MOTOR VEHICLES AND THE COMMERCIAL TRAVELLER.— Writers on motor subjects indicate the day when motor vehicles will largely solve the difficulties of the commercial traveller. In the old days the commercial traveller did much of his work on the road, taking his samples round in a horse-drawn vehicle, and of course this was a method that could not compete with the advance and development of the railway. Under present conditions the commercial traveller can travel at a maximum of a penny per mile by train, and under these conditions he is practically free from friction. This is true as long as he is unaccompanied by heavy samples or baggage, but directly his samples begin to increase, excess luggage fares, porters, tips, and various incidental expenses increase rapidly, and the total of his travelling expenses ceases to be represented by his railway fare. There is one point, however, in travelling which is overlooked. While travelling by rail may be cheaper than travelling by road in the old-fashioned way, it has still some very great drawbacks. The commercial man has planned his visits to small towns close together, bearing in mind the times at which he arrives and the times at which he must depart. For instance, he may be in a town at 11 o'clock to see two people, and due out of that town at 12.5, and the next train, if he misses that, may not go to his next destination before 2.30 or thereabouts in the afternoon. Obviously it is to his interest to get out of that town on the 12.5 train, and the traveller is often tempted to hurry over his work and to neglect his primary mission of convincing the customer and retaining his patronage, in his desire to catch the train essential to his next journey if he is to properly cover the ground. Every trader knows the traveller who is tied to his time-table, and who begins to fidget and show signs of irritation when he feels that the time he has allotted to the interview is being extended, and yet it is at this point that business for the commercial traveller often becomes most interesting. The loss involved in neglected opportunities through catching trains, by commercial travellers visiting small towns with poor train services, of which there are many in this country, can scarcely be calculated.
One advantage of the motor vehicle is that it is quite independent of the time-table. The five minutes which mean so much to the traveller who has a train to catch can be cheerfully given up by the commercial traveller with a motor vehicle. If the difference between the train to be caught and the train following is an hour or an hour and a half, a quite frequent contin gency, the five minutes extra costs the traveller precisely that amount of time. With a motor vehicle the man can sacrifice the five or ten minutes with the cheerful consciousness of knowing that he is only sacrificing just that necessary time which is spent in pleasing the customer. Then, again, the
motor vehicle as a means of transit for commercial travellers is more con venient than the railway system in districts where towns are frequent. Travelling by rail the representative has to constantly keep on loading and unloading his samples and paying for their porterage in the towns which he visits, and in the districts which most travellers cover he has to do this three to five times per day. By motor vehicle he may carry all the goods necessary and lose no time in making the necessary arrangements. He can run his vehicle up to the shop door without incurring incidental expenses, and when that call is finished lie can go on to the next town, 10, 12, or 15 miles distant, and repeat the process. In this connection the motor vehicle has decided advantages which should be carefully considered by manu facturers who are sending out representatives.
Another point worth noting is that commercial travellers are frequently obliged to completely neglect the small village. The main line services in this country are fairly satisfactory, although they leave much to he desired, but when one comes to calling on small villages, the sacrifice in making the visit in the matter of time is often so great that districts have to be left out of the itinerary altogether. To visit, say, two small villages, which might provide two good orders, between towns 20 miles apart, and taking the two big towns as well, might conceivably take three days, and the commercial traveller simplifies the proposition by taking the two towns in one day and leaving the two villages out altogether. The motor vehicle might very easily take in the whole of the four towns in one day, the journey being progressive, and the time lost in linking these two towns up being practically nil. If it were only for this last advantage of linking up villages with towns and making the journey of the traveller one of easy stages, rather than a question of fitting awkwardly grouped towns to awkwardly arranged time-tables, there would be a case for the motor-car as a valuable adjunct to the resources of the commercial man.
Here is an interesting time-table which was worked out by a motor expert in dealing with this same subject, which should be very suggestive to business men. The itinerary selected shows the traveller journeying from London to Guildford via Epsom, and calling at every station including Haynes Park, and using only one railway—the London & South Western. The traveller is allotted an average of one hour at each place, and is pre sumed to arrive by train at Guildford on the third day, where, by motor-car, he arrives at 4 P.M. the preceding day, a clear gain of live working hours.