, after all, a more practical scheme, let us—manufacturers and hauliers— combine in some way and contrive to have elected to Parliament some members who really do know something about road transport.
It is well known that, in the ordinary way, a man who hopes to be elected to the House must have financial resources ,of a substantial nature. My suggestion is that manufacturers and hauliers should together subscribe funds to provide the wherewithal for some good men of their ovin selection to get into Parliament.
In conclusion, may I recommend every manufacturer to send a copy of this article to the Minister of War Transport, the Chancellot of the Exchequer, and his local M.P., telling them that it is true in substance and in, fact and asking what they are going to do about it.