Eustis , John R.,"The Growth Of Rural Motor Express", The Independent, vol. 99, 1919

page 406

transcription / facsimile news article

The Growth of Rural Motor Express

By John R. Eustis

           Underwood & Underwood        
  Army trucks are utilized for direct    
farmer-to-consumer service in the Post   
 Office's attempt to lower the cost of   

INAUGURATED in the war emergency as a means of more closely connecting the producer on the farm with the consumer in the towns and cities, Rural Motor Express is continuing to develop and expand under peace- time conditions. In fact its progress is so widespread and rapid that even the agencies which promoted it are astounded by the results. Of the many movements started during the war by governmental and semi- governmental agencies none other has continued so well with the cessation of hostilities; and in the general field of motor transportation Rural Motor Express is easily the most active, the most promising today. The number of Rural Motor Express lines is already counted by the hundreds; and they are established in every state, almost in every county, from the Atlantic to the Pacific and from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico.

An example of the support already forthcoming for Rural Motor Express is found in the recent action of Governor Smith of New York in appointing a committee to "promote motor express services to move the perishable farm produce soon to be harvested." This action followed an urgent recommendation by the New York State Reconstruction Commission and it is significant that this is one of the first recommendations, and the most important, made by the commission to date. In its report the commission stated that after investigation and study it had "come to the conclusion that so many demonstrations have been made of the efficiency of Rural Motor Express since the beginning of the war that the state may safely lend encouragement to the movement." The report also stated that inquiries had been made by the commission of farmers thruout the state and that almost universal endorsement had been forthcoming from every county.

In its report the New York State Reconstruction Commission quoted former Federal Food Administrator Hoover to the effect that 50 per cent of the perishable foodstuffs produced in this country were wasted largely thru the lack of adequate transportation facilities and it was for the purpose of saving such foodstuffs in New York State that the recommendation for Rural Motor Express was made. Analyzing existing conditions, the report says: "The farmer cannot profitably produce perishable foodstuffs unless he can get them promptly to market. The owner of a large truck farm or poultry plant near a city may be able to afford to purchase and operate one or more motor trucks of his own to get his products to market, even tho the vehicle is used only a few months each year. The small farmer, however, has to go to an expense of time and labor to get his foodstuffs to market that in many instances takes away the profit from the sale. By a lack of easy and reliable means of sending small quantities of produce to market he is discouraged from raising anything he cannot sell in large quantities and from attempting to market the surplus of perishable foodstuffs he may have above his own needs. His attention must be given to his fields if he is to secure a production that will pay."

The members of the committee appointed by Governor Smith to promote Rural Motor Express in New York State are former Representative Peter G. Ten Eyck, chairman; Frederick C. Green, State Highway Commissioner; Professor E. Boyle, of the State College of Agriculture; William E. Dona, chairman of the Council of Farms and Markets; and F. W. Fenn, secretary of the Rural Motor Express Committee of the National Automobile Chamber of Commerce. Incidentally Mr. Fenn and his chief, Samuel A. Miles, have been largely responsible for the rapid development of Rural Motor Express in this country, for it was to their committee that the Highways Transport Committee of the Council of National Defense well over a year ago intrusted the promotion of Rural Motor Express thruout the United States.

The plan of action laid down by the new committee is as follows:

First. To secure the cooperation of existing governmental agencies, including county farm bureau managers municipal officials and state departments, together with organizations of farmers, food distributors and consumers, in formulating a program for development of Rural Motor Express routes in the localities of the state where they will aid most in giving the farmer a more direct outlet for his produce and in supplementing the existing transportation facilities.

Second. To coordinate the state's policy of highway construction and improvement as far as possible with the needs of this program.

Third. To stimulate interest in the development of rural motor truck transportation, give publicity to the public utility of motor express services, and furnish authentic information regarding the conditions under which it may be profitable and of greatest value.

Fourth. To recommend to the Governor any legislation or regulation that may be necessary to protect the interests of the public in the operation of motor express lines.

This plan and the personnel of the new committee both give high promise that the work will be carried on intelligently and effectively. That part of the plan which deals with the matter of highway construction and improvement is especially interesting, because highway policies largely thru the effort of automobile interests, are now generally directed toward providing thru routes of travel, rather than connecting up agricultural districts with their nearby markets or with shipping points on the lines of railroads and water carriers. The principal handicap encountered in the operation of motor express lines thru rural territory is the lack of good hard roads. Without them efficiency in motor transportation is unobtainable, with the result that high rates are necessary to cover increased fuel consumption and undue wear and tear on the trucks. Thus the further development of Rural Motor Express is closely associated with the improvement of roads over which farm produce is to be moved, rather than on the routes which motorists travel.

A few over eight hundred Rural Motor Express lines have been tabulated to date, but undoubtedly many others are in operation in out of the way sections of this country, and the number is added to almost daily. In some instances these lines have been in operation for several years, in one case at least for twelve years. However, the real growth and development began with the emergency requirements of the war. In previous articles in The Independent the writer has discussed in some detail the service rendered by these motor transport lines in various sections of the country and the varied character of the loads carried. One of their most important services is the carrying of live stock to the stock yards, the total number of head thus transported now being counted annually by the million. The South Omaha, Nebraska, stock yards, for example, in 1918 received over a quarter million head of live stock via motor truck direct from the farmers. This represents an increase over 1917 of 300 per cent.

One factor which is contributing a favorable influence to the growth of Rural Motor Express is the attitude of the railroads and express companies toward it. Both seemingly welcome the advent of Rural Motor Express as a solution of their unprofitable short haul business.

New York