BULLETS FOR OTHERS TO FIRE
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CO many points of contact link the road transport industry to other sections of the community that it is not surprising to find commercial vehicle operators represented on a wide variety of organizations. What is less satisfactory is the apparent inability of the individual operator to make use of his contacts as part of the attempt to ensure that his industry is seen in the proper light.
Apart from serving on the obvious bodies such as local road safety committees and local committees running the Lorry Driver of the Year competition, operators are often prominent in chambers of commerce and of trade, in rotary clubs and sports clubs and in other efforts designed to improve local conditions and boost local pride. They serve as councillors and join deputations to MPs. They make approaches to the fashionable and slightly mysterious Government creations such as the regional economic planning councils.
EFFECT OF REPORTS
What effect does all this effort have? The test comes when from time to time a report on a transport topic is published by an organization which might be supposed to have had the advantage of advice and opinions from road operators. It is illuminating from this point of view to examine the report to the Association of Municipal Corporations of a working party on traffic limitation in urban areas.
There is a good deal in the document about parking policy and road pricing, the revenues from which—as might be expected given the provenance of the report— it is suggested should be retained by local authorities. The commercial vehicle is given only a few lines. It is a much smaller component of traffic in congested areas than the private car, says the working party, and it has a smaller growth rate. It comes "within the general category of essential traffic".
Inevitably, the possibilities of alternative routes for heavy through goods traffic are considered. For other commercial traffic, says the report, long-term redevelopment will be likely to ensure adequate arrangements for keeping the vehicles off the road while they are waiting or actually being loaded or unloaded. Off-street parks should be provided and when congestion occurs mainly at peak hours there is a strong case or restrictions on loading and unloading at hose times.
Further examination, the report continues, should be made of the whole question of commercial vehicle operation generated by the use of land in congested areas to see how far the operation must be carried out "during what are now considered to be the normal working hours" and how far the work could be done at other times. The examination would have to include "the financial and other implications for commercial vehicle operation" as well as the benefits to traffic through the relief of congestion.
In many ways the document is encouraging. It has echoes, conscious or otherwise, of the Buchanan Report and the turn-thatlorry-round campaign. On the assumption that local authorities will take seriously the report of their own working party, operators should take steps to see that the recommendations, including those for the longer term, are followed up.
The problem of adequate loading and unloading facilities at shops, warehouses and factories provides the subject for a case history which might one of these days be analysed in detail as an object lesson for the future. Not so long ago the problem was regarded as the responsibility mainly, if not solely, of the road operator. One or two investigations into the subject, coupled with the earnest efforts of operators to bring it within the scope of National Productivity Year, brought the wider issues to public attention,
NEED FOR LOADING SPACE
By June, 1965, the Prices and Incomes Board was able to make the following comment in their interim report on road haulage rates, Most local planning authorities, said the Board, recognized the need for adequate space for loading and unloading, and new developments, both industrial and commercial, should be vastly better than old ones. "We have, however, heard of new retail premises in important cities without loading and unloading facilities at all. And there are at present virtually no statutory powers to deal with the problem." The Board announced its intention to explore further a complex and difficult subject which could vitally affect road haulage costs.
Even before the report was published a Government planning bulletin had drawn attention to the importance of proper facilities in new development and the need to improve as far as possible the facilities in existing premises. In the final report this year the Board returned to the subject. Planning authorities, said the report, had firm powers to control new development and usually imposed conditions covering location, capacity and approaches. It was agreed that there was much more difficulty with existing premises.
Other bodies which are concerning themselves with quicker turnround were conjured up by the Board. The economic development committee for the distributive trades was said to be giving close study to the wide and growing discrepancy between the times at which the haulage industry is willing to work and the times its customers are willing to make facilities available for loading and unloading. The same committee is considering the related question of mechanical handling.
Even demurrage charges are not being overlooked. They were being considered, said the Board, by each of the economic development committees for movement of exports and distribution and also by the traders' co-ordinating committee on transport. Hauliers may well feel like the sorcerer's apprentice. They have raised spirits that they may find it difficult subsequently to control. These organizations with long names and in some cases shadowy attributes have taken the operators' complaints seriously and are working stealthily towards their inevitable reports.
The haulier with his wits about him should find in these inquiries the means for increasing his productivity. His case is being made for him. In some respects it has been accepted. He no longer has to prove that his services are essential. Quicker turnround is recognized as a term of reproach by customers who previously were prepared to keep vehicles waiting indefinitely. The mere hint of demurrage is often sufficient to produce a change in methods.