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traffic manager must be an ex-railroad man of more or less thoro training, who has a somewhat superficial knowledge of freight rates, some familiarity with packing requirements and classification rules, and the ability to audit freight bills with more or less exactitude.
This view is entirely too superficial and even incorrect. Many of the foremost traffic men are those who have had no previous railroad connections. The value of practical training of this kind is not to be discounted, but the idea or suggestion that it is a controlling factor is to be combatted vigorously.
In an address before a chamber of commerce, a speaker made this very significant statement:
The business which rates its traffic manager as a statistical clerk or as a glorified truckman is hopelessly behind the times ; and so long as the need of a traffic manager is based upon the idea that a rather limited knowledge of traffic is all that is essential, that the location of an occasional overcharge on a freight bill, or the collection of a few loss and damage claims is all that is required, the work and necessity of a traffic manager have not been recognized or appreciated.
Big problems require the efforts of big men. Let us consider the magnitude of the plant that confronts the traffic manager of to-day.
The population of the United States is estimated to be in excess of 100,000,000, distributed over a land area of approximately 3,000,000 square miles. To appreciate the vastness of this land area, comparisons are
are essential. Austria-Hungary does not cover the state of Texas. France is contained within the states of Arizona and Utah. Belgium accounts for a small corner of the state of California, while Germany does not equal the area of the Central Freight Association and the Trunk Line Freight Association rate territories.
According to recent figures there are approximately 132,000 post offices in this country, which are classified according to population as follows:
A great many of the points indicated as post offices are, from a transportation standpoint, designated as "inland stations” because they are not reached directly by a transportation line. It is roughly estimated that 90,000 places are served by railroad or other transportation companies.
The census shows 46.3 per cent of our population as urban residents, the remainder–53.7 per cent, as rural population. Urban centers are not self-sustaining; that is to say, they rely wholly or in part on the rural districts for the absolute necessities of life.
It has been stated that were New York, Chicago, Boston, or any other large city deprived of its means of communication with the interior, the pinch of hunger would be felt within seventy-two hours and that within a week famine would stalk rampant. The fuel shortages, heatless Mondays, recently experienced in this country, followed not so much in consequence of a shortage in production, but in consequence of a breakdown of the transportation machines, the shortage of cars and motive power, and an unusually rigorous winter.
Binding together these rural and urban centers, the greatest transportation system ever known has come into existence. Giant cars of 40 to 100 tons capacity and monster locomotives transport incredible quantities of stuffs across the continent at a surprising speed, thus annihilating distance, and placing the extremes of the country in close communication with each other. This gigantic plant consists of 250,000 miles of steel rails, 67,000 locomotives, and over two million cars.
Connected with the actual operation of this plant, there is a vast army of workers. The figures of the Interstate Commerce Commission for the year ended June 30, 1916, show that the railroad companies paid a sum exceeding $1,403,000,000 to more than 1,654,000 employees. Reckoning with these workers of allied industries such as railway supply manufacturers, car and locomotive builders, coal miners, lumber men and the like, it is stated that one person out of every fifteen of our adult population is directly or indirectly dependent upon the success of the transportation industry for his or her livelihood.
The labor cost of the transportation industry is gigantic. More than forty cents out of every dollar that the railroad companies receive for transportation is paid out by them in the form of wages to employees.
By means of collective bargaining, employees of the operating department, such as engineers, firemen,
and other trainmen, have succeeded in establishing wage scales which have made them "aristocrats" of labor.
Unfortunately the positions of agents at the smaller stations and of clerks in the larger stations have not paid sufficient remuneration to attract a competent class of employees or to retain those that were secured. The present improved financial condition of the railroads, due to increased efficiency, the elimination of waste, and the authorized increase in transportation charges, will no doubt result in the adequate compensation of this class of employees.
The greatest problem in the American transportation plant has always been the rate of charge. The owners thru the officers of the companies desire to protect the investment and to secure as large returns possible for betterment
betterment and dividends. The shipping public naturally wishes to purchase transportation for as low a figure as possible. The government is mediator in this situation, preventing as far as possible, and adjusting when necessary, questions of discrimination.
During the early days of railway construction and operation, and for many years thereafter, each railway company was a law unto itself. Rules and regulations were established to govern the transportation of persons and property over such lines without regard to the practice on connecting lines, or lines in the same territory.
Later, these small lines were consolidated into larger lines or into thru routes which were operated under a common control, but the same policy was continued. Each line or route was a law unto itself. Still later, these competitive routes came to a realization of a unity of interest and formed associations to promote the welfare of the member lines, and each one of these associations became a law unto itself, and to a very large degree this is the situation to-day.
Uniform practice in any work is desirable, perhaps more so in transportation than in many others. Taking first the most elementary item of freight transportation, that is, the classification of goods offered for transportation, a most unsatisfactory condition exists. It is a direct outgrowth of the desire of roads, routes, or associations, to be paramount in their particular province.
It is stated by an eminent authority that there were at one time 138 distinct classifications in Eastern Trunk Line Territory, and that up to a short time before the passage of the Act to Regulate Commerce (1887) there were 130. The grievance of the shipping public was the lack of unity in the classifications of merchandise. There were differences (1) in the articles actually described; (2) in the description of such articles as were described; (3) in packing requirements; (4) in carload minimum weights; (5) in ratings; and (6) in rules and regulations.
; Under such conditions the shipper of dry goods, for example, could not understand why, in one case, his goods took a first-class rate, and in another, a second-class; why, if it was permissible to ship in bales in one case, he could not in all others; why, if a carload rate was applied to quantities of 10,000 pounds in one instance, 20,000 or 30,000 pounds should be demanded in others; why, if he should be given store-door delivery in Baltimore, he should be required to pay trucking costs in New York, Boston, or elsewhere; why, if a classification differentiated between