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Special problem of the metropolis

8th June 1979, Page 62
8th June 1979
Page 62
Page 63
Page 62, 8th June 1979 — Special problem of the metropolis
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Which of the following most accurately describes the problem?

London presents particular problems for transport trade associatiol and demands resourcefulness from eir members. But --ere are also advantages. John Darker reports... Pictures by Dick Ross

LONDON and the South East Region present some special problems to transport trade associations such as the Road Haulage Association and Freight Transport Association. Greatef London itself is several times larger in area than any other conurbation in Britain. Its sheer size of popula+tion and the vehicle density which goes with this puts a premium on the resourcefulness of road transport operators, and those who serve them.

London has its share of labour relations problems affecting transport. If the London Docks have erupted. less frequently of late, the potential for mischief still exists. Rail disputes mean that staff may have acute problems in getting to work.

Movement and depot location problems require both organisations to be alert to the frequent changes in planning policies of the Greater London Council where the emphasis, if nothing more, changes with the pendulum swings of the political parties.

But because London is the nation's capital city and control of many of the country's leading companies is in London, or not far from the metropolis, the area administration (RHA) and the Regional administration (FTA) have the advantage of proximity to the policy makers at the GLC and the Department of Transport, and, indeed, to the central expertise of large road transport companies, TDG, NFC, Unilever, ICI, and the rest.

The FTA head office at Tunbridge Wells also provides a base for the South, Eastern Region office, most ably run by John Morris, whose cheerful imperturbability is a by-word. The Metropolitan and South Eastern Area Office of the RHA, at 8 Belmont Hill, Lewisham, is not ideally situated for the total membership, but meetings of area committees often take place at the RHA hq at Woburn Place, close to Euston and King's Cross stations, Indeed, when the RHA Metropolitan and South Eastern office was moved some time ago from Oxford Street offices, the move was made palatable to the membership by the head office facility for meetings.

Mrs Deidre Kohler, RHA Metropolitan and South-Eastern Area secretary, must be one of the longest-serving officers of the Association, for her service began in 1940. She assumed command in 1974 after the death of that well-known figure, George Harris, for so long the embodiment of London road hauliers.

With some 2175 members in her Area, Deidre Kohler administers about one-seventh of the -RHA's national membership. John Morris, of the FTA, has just celebrated the topping of the magic 5000 membership, about a third of the FTA national total but, as he told me, representing more than a fifth in revenue.

So both officers are key people and, as you might expect, both are backed up by highly versatile and experienced staff, Organisations are never static; there are always fresh methods of management to explore or good arguments for altering area boundaries for ease of administration.

The five-region re organisation of the FTA a few years ago was greatly helped by the improved road network and in these large regions staff can service the membership with overnight stays when necessary.

The RHA handed over some 300 members in the Sussex Area some time back to the Southern Area, based at Winchester. The Metropolitan Area itself has six sub-areas and there are sub-areas in East and West Kent, the Medway towns, Dartford /Gravesend, Guildford. South London sub-area takes in Reigate, North London, a chunk of Hertfordshire; West London includes parts of Middlesex and Surrey. The precise logic of sub-area territories may not be immediately apparent, but it has doubtless stemmed from such things as membership strength, ease of travel to the normal meeting places, and so forth.

Incidentally, the RHA in the Metropolitan Area needed to define its boundaries precisely for industrial relations negotiating purposes: the trade unions needed to know who spoke for whom in what areas!

The FTA Region controlled by John Morris is split up into six Divisions, Anglia, Beds and Herts, Greater London, Solent, South Eastern Counties, and Thames Valley. There is a Regional Co-ordinating Committee, currently chaired by Mr E. A. Rowley (Ozalid (UK) Ltd) which ensures a fair spread of facilities and resources over the South Eastern Region.

Labour relations play a more prominent role in the RHA now that Area Industrial Relations Councils have been set up with the trade unions. Parts of the RHA in the South East were ahead of their time, for there was a Kent Transport Federation before the RHA's Articles of Association were amended to permit pay bargaining.

Both the RHA and FTi undertake a constant search fo new members to compensati for some inevitable wastage. I might be thought that industria concentrations, mergers, etc would make recruitmen specially difficult for the FTA bu the membership rises steadily The RHA's membership decline in recent years slowed dowr appreciably last year when z sizeable number of small operators (1-5 vehicles) were recruited.

Deidre Kohler and her colleagues get a number of recruits by energetically following up telephone calls made by nonmember firms, some new to road haulage, received at the Lewisham office. New entrants to the industry appearing in As and Ds are canvassed tho

)ughly. The operators are sent letter with a tear-off card sking for further literature and tembership details. Deidre, rho personifies efficent adminitration, enters all inquiries in a, ook so that she knows how ew members are obtained.

As a new departure, the RHA 'as commissioned a former nember, Reg Knell, to call. .n new prospects on two days a 'eek. Those who have failed to espond to recruitment literature re interviewed, and Reg Knell !so chases up the small ninority of slow payers among ne existing membership.

I wondered whether it would .tase administration and annual :ollection of subscriptions if all nembers' subs were due at the iame date. Quickly I was shot iown in flames! Deidre Kohler's itaff can cope with 200-odd 'enewals a month and the pre:eding reminders as a matter of .outine. They would be iwamped by having to cope rvith 2000-odd at one time.

The niceties of checking As and Ds against the membership roll to see if subscriptions need to be raised, with more vehicles Dn strength, must be a considerable, though necessary, chore. Not everyone is frank enough to say! And in the Metropolitan area particularly, it is something of a nightmare to keep track of members' addresses. Small hauliers move addresses and seldom bother to notify area office.

Some sub-areas in London — East arid West London both have some 400 members — may be larger in membership than certain RHA areas in the sticks. in keeping members informed of current happenings and policy matters, the committees who serve on sub-areas and area play a vital role. Mrs Kohler

believes in sending full summaries of higher committee discussions to her various committees. She services the area committee herself and Barry Knaggs, assistant secretary, services a number of committees.

Over the years Deidre Kohler has noticed an increasing reluctance of members to serve on the area committee and stand for office. At one time there were three vice-chairmen on the area committee and it took six years to progress to chairman. Now, I gather, some lobbying is necessary to get people to take the job on.

Of course a family tradition helps! Eric R. Taylor, a wellknown road haulier, now deceased, has been followed by his son, Michael Taylor, who has chaired the Area effectively since April 1978.

Michael reckons to spend a day a week on RHA business, but much more when there is much .negotiation with unions. He is a National Council member and was recently appointed to the Lorries and Environment Committee sponsored by the NEC. Meetings with the GLC, when George Mitchell from the RHA HQ staff goes along as well, take place periodically.

It must be comparatively rare for a road haulier to be a trained engineer but Michael Taylor, who was a Rolls-Royce apprentice, has a Higher National Certificate in Mechanical Engineering. He is also a member by examination of the Chartered Institute (MCIT). Michael is one of those who were not specially pleased when the CIT opened its membership to some hauliers who had not sweated through the examinations!

The legendary E R. Taylor, Michael reminded me, went into road haulage from docks management with a single lorry in 1930, and made a great success of it. The firm operated 60 vehicles at one time, and if this number shrank with the recession, prospects are considerably brighter for the Taylor business, and other well-established hauliers today. Michael reckons that the recent road haulage drivers' strike eliminated numbers of owner-drivers, and this has benefited the larger firms. Of course, it may have reduced the owner-driver potential membership of the RHA!

John Morris, whose region covers such places as King's Lynn, Buckingham, Banbury, Berkshire, Hants, South Dorset, Kent, Surrey and Sussex, liaises when necessary with three RHA Area secretaries. In addition to Mrs Kohler, John meets Ken Williams, the RHA Area secretary at Cambridge, and Albert Simpson, Southern Area secretary, at Winchester.

FTA Regional secretary, Frank Cook, has three assistant secretaries, Tom Cornish, Rod Hunter and Neil Young. There is an "admin" officer and an executive officer and four assistant engineers who supervise the team of 20-odd fleet inspectors. It is this breadth of administrative and technical support which ensures the effective service of the FTA's diverse membership.

I was pleased to meet Tom Cornish, one of the assistant secretaries, who came to the FTA after some years as an economist working for the Greater London Council. Tom reckons that about half of the traffic management ideas dealt with by the FTA come from the GLC.

One useful result of the reduction in FTA regions from 11 to five is that officers can now specialise. More and more this pays off, and the employment of men like Richard Turner, Don Mackintyre, and Torn Cornish — all very much at home in traffic/roads planning matters — unquestionably adds to the reputation of the FTA.

A splendid example of the staff's versatility was demonstrated recently when the Association's 40-tonne vehicle campaign was publicised by several of John Morris's colleagues, and by John himself, on TV and radio. Such PR activities are "learned by doing"; there's no substitute for experience. And each experience makes the next time that much easier.

Much of the benefit of mem

bership of a trade associatic comes from the opportuniti€ provided for instructional visi to companies, port installation etc. The Solent Division of FT has visited Cherbourg with tour of the Port included in tt one-day visit. Sainsbury's Bu tingford Depot and the Roy Ordnance Supply Depot at Bi ester have also interested se tions of the membership.

John Morris has noticed decline in interest in soci functions, though successf dinner dances and annu lunches get good support. TI visits to places of technical ir erest, however, are very popul and they must add to the pi fessionalism of own-accou transport managers.

The FTA Divisional membi ship shows the following brea down Greater London, 176 Beds. and Herts., 501; Angl 778; Solent, 484; South EE tern Counties, 940 and Tham Valley, 548.

Although Divisional vic chairmen can expect to inhe the chairmanship in due coun I'm assured that –Buggi Turn" does not opera automatically on the Natio, Executive Board. The name o likely president is put forward the NEB to the Council, w usually endorse it. Perhaps t element of chance is a stimu to the ambitious folk who bea, away in the FTA Divisions in I hope, perhaps, one day, of in ning the presidential accoladi

Looking at the FTA Lonc Region, it seems clear that Jc Morris has to carry a sizea management load. He sees job as giving value for mone the membership he and his I leagues serve. Although Regional staff of 47 includes admin people — the others engineers — it does not ti much with illness or holiday: boost the load on the otht And when such a tight si situation coincides with a p work activity — as with implementation of CPC train in the Region — then Jc Morris and his colleagues n. to work at full throttle.

The FTA annual rout differs markedly from that of RHA and in one sense i. easier; there is no direct bile on FTA staff in the conduc pay negotiations. The R officials aind the lay officers face this ticklish duty annui but I was impressed with Memorandum of Agreem hammered out between Metropolitan and South Eas membership with the tr unions for the Regional J Council machinery.

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