T HE conveyance of traffic in bulk continues to expand. It
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should be made clear that in this context the word " bulk " is used to indicate the conveyance of a commodity in loose form in a container which is invariably part of the vehicle supplied by the operator. This is in contrast to its use merely to indicate the conveyance of traffic in quantities larger than those normally carried, such as the bulking of parcels for intermediate trunk services.
Both the range and tonnage of commodities being delivered in bulk are growing, and the economies that can be effected by the correct application of this method of transport arc undeniable. Nevertheless, the operator, when estimating a suitable charge for delivery in bulk, would do well to consider all aspects before committing himself.
Economies which the customer may effect by the use of bulk transport may by inference give a false impression as to the benefits which are to accrue to the operator. To take pains to ascertain just what they amount to in terms of either reduced operating costs or increased tonnages in no way denigrates the increasing use of bulk vehicles. Rather is it an attempt to place it in its right perspective.
With the introduction of bulk collection and delivery there is an immediate saving in traditional-type containers for the customer, or the manufacturing department in the case of a C-licence operator. By contrast, instead of a popular-priced all-purpose platform vehicle, the carrier now has to provide an expensive specialized vehicle of possibly lower capacity.
Moreover, the use of this specialized outfit may not be continuous, either because of the commodity's dependence on harvesting or, equally important, the lack of universal application of bulk conveyance in that particular industry. To offset this difficulty many ingenious dual-purpose bodies have been devised to permit both traditional and bulk methods of delivery and have come into substantial use.
Yet a vehicle designed for only one purpose must normally be both less expensive to purchase and more efficient in operation. In making a choice between single or dualpurpose bulk bodies it would be necessary to ascertain whether the occasional element in traffic movement was likely to be of shortor long-term duration.
In addition to containers, the customer saves considerably in labour costs with the introduction of bulk transport. Filling and tying (or fastening) of small containers, in whatever stage of mechanization, are made unnecessary. Similarly, trolleying or mechanical handling of the goods to the loading bay is eliminated.
Less Advantage to Haulier
For the haulier, however, the reduction in labour cost as a result of the introduction of bulk delivery is much less. Possibly on a ,large contract involving several vehicles on shuttle Service, a saving of both vehicles and men may be effected. In the majority of cases, however, any saving in labour costs from which a haulier might be expected to benefit would be limited to a proportion of the 'loading and unloading times, the total number of staff employed, unlike the manufacturer's, remaining the same, It is most important that hauliers investigating bulkdelivery costs should not confuse loading times and terminal times. If, for example, a platform lorry could be unloaded by traditional means in 40 minutes and a corresponding load in bulk took only 20 minutes to handle, he would be wrong in assuming that terminal time had been halved.
Commercial-vehicle terminal times can include a mixed bag of items—legitimate or otherwise. Location of delivery point, reporting to a reception office, possible redirection to the appropriate department. and taking a turn in the queue R22 —all these will remain the same an the majority of cases, however fast the bulk vehicle can eventually unload. The total time they involve may well be much more than the actual unloading time, whatever method is used.
When the quotation under consideration for transport in bulk concerns work in which all deliveries are so made, several of these items would not apply and maximum benefits would then be obtained. This is especially the case in ancillary operation, where the loading point, vehicles and delivery points are all under one control and can literally be made to measure to ensure maximum efficiency.
These ideal conditions will not necessarily apply in other instances, or as bulk delivery extends from basic or semiprocessed cqmmodities to retail deliveries.' Flour and animal feeding stuffs are recent examples. It is important that the haulier should distinguish between these differing operational conditions, despite the apparent sameness of bulk delivery. In less favourable circumstances the actual saving in time in both loading and unloading as between bulk and traditional methods may be small, in which case only the customer and driver benefit to any extent.
Another factor to be noted carefully in assessing terminal times in relation to bulk-delivery rates is the rate of removal of the commodity from the unloading point. This is not necessarily the same as the initial unloading time.
Despite recent modernization of industry, many of the premises served by hauliers are, at the best, modern adaptations on old foundations. In ' many cases where some form of handling in bulk has been installed, the original layout has imposed limitations. For example, whilst a hopper • may have been installed adjacent to the loading bay to accept the commodity in bulk, other facilities may be unchanged.
Conveyance of the commodity within the premises, whether horizontally or vertically, from the loading bay to its final destination often involves much expensive equipment. Duplication of it to carry the commodity away from the newly created hopper, still less a speeding-up of the rate of flow, is not always an expense that the manufacturer can readily entertain.
Only the First Benefits
If that is so, • only the first vehicle of the day is likely to reduce terminal time by being able to drop its load into a hopper, as opposed to conventional unloading methods. Successive vehicles would have to wait for the hopper to be emptied at a rate geared to normal methods of unloading.
There are also secondary factors in relation to the introduction of bulk delivery which the newcomer would do well to give prior consideration. In those sections of industry where delivery in bull( is long established—as, for example, with liquids—the added cost of returning empty (in the majority of cases) is accepted in the rates charged.
With other commodities, conditions may be very different. A common pairing of traffics consists of grains from agricultural to urban' areas, with animal feeding stuffs as a return load. By the use of conventional methods of packing and a platform vehicle (particularly if made of light alloy) it is possible, with care, to load and reload these commodities with little risk of inter-contamination. With a bulk vehicle it may no longer be possible, particularly where foodstuffs are concerned.
Alternatively, the necessity to clean out the container after each trip before loading another commodity may more than nullify one of the main purposes of bulk vehicles, namely, reduced terminal times. With many semi-solids an added complication when clearing out containers would be their susceptibility to absorption of moisture.
If the final result were to be that either commodity
grains or feeding stuffs in this example—were to be sent in bulk and the vehicle were to return empty, rates would have to be adjusted accordingly. But in so doing the haulier may well find strong resistance from the customer, because. over the years, rates in this instance may have become stabilized at a figure which takes into account regular returnload traffic.
Another secondary factor concerns loss or damage. On the few occasions when this does occur in a well-regulated road haulage service, it is probably limited to one or two items in a load of 100 or so, and compensation is paid accordingly. In cases of alleged loss the numerical check readily available has often resulted in the haulier being able to prove that the goods were not loaded to the stated number. On conversion to bulk delivery, weighbridge weights may not prove such an accurate and acceptable check.
The excellent construction of many bulk-delivery vehicles operating today undoubtedly ensures that goods arc conveyed in the best possible condition. Hauliers who operate many thousands of miles a year, however, must inevitably experience some accidents, however minor. If that were to result in contamination of a part of a bulk load, prior agreement between haulier and customer should be reached as to whether the whole consignment could be refused.
It is important that a clear distinction "should be made as to the reason for the introduction, of bulk transport— whether it is the demand by the customer for a higher standard of service or whether it is the haulier's attempt to achieve higher operational efficiency. If the first reason is the only one, the customer should expect to Pay a higher rate for a superior service. Bulk delivery is already well established and will continue to grow. Much time and forethought have been spent by both operators and bodybuilders to fit the vehicle to the job. Yet unless every factor in the chainof operations is carefully considered beforehand, the final results may Well be disappointing, however efficient the scheme was proved to be—on paper. In his own interests, before embarking on the purchase of an expensive and specialized bulk-delivery vehicle, the haulier should be convinced that the promised improvement —for the customer—in overall efficiency in distribution does not at the same time reduce either the level of his own profit or the availability of a flexible service to his remaining