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Cost of Wagon Transportation

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COST OF WAGON TRANSPORTATION. The chief financial advantage of hard roads is the decreased cost of transportation. It is proposed to inquire briefly concerning the cost of wagon transportation with a view of determining the proportion of this cost that may be saved by road improvement.

In this connection, a distinction must be made between the cost to those whose chief business is to sell transportation, and the cost to those to whom transportation is a mere incident of a business organized for some other purpose. The first class is represented by a freighter, or a transportation company, and the second by a. farmer or producer. The former maintains his teams and wagons only to transport freight, while ordinarily the latter keeps his teams and wagons primarily for general farm work of which transporta tion on the roads is only a small part. In some cases the traffic to be considered is principally that by freighters, but usually the chief traffic over country roads is that connected with agricultural operations.

Again, consideration should be given only to hauling in which the load is equal to the full capacity of the team for the particular condition of the roads. A farmer may employ a two-horse team to take a bushel of potatoes to town, or a grocery wagon may make a trip to deliver a pound of cheese; but the partial load is entirely independent of the condition of the roads.

Further, it is necessary to notice that only the rate for full loads should be considered. If a number of packages are carried in the same load for different parties, part of the charge is to cover the cost of collection, distribution, possible partial loads, etc.; and there fore only part of the charge is for transportation proper.

5. Cost to Freighters.

The cost will vary greatly with the conditions of the service, i. e., with the character of the road surface, the average grade of the road, the maximum grade, return load, etc.

Except in rare cases, the cost per ton-mile for loads one way upon earth roads will not be more than 25 cents, and ordinarily it will not be more than 15 to 20 cents; * while with easy grades and favorable road surface it may be as low as 10 to 15 cents, and with long hauls, return loads, and favorable road surface, it may be 8 to 10 cents. When the last price is obtained there is little need or opportunity for road improvement.

6. Cost to Farmers.

In this division of the subject, a distinc tion should be made between producers of perishable products and producers of non-perishable products. The first class is represented by gardeners, dairymen, fruit-growers, etc.; and the second, by producers of hay, grain, cotton, etc.

The cost of transportation is much greater for perishable than for non-perishable products. In the first place, the marketing of

perishable products is an unimportant factor in comparison with the cost of production, and frequently necessitates an independent transportation department; while the labor of marketing non perishable products is comparatively small—particularly as in most localities where there is much of this class of produce, the dis tance from the farm to the railroad station is short. Further, perishable products must go to market whatever the condition of the roads, while non-perishable ones can wait for comparatively favorable conditions; and finally, the former frequently go to market in partial loads, and the second usually in full loads. Ex cept in comparatively limited districts, non-perishable products make up the bulk of the traffic on the country roads. According to the U. S. Census of 1890, the gardeners, fruit-growers, dairymen, vine-growers, florists, and nurserymen constitute only 1.8 per cent of the so-called farming class.

7. The cost of transporting perishable products is probably greater than that for any other class of traffic over the country roads; but as it is next to impossible to secure any reliable data no attempt will be made to present any general conclusions. For several reasons, this traffic will usually justify larger expense for road improvement than any other.

The cost of transportation to farmers proper, i. e., producers of non-perishable products, depends chiefly upon the condition of the road surface and upon the demands of general farm work. Loam or clay roads are reasonably good when dry, and are therefore at least passable most of the year; while sand roads are at their worst when dry, and are therefore in their worst condition during the greater part of the year. Fortunately sand roads are less com mon, the country over, than clay or loam roads. In the crop season, with a little choice as to the time of doing the work the cost on fairly level loam or clay roads is probably not more than 10 to 12 cents per ton-mile; and when farm work is not pressing, the cost is not more than 8 to 10 cents per ton-mile.* 8. A Conflicting View. In current literature on road economics, the claim is frequently made that the cost of wagon transportation to the farmer is considerably more than stated in § 6. Apparently most of these claims are based, either directly or indirectly, upon data published in Circular 19 of the Road Inquiry Office of the United States Department of Agriculture. As the general relia bility of the data in that circular is discussed in § 13-19, and the part referring to cost of wagon transportation is considered in § 20-24, the matter will not be discussed here.