THE ROAD FLEET OF A:
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JRTANT GAS COMPANY.
IT will certainly come as a surprise to many readers of The Commercial Motor to learn that the operations of one of the many gas companies supplying London extend over an area of no less than 144 square miles. The company to which reference is made, and with whose road transport fleet we propose to deal in this article, is the South Suburban Gas Co., whose activities extend to Honor Oak in the north, Farnborough (Kent) In the south, Dartford in the east and Croydon in the west. So large an area obviously calls for a full and complete equipment of transport vehicles, and facilities must be provided for quickly reaching the scene of repairs or other operations with the necessary plants, tools and materials and for conveying the supervising engineers and inspectors.
Up to 1910 these transport facilities were provided by horsed vehicles, but in that year a Lacre lorry was purchased, and when, during the war, a considerable expansion of road transport became necessary in order to enable the staff to cope with the increased business that fell to the company, this vehicle was found to have given such satisfactory results that the 2-ton Lacre was chosen as the standard model of the fleet to be formed, one make and one size being wisely settled upon so as to simplify the question of stores, which always becomes a problem when a feet is mixed. The choice is regarded as having given gocar results, for not a single expression of regret has ever been made concerning the decision.
The Varied Work of the Fleet.
The chief work of the fleet consists of the delivery of coke to consumers, the transport of gas mains, service pipes, general stores, building materials, gas meters, gas cookers, gas fires, etc., to various points in the area served, the main storage being at the Central Station in Lower Sydenham, whilst the depots to which many of the deliveries have to be despatched are numerous and spread throughout the area. The whole of the fleet is housed in a capacious and well-arranged garage, where 32 lorries could be accommodated. At present the fleet consists of 19 Lacre lorries and six Ford vans, in addition to eight Ford cars used by the administration.
In addition to the 2-ton lorries, the fleet includes five trailers, which have given very good service and have materially cheapened the cost of transport, as the tonmile cost table introduced later in this article will show. Two of the trailers are each of one ton capacity, whilst each of the others will carry a load of 30 cwt. The work is not, by any means, light, for the district covered is very hilly and a single journey with two tons of coke may entail many stops to supply customers each with but a few hundredweights of that fuel. Eight miles per gallon of petrol is obtained from the large vehicles and 121 miles per gallon from the Ford vans. Approximately 10,000 miles per annum is run by each lorry, and a complete overhaul is made in rotation by the company's own repairing staff, the driver assisting in the repairs whilst his lorry is in the shops. Not the least important effect of thus utilizing the driver's services during the overhaul of his vehicle is the value of the familiarity with every part of the mechanism under his charge that he is thus able tt secure. During the overhaul the bodywork Is repainted, and hence the fleet is always kept in a smart condition and attractive in appearance. The bodies of the Lacre 2-tonners have low sides, which are hinged to facilitate loading and unloading.
The Valuable Records that are Kept.
The drivers attend to their lorries every morning at 6.30 a.m., and, after filling up and loading, go to breakfast, the first journey being commenced at 7.50 a.m. A mate assists the driver in loading and unloading, and the normal day's work finishes at 4.30 p.m. Each driver has to report upon his day's work after garaging his vehicle, employing forthe purpose Return No. 1 (which is reproduced on page 600), these returns being scrutinized by the traffic foreman, whose duties are to collect the orders from the office and to regulate the journeys. For this latter purpose a good knowledge of the geography of the district is required, and the present traffic foreman was formerly a driver on the lorries and thus had acquired an excellent acquaintance with the whole area. The drivers' returns are sent by the traffic foreman to the garage foreman, who summarizes them in a general report.
The repair staff in the garage have time sheets where all repairs are dissected, which enables a AO report to be made every day of the working of each lorry (shown in Return No. 2). At the end of each half-year a complete cost sheet (see Return No. 3) gives a dissection of the running costs of each vehicle.
For the general administrative work of the company a number of light cars are, as we have said, employed, and are housed in a special garage. All running costs and repairs of these cars are recorded in a manner similar to that adopted for the lorries and vans, and the dissections are also shown on the half-yearly return, thns completing the figures of the costs of the fleet's operation.
The Equipment of the Breakdown Lorry.
As may be suppoSed, a fleet of this size does not escape without an occasional breakdown en route, and, in order to deal with any such emergency a special breakdown lorry is kept in readiness. This lorry is also a Lacre and is fitted up complete and supplied with the following accessories and materials :
Lucas. electric lighting set with a special -100 a.h. battery ; permanent tilt-van body with Herbert Morris crane fitted over rear axle, to lift two tons with chassis packed up to 1 ft. and to carry one ton; 24 lengths of timber, wooden wedges and packing ; three 6-ton jacks; two 4-ton sacks; five bottle jacks ; pickaxe, spade, shovel, saw and hammers; assorted spanners, washers, nuts and bolts and joints; Stewart spot-lights (two), with 100 ft. of cable and two spare 100-ft. lengths ; six Lucas inspection lamps, two hand lamps, and two hurricane lamps ; tow ropes, slings and chain blocks; six fireextinguishers ; electric fog lamps ; first-aid outfit ; two sets of non-skid chains ; steel plates for putting under jacks on soft ground ; engine oil, grease, paraffin and water.
The breaking up of the road surface preparatory to the laying of new gas mains entails much labour when done manually ; this work, therefore, is now practically 033 all done with machine tools worked by compressed air. The whole outfit is carried in a Lacre lorry, and the same power which propels the vehicle also drives the compressor supplying compressed air to the tools. The consolidation of material in the trench is also done by compressed air punners, and a much more satisfactory job is made of it, whilst, of course, the saving of labour is considerable.
The Siphon-emptying Wagon.
The siphons in the gas mains require to be emptied from time to time, and a Laere lorry has been requisitioned for this purpose. A. vacuum pump driven from the lorry engine creates a vacuum in the large tank fixed on the lorry platform. The lorry is driven to each siphon in turn, and by means of a short length of hose the standpipe leading into the sump is connected to the tank and the water which has collected is drained out, just enough being left to seal the pipe. The lorry makes a round of all, the siphons and covers the district of Crystal Palace, Bromley and St Mary Cray. Upwards of 1,200 siphons are attended to and 5,500 miles are covered by this siphon lorry every year. This replaces the old ar rangement of horse-cart and two men, the total cost being reduced by half, whilst the siphons receive twice the attention. Four months was taken to complete the round under the old arrangement, and two months is all that is now found to be necessary under the new one.
One of the trailers is specially fitted up with all the necessary appliances for coping with any accident to the gas mains in the company's district. One of the illustrations shows a rear view of the lorry and gives some indication of its internal fittings. This trailer can be transported to the .point of damage and left there, and every convenience is included, even to a small gas cooker, which provides hot meals for the
men employed, should the repairs extend over a lengthy period. The accessories in the trailer are :—Boxes used as seats for the breakdown gang and for carrying two 120 a.h. 12-volt accumulators ; six fire-extinguishers; four electric searchlights on tripods, each with 120 ft. of cable ; complete set of mainlayers' tools, i.e., picks, shovels, spades, road wedges, hammers, screwing an d drilling tackle, chisels, etc. ; firstaid box;. 24 hurricane lamps ; paraffin ; drinking water ; and gas cooker with flexible tube for connecting to the nearest gas supply.
The addition of t h e trailers has considerably cheapened the cost of transport, and it may be of special interest to the readers of this journal to learn the relative costs of running a 2-tonner with and without a trailer. The following costs were taken from the working results where the conditions were sufficiently similar to obtain a comparison. Being taken with this set purpose, the
figures have no essential relation to the other costs which will be given in this article. As has already been pointed out, these lorries are working over a hilly district ranging from 4 ft. O.D.
to 500 ft. O.D. .
Here are given the working costs of the whole fleet of lorries for a period of six months: It will be observed, in the tables, that the costs are given in pence per vehicle-mile. Account is taken of empty running in working out the cost per ton-mile in the table at the head of the first column of this page.
In conclusion, we are indebted to the directors and the chief engineer of the South Suburban Gas Co. for permission to give publicity to this .description of the company's transport fleet.