The Returned Army Lorry Problem in France.
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THE DISCUSSIONS on matters of motor interest., which took place in Paris last week at the Congress of Civil Engineers, were interesting and important in the minutest degree. They are summarized in a short article on an adjoining page of this issue.
The question of the returned Army vehicle is agitating the French motor manufacturer just as much as it is the British maker, and there can be no two opinions about the extent of the injury that can be done to the home commercial vehicle industry in either country if a number—an enormous number—of vehicles should, at the close of hostilities and of demobilization, be dumped on the market. Let it not be forgotten that, in the work of maintenance of Army lorries in both armies, a level has been reached which is really little short of wonderful. Perhaps we ought to go further and say that the average user of commercial vehicles in this country does not keep (never has kept) them as the vehicles on the Western Front are-kept. Certainly, there are reasons, not the least of which is that the country is providing seven millions sterling a day I But the question arises whether, when all the incentive for this efficiency in upkeep has gone, when all thoughts are bent on "getting back home," and all eyes are anxiously fixed on the lists of home-return ing drafts, the high level of maintenance will continue to he maintained.
If it be not maintained, and the vehicles are disposed of in the way that Army stores have been in the past, the effect upon the commercial motor industry would be disastrous, and although second-hand commercial vehicles for a time might be cheap, they would be in so uncertain a condition that dissatisfaction must, in the long run and on the whole, inevitably result. The difficulty then will be this, that, with a vision kept before them of years of stagnation due to the flooding of their markets, commercial vehicle makers will have become engrossed in other occupations and industries, replacements parts will be difficult or even impossible to obtain, and it will be useless to relegate the vehicle to the scrap heap because the industry, from a crushed condition, will have to be built up again before any sort of output could be expected—a process probably occupying many years.
One excellent way out of the difficulty has been suggested, namely, that the makers should receive, overhaul, classify and dispose of the used Army machines of their own manufacture. The troubles of the French makers are greater because the French Army has purchased so many motor lorries of foreign manufacture, whereas, in the services of this country, the proportion of foreign to British vehicles is small. The French Government, it is suggested, should retain, for Army use, the foreign-built.inoter vehicle, but no such suggestion has been put to the British authoria ties. We foresee difficulties in the adoption of such a proposal. Without desiring to flatter the British lorry, there is no d.oubt but that it is the best suited to the conditions prevailing in this country. Various makes (we need not mention names) are favoured in different camps : each will have its advocates at the conclusion of hostilities, and the net result will be that those makes of British machines which liave stood the great test will be retained, and that foreignmade lorries will be among the first to be disposed of. The same considerations must inevitably prevail in France, so that it will be interesting and informative to see how the problem is finally solved there.
Use Coal-gas Only for Essential Transport. . THE LATEST ORDER restricting the utilization of gas for the propulsion of motor, vehicles has doubtless come as a severe shock to those who have the interests of the "carry on" movement and the country's motor transport welfare at heart. It is satisfactory to observe that, at present, there is no intention of withdrawing or invalidating any of the permits which -have been issued up to date. Possibly, many motor users who contemplated conversion to gas, but who were victims of procrastination, are now bewailing the fact that they-did not take heed of the urgent warning we issued some weeks ago on the subject of equipping for gas. .
But if the authorities had been a little more communicative concerning the reLsons governing the issuance of this latest decree, we think they would have caused less perturbation in commercial motor circles. As a matter of fact, the continued supply of increasing quantities of gas for vehicles was exceeding the capacity of our gas-making plants, already harassed as they were with demands from other directions of vital import.
The authorities called for a saving of 50,000,000 gallons of motor spirit during the year which commenced on 1st October last, and the natural reason, ing was that coal-gas would prove the alternative.; But, to have displaced those 50,000,000 gallons of motor spirit, at least an additional 12,500,000,000 cubic ft. of gas would have been required, demanding the diversion and distillation of a further round 1,125,000 tons of coal over and above that already reserved for this purpose. But, there is no evidence that the authorities have attempted to facilitate the supply of the metal for the maintenance of retorting plants, or the supply of labour or transport requiredfor this increased gas production. The net effect is that south of the coal mining areas no further gas permits will be issued. A suggestion is made which appears iiiinently prifetical, and which provides the means of keeping road transport going. South of Northumbria already thousands of gas permits have been issued. The uses to which the fuel obtained under these permits is put should be carefully examined into, and in any case where the permit has not been issued for purposes of national service, particularly-the movement of foodstuffs and other commodities indispensable to the civilian, the permit should be withdrawn. The permits, however, should not be cancelled, but be transferred to other motor users who possess the vehicles, who are actually engaged in 'national transport work within rigidly prescribed limits, and whose use of the fuel is regarded as being of greater serviee to the nation. Otherwise it is to be feared that the latest order will drive many indispensable vehicles off the road—those " too-late " who, because they could still get a, supply of petrol, postponed their conversion to gas and who, now being able to obtain little or no liquid fuel, anticipate being forced. into inactivity. The task is simple and straightforward. The authoris• ties know by whom, and for what duty, each gas permit is being used. The weeding-out process need not take long nor tax a small staff to any marked degree. By following such a line of action the authorities will be able to make sure that every cubic foot of gas consumed by a motor vehicle is being used in the interests of the country, whilst such action wouldgo, a long way to allay anxiety in a field—that of the heavy motor vehicle—which should be free from all harassing. Transport is the life stream of a nation, but never has the fad been so fully realized in Britain as 4 is to-day. Fifty Million callons of Oil from Tar.
IN THE PRESENT shortage of fuel so urgently required for the maintenance of that vital necessity of commerce—road transport, no source that is capable of development may be neglected in the slightest degree. We strongly urge upon the Government the need for directing 'its attention in a direction which hitherto has not received consideration commensurate with its possibilities, viz., new methods of distilling tar so as to reduce the pitch residue and to increase the oil and light hydrocarbon yield.
Taking both the gas works and the coke ovens into account, there are at least one-and-three-quarter million tons of tar a year to work upon, and with proper treatment the pitch residue should. be at least halved, which should result in a new output of fuel oils and light oils, which, combined, run into about 50 million gallons a, year. Such a production would approximately provide for one-third of the general demand.
We find that it is becoming common talk amongst tar chemists that changed methods of distillation must be adopted in order that new products shall be obtained in conformity with national requirements.
In an early issue' of Tax COMMERCIAL MOTOR an article will appear on the use and abuse of motor fuel in connection with the communications between Navy, Army, Air Force and Government Civil Departments, with a suggestion which, if adopted, should secure equally effective service at a fraction of the present cost and on a greatly reduced fuel consump