Learning the (HGV) lesson the hard way
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ON MERSEYSIDE there are independent driver training schools which appear to be giving a poor bargain to would-be professional haulage drivers.
In one case, a man parted with £360 in lessons and failed the HGV test five times. I was told that a 10-day driver training course at an RTITB GTA costs £195, with a further £18 for a second attempt if the first test is a failure.
Some commercial schools are believed to advertise that six hours' training is enough for an HGV licence, but I believe no RTITB group training centre would want to give less than five days' training, and no doubt double this is typical.
Mr Eric Yates, group training officer of the Merseyside GTA, at Bootle, told me that the RTITB inspect and approve the classroom, manouevring area, etc, of commercial driving schools, but the Board does not monitor the training provided. He, and other RTITB instructors, think it is time there was an approval scheme for driving instructors for the HGV test.
Mr Yates took me on an interesting tour of the docks near Bootle, which he visits regularly in contacting haulier members of his GTA. I noticed that he took a detailed interest in the day-to-day work of specialist hauliers—meat, car transporters, etc. No doubt some of the knowledge gained by the RTITB instructor staff is gained from drivers on courses, but, clearly, it helps if training people learn something from management and from their own observation of operations.
Meat hauliers, it seems, need to know that pigs' blood on a vehicle will upset any local Rabbi! There is skill in loading carcases to minimise crushing. Drivers under training at Bootle are given practical tips on what to do if their vehicle is hi-jacked. They are warned against loose talk in cafes and told to be aware of the amount of fuel left in their tanks if a vehicle is "knocked off"—this to give police an idea of the radius within which the thief will want to dispose of his load.
Some firms send drivers for training at Bootle from as far away as Bristol or London. One firm doing this has three depots, and drivers used to rigids take artic training at Bootle and return to base pulling artic trailers.
One car transporter firm using the Bootle GTA told Mr Yates that their• drivers were hostile to training. He persuaded the company to send their shop steward along as a guinea-pig. When the teward had appreciated the renefit of skilled instruction ie returned to his company Lnd insisted that all drivers ake a course, even a driver tue to retire in three months' ime I Evidently, Mr Yates is good salesman.
When a British Steel plant • Earlham was due to close, :ric Yates was asked to talk o a works council about !river training prospects for edundant steelworkers. The utcome was an avalanche of equests for training, some raining was "sub-contracted" o the Warrington and Lymm iTAs. One hundred and ighty-seven drivers were rained at Bootle, with paynent by the EEC under a cheme for re-settlement of edundant steelworkers.
This mass training exercise nterested the department of sychology at Sheffield Uniersity, who wished to ionitor the effectiveness of raining. Good sifting of the pplicants was the key factor; 60 per cent pass rate imroved to 85 per cent as entry equirements were stiffened. The oldest driver trained nder this scheme was 64! ne may be forgiven for oubting the sense of training ach an elderly man, however een.
I was amazed at the high osts of property in parts of Ierseyside. The Bootle trainkg centre premises command a rent of £10,000 a year and rates add another £1,000 or so. Mr Yates hoped to persuade the RTITB to buy the premises for £75,000, but I gather that this was not "on." Three GTAs in York and District have joined together in order to make more effective use of resources, and it seems possible that a Federation of GTAs may be set up on Merseyside for this purpose.
Mention of rates reminds me that Bob Heaton was incensed when faced with disproportionate charges for water at the St Helens depot of Heatons Transport. Water charges in the small office block — three WCs and two basins—amount to over £1,000 a year, yet the metered charges for hosepipes in the garage area work out at about £98 per quarter. Why not install meters for office water supplies? Good question. If enough companies press for this maybe Water Boards will relent.
In rural Cheshire, at Ashton, some six miles from Chester, Eddie Farrell, local area chairman of the RHA lives "on the job." His depot (and the premises of a Mercedes truck agency run by an associated company) is located on two adjoining sizeable house plots. The two long gardens, only a stone's throw from Ashton Church, together make a large parking area. Eddie Farrell believes that "country" hauliers should not have to be lectured about the need for environmental common sense. As a countryman he needed no exhortations from planning authorities.
Eddie Farrell began with a single vehicle 19 years ago, and he now operates 15 lorries and says, modestly, he doesn't expect to grow bigger.
He has served as chairman of the North-Western (West) area of the RHA for a year now. Though somewhat reluctant to take on the job in an area with many much bigger operators he has grown in confidence. Having watched some very old established operators go—in his words— "down the nick," Eddie is entitled to feel that his own survival formula is not to be sneezed at.
Hauliers must give thought to the vehicle replacement problem and to the rates levels required for viability in future years, says Eddie. "If you give good service, customers will stick by you and not offer traffic to cut-throat newcomers." He is not hostile to owner-drivers as such, in fact he employs some regularly as sub-contractors at rates sufficient to permit truck renewals.
A number of newcomers to• the industry have undertaken to have their vehicles maintained by Eddisbury Motors, controlled by Eddie Farrell. He has observed that a contract maintenance vehicle may be brought in once or twice and then the new operator "disappears."
"When this happens, especially if when I know the• vehicle in question is still being operated, I write to the Licensing Authority and ask them to re-check the maintenance arrangements."
Eddie reminded me that the pressure by drivers for a pound an hour on basic pay began in the Sandbach area and spread to Scotland from there. It would be a natural development if there is much competition in England to launch Joint Industrial Councils to determine wage rates, etc.
All the Farrell drivers are members of the TGWU and they are lucky to have their dues paid for them by the company. £4.50 night subsistence is paid, although most of the cabs have sleepers. For some years the company have used a small driver's expenses form which details telephone, night out, tunnel fees and tolls, etc, against which payment is made when the driver signs the form.
Eddie Farrell and a friend are prime movers in the Mouldsworth Motor Museum, near the Delamere Forest. Eddie himself has rebuilt some old veteran lorries, and he finds his hobby of absorbing interest.
In a brief visit I paid to the 150th anniversary exhibition of Pilkingtons at St Helens, I contrasted the "perkiness" of a telegram sent by Triplex, the safety glass company, to the original Henry Ford when he was recovering from a car smash in a Detroit hospital in 1926. Triplex made some obvious public relations mileage out of Henry's accident.
Today, one gets the impression that Merseyside cannot lift itself up by its own boot straps into full employment. The area, with about 1 in 8 of the country's population, has about 1 in 6 of workers unemployed. Tragically, many of the workless are young. Constructive efforts in training are therefore vitally necessary.
The EEC is to make a grant of £3m to help extend the Seaforth bulk grain terminal where a second silo is to be built. The enlarged terminal will also feed the soya bean processing plant being built by Continental Grain. This company plan to make the terminal a main distribution centre in Europe, and the only one in the UK.