How Motor Trucks Cut Cost

An Article on the Problems of Delivery and Service.

April 1 1917

How Motor Trucks Cut Cost

An Article on the Problems of Delivery and Service.

April 1 1917

How Motor Trucks Cut Cost

An Article on the Problems of Delivery and Service.

THERE was a time when business men seriously discussed the relative merits of motor trucks and horses for delivery purposes. Nowadays all doubt has vanished; for the motor truck has demonstrated its remarkable powers. Any discussion on the subject now extends to the reduction of costs and the further speeding up of service. On these phases A. V. Norton writes a spendid article in System, saying, in part:

The effectiveness of the motor truck is rightly expressed by the formula speed * load = work.

Given a motor truck which develops four times the speed of a horse and carrier four times the load, the resulting effectiveness is sixteen times that of a singla horsa. This figure correctly represents the possible effectiveness of tha average five-ton truck. Where such a truck is . used day and . night this figure is multiplied by two, and cases have been reported where one truck has done the work of thirty-five and even forty horses.

It is seldom, however, that conditions are found where a truck can make use of its maximum speed and carry its maximum load without interruption. Moet trucks operate at less than half their possible effectiveness. The problem of the business man, therefore, is: “How can I keep the factors of speed and lead as near to capacity as possible?” He may in fact, fall far short of the possible effectiveness, and atill declare a profit from the operation of his trucks.

An enterprising contracting concern in Chicago recently made a striking demonstration of the effectivo use of motos, trucks, properly handled, under supposedly unfavorable


A contract for hauling sand and gravel to be used in paving Western Avenue was held by a teaming company. This company had never used motor trucks, but the manager was nevertheless eager to find out whether or not they would prove economical for work of that nature. The test took the form of m sub-contract to the contracting concern already mentioned. The sub-contract was signed at forty cents a yard, the prevailing rate paid to team owners for hauls of a mile or under. This figure needs an explanation.

Loose material, such s> und and gravel, is generally brought into the city by rail. The can in which it is carried vary in type. Some have hopper bottoms, soma nave tight bottoms, and some have drop doors extending the length of the car.

With a pair of horses hauling two-yard| dump wagons, loaded by the driver and twel shovelers, the cost, figuring a speed of three miles an hour, is as follows:

Working hours. 10.

Round trip, 1 mile.

Loading time, 15 minutes.

Traveling time, 20 minutes.

Unloading time, 5 -minutes.

Number of trips, 15.

Number of miles, 15.

Number of yards, 30.

Rate per yard, $0.40.

l>aily gross income, $12.

The income of twelve dollars a day for a two-horse team, one driver-and two shovelers is by no means excessive. For teams forty cents a yard is a fair price.

In view of the possibility of cutting costs, the contracting company attacked this problem with considerable relish. The proprietor of the concern was a student of transportation questions. He saw at once that the delay in loading must be greatly reduced.

The problem of unloading loose material from freight cars had .resisted the adoption' of special devices on account Of the fact already mentioned — namely, that these can vary greatly in design. Moreover, none but a portContinued on page 63.

Conthiurd from ¡tagr able device would do, because of the trouble -and expense of moving heavy apparatus from one car to another. Objections from the railroad companies might also be expected.

The contracting concern devised a portable I unloader, in tbe form of a tip bucket mounted Î on struts so constructed that the whole frame ! could be raised or depressed according to the ' height of the tnaterial being unloaded. These buckets we::*;of two-yard capacity, and the \ frames were mounted on wheels. One of these devices was stationed at each end of the car. the buckets being tipped toward the car while it was being loaded. Two good shovelers could till one of the^e buckets in about sixteen minutes. Four or five shovelers were used in each car, and las the capacity of each of these buckets was two yards, or only half the capacity of :he average five-ton dump truck, both buckets Urere filled before the truck came to be loaded. *The truck would then drive up alongside, the first bucket would be tipped and the load deposited in the body. Tbe truck would then msve ahead a few yards under the second bucket^ where the operation would be repeated. Tue whole process of loading the truck—exc usive of shoveling into the buckets, which, of cotine, was done while the truck was busy on‘ the road — consumed thirty seconds. The time gained, therefore, was 30 minute* minus 30 seconds, or minutes.

By the ftse of two five-ton trucks srith dump bodies operated by the motor, and with the loading device described above, the table of average operating time and income began to look far different from that which recorded the returns of teams hauling and loading by shovel.


Working hours, 10.

Round trip, 1 mile, leading time, % minute.

Travelirg time, 6 minutes.

Unloading time, 5 minutes.

Number of trips, 52.1.

Number of miles, 52.1.

Number of yards, 208.4.

Rate per yard, 40 centa.

Daily gross income, $83.36.

This remarkable work was not accomplished. howeviur, except by vigilant planning. Or. put it rather the other way: diligent planning was used :o gain this exceptional result. The fact is, with such enormous quantities of material handled daily, minutes were golden.

Earning » gross income of $83.36 a day of ten hours, the income per minute was 13.89 cents. For five minutes, it was 69.45 for ten minutes $1,389.

In order to show the cost of lost minutes this concern kept a record of the various delays and their causea. The following table shows the delays met with in one hour of an average day’s run:


Held up hy traffic (2 minutes)........$ .278

Held up by trolley car (2 minutes).....278

Driver d amounted to loosen tail-gate

(1V4 minutes) ....................208

I/oaded by shovel at another yard on special trip, yard not equipped with

loading devjc» (9 minutes)......... 1.250

Blockaded at dumping point (2 minutes) .............................278

Total lokt time 16Vi minutes.....$2.292

The in come of the average two-horse team hauling loose material from the car-side, a round tfip distance of one mile at 40 cents s yard, was $12, $1.20 an hour. The motor truck, effectively used, became so productive and made time so valuable that the average time it lost every hour from slight and unavoidable delays amounted to $2.29 per hour, nearly :wiee tbe hourly income of the horse team!

The ccst of handling and moving express in a termihail railroad station forms no small part of the total budget of an express company. While the traveller gains the impression of mammoth size as he surveys the enormous terminals in a big city, the fact is that the space allotted for handling merchandise is eften none too large. In most cases the express company must make use of every expedient for handling its business in its re-

! latively cramped quarters. If the trucks used are compact, room can be saved; if speedy, goods can be handled and got out of the way. without being stacked up in the aisles and


Express companies rent their space, generally. from the terminal companies. This rent is high, and any means that enable a company to reduce its rented floor area or carry on an increased business without increasing J this area, make possible an important economy. In addition, there is. of course, the j economy to be derived from operating tindevice itself, if it is more effective than former methods.

¡ The American Express Company in Boston ! has its headquarters at the North Union Sta¡ tion. The floor space at the company’s disj posai is large, but the business which comes in over the nineteen tracks is also large, i Moreover, this business nas increased, while the floor area has not.

Beginning in January, 1912, up to Apni of that year, this concern bought twelve in dustrial trucks. In June, of the same year, it bought two, and during the balance of 1912 it added eight more. In 1913 it added sixteen more, and at the present time it has on order and in course of delivery still twelve more. This will make a fleet of fifty trucks operating under one roof.

Thase trucks have been equipped with dropplatform bodies. This design permits ot the maximum carrying rapacity in compact form The lowered base of the body clears the floor/ by only a few inches. Thus heavy articles can be slid on or off without much lifting. The two raised ends are just the height of the baggage car floors, so that articles can be slid from the car without being lifted. Side boards are provided, which can be attached whenever the load is bulky.

As a result of this installation great economies have been effected. It has been found that one of these trucks, requiring only one man to operate, does the work of two and onehalf hand trucks, each of which.required two men to handle on the level, and often four or ‘ five on inclines. With the considerable increase in express business, the labor charge has remained practically the same, while the merchandising h:»B been handled more satisfactorily. The trucks carry greater loads than men could handle. They take up less room per ton carried. They are safer because of the automatic brakes with which they are equipped. Because of solid rubber tires, little damage is done to fragile merchandise. As the labor is not so hard, the onerator can give more of his energy to handling the freight properly and thus a higher grade of men can be obtained for the week.

The trucks operate at six miles an hour. They steer on all four wheels, and lire able to.manœuver in compact places. For instance, they havé a* turning radius of sixteen feet, but they can twine in and out between posts set only seven feet apart.

Recharging is effectively handled, by keeping four or five spare batteries constantly on hand. An overhead rail extends from the battery station to a distance out in the centre of the charging room. From this rail is suspended a chain, at tbb lower end of which I is n T-shaped shovel, the two arms of which ! point in a horizontal direction.

{ The battery of one of these trucks, con! strurted as it is largely of lead and other j weighty material, ip very heavy. To handle it j by man power would be dangerous. With this • device, however, a battery may be removed ¡ and a fresh one put in its place in about two 1 minutes. As these trucks average about 25 miles every 48 hours, which is just about the ! capacity of a battery charge, they can operate , 47 hours and* 58 minutes out of every 48.

A certain amount of express has to be j hauled daily to the South Station—a distance ! of some two and one-half miles across the city. ¡•Instead of removing this merchandise from the industrialtrudks and packing it into a j regular street truck, it has been found prac. , t ¡cable to run one of these industrial trucks, already loaded, directly on to the body of the street truck, and transport both truck and load across the city. The wheels of the industrial trucks are locked by chaina to prevent

any possibility of their breaking loose and rolling elf.

A double economy is gained by this procedure. Time is saved at the North Station by eliminating the transfer of goods from the industrial to the street truck. The same is true in reverse order at the South Station, where otherwise it would be necessary to unload the street truck and pack the goods a second time, this time on a second industrial truck which would have to be requisitioned at that point.

While the economy of the motor truck as an effective carrier under certain conditions is to-day more or less taken for granted, the problem of applying it in specific instances is often perplexing. From the point of view of expert accounting there are many things to figure before the merchant can conclude whether trucks will cut his delivery costs, and how much. Using horses and wagons, he has to consider such expense items as feed, stable rent, horse-shoeing, harness repair, driver’s pay, wagon repair, veterinary service, insurance, riterest, depreciation. Against the motor ‘:ruck must be charged gasoline, oil, grease, storage, repairs^ tires, interest, depreciation, driver’s pay and the like.

“I have a simple way of deciding." says a successful wholesale and retail provision merchant in a Massachusetts city of about eighty thousand. “Feed and rent vary in different places' I have seen several tables in which horse and motor expense have been compared, and each of these tables tells a different story. I am cnnviiiced at the start that the motor truck ein cut delivery costs if it can be kept busy. The question that I am most interested in, theiefore, is this: Can I keep truckt buey in my butinena? After I have decided that questio:! there will be time to go into the accounting side of it.

“So 1. have devised what I call my ‘yardstick.* ” adds the merchantemdash;who, for convenience, we may call Henderson. “This yardstick Is eooinped with slides, of five different »len ppdse tacks would do just as well—and eacn slide represents five minutes. Hack brown slide representes five minutes spent In loading, each white slide five minute» in traveling at full speed, each gray slide five minutes at half or reduced speed, each green slide five minutes in unloading, each black slide any other delay. Notice these slides represent time and not distance. This is for simplicity. Where distance is involved I can calculate it, because I know the speed of the truck.

“I drew out each delivery route in a straight line, laying my yardstick beside it, I measured i': in units of time consumed. I got some mighty interesting results.

“Route A, for instance, capsed me a lot of disappointment. Here was a trip involving a fairly long haul, and yet the white spaces, the ‘op?n running,’ showed only a bare 25 per cent. o:f the trip. Because of the character of this load an excessive amount of time was spent unloading. Only four stops were made, yet they consumed 65 per cent, of the time. Several possibilities suggested themselves to me. First, by the use of a demountable body I could cut the loading time down to one per cent. This would have been a saving of only nine per cent., and might not have warranted the investment in the extra body. Moreover, the saying of nine per cent, might be represented by an increase of only three or four per cent. jin the actual running time.

"A second possibility was the use of a trailer. TFith the trailer I could hitch up after the loading was all completed and speed out to mt first stopping place. What should I do tbep? If I sent the truck back, how should I move my load to 'the second stopping place? The distance between stops was very short, but. however short, the vehicle could not be mftved by hand. I would either have to make a second trip with the truck—in fact, three or four trips, which would be out of the questi,Dn-^-or else leave the truck there, in which case I would be in the same position as if I used a truck alone.

“A third possibility suggested itself. Why not station a horte at the first delivery point, to take up the work of moving the load on to the tpree remaining stops? I found this would; not pay. as, in addition to the motor servier, it would be tying up a hone all day. and it"would have been expensive to maintain a horse BO far away from my atable base.

“A fourth possibility was to add another helper to the crew of the truck, and thus cut 1 down the delivery time. However, that would I add an extra item of labor, the expenes of which would very nearly equal the saving in time. How 1 solved the problem will appear later. __

“Route B showed up like a winner from the start. My partner had always told me this route would not do for a truck, because there were so many atops on it. My analysis, however, showed that these stops, although numerous, were of short duration, averaging two and one-half minutes each, and the distance between was considerable, giving the truck plenty of opportunity to show its heels. The white spaces, representing open running, showed up strong. In fact, 75 per cent, of the time the truck was making its twelve miles an hour. I put this route down for a truck at oncek

“Route C was of quite another character. Although the time spent in loading was not excessive, and the stops were of as short duration aa in Route A, these atops were very close together. Thus, the total time spent at stops bore a high proportion to the time spent ’ running. Moreover, the actual running time showed up a muddy gray on my yardstick. The truck, when running, was averaging only five or six miles an hour. This was due to two factors: first, the route lay through a congested part of the city; and second, the distance between stops was so short that the truck hardly had time to get up speed before it had to slow down again. Old Dobbin has his route to this day, and I do not see any way of ever making profitable use of a truck on it.

“Route D is one of my pets. When I first laid my yardstick on this route the 'white •paces’ showed only a scant 32 per cent. The indication, of course, was that here was another good place to stick to the horse. This route was peculiar in that the first stop amsumed nearly 25 per cent. of the time. This stop was at a large apratment block and was about half a mile out Trom the store. Following thie stop the route took on the general I character of Route B — that is. there were I several stops but they were short apd aepar! a ted by a lot of open running.

“A nappy thought came to me: I would eliminate the first stop altogether from the route. As this stop was such a short distance from the store, a horse could make it economically, and certainly could much better afford to stand around half the morning than my high-priced motor truck. Route D, as altered, is now as huge a success by motor truck as Route B—which it now resembles—and the time gained by eliminating this big first stop has been used to good advantage by extending the radius several miles and bringing in new buainefia.

“Route E is another disappointment. It is very much like Route D which I have juat dis: cussed; it is ruined by one long delay. You will probably say at once, 'Why not eliminate this delay and turn it over to the horse, as in D?* There happens to be a very good reason why thia cannot be done. Thia delay occurs near the end of the route, and is a long way from the store. In other words, to turn it over to the horse would involve a long haul, a condition which ia practically always unfavorable to the horse. In D it was just the other way. The big delay occurred only five ¡ blocks from the store. A horse was able to reach it .in ten minutes.

“I have, however, speeded up the work of loading and have cut down the time of delivery so that the white spaces show an even fifty per cent Under such conditions I find a truck profitable, although not ao profitable as in Routes B and D.

“Route F ia another one of my favorites. The yardstick at first showed this trip to be one of the worst of the lot. While there was a clear haul of several miles, a large 1 amount of time was spent In loading and still ! more time in delivering. The delivery was made to two places, one taking seven-eighth* of the load and a dealer half a mile farther on the balance.

“There were two delays to be eliminated. The first was the one of loading. This could be reduced to almost nothing by using a i demountable body or a trailer. The second delay, that of delivering, could be solved only by a trailer.