From the Blog

The commercial use of roads


As soon as technology had created cars for personal and family use it wasn’t long before people started to create ways in which business could be created from vehicles using the roads. The most obvious way that this happened was with the creation of the haulage business. Most industrial raw materials and finished good were being transported by train and this was the cheapest way to move the products especially the heaviest ones. The disadvantage with rail travel was that the product would always start and finish at a fixed nodal points. Roads now brought the opportunity for businesses to transport their goods from door to door. Already goods were being delivered on the back of horse drawn carriages and in 1896 Karl Benz built the first truck and up until the First World War trucks were being built that were able to carry gradually heavier loads.

After the war the engines became bigger and the tires changed from rubber to pneumatic. By the 1930s the trucks incorporated power steering and separate cabins and the semi-trailer truck models started to appear. Over the years the lorriy has become bigger and more adaptable. Some are used in the mining industry, some carry huge quantities of oil and others just are used for everyday use such as supplying large supermarket chains with their produce.

Many companies have been created specializing in haulage transport. In the UK one of the largest lorry firms is Eddie Stobart who work from their Carlisle centre. They are famed for the distinctive red and green color of their trucks plus their drivers wearing a collar and tie. Road haulage has been modified with smaller products being transported by vans. The more economical van is ideal to use when transporting lighter products and they are easier to navigate the smaller roads found in urban centres. Their numbers have increased so much that their presence has added to the problems of traffic congestion.

A recognizable London bus

This has led to the stereotypical term “white van man” now being used widely used, especially in the UK. In refers to drivers of the vans who drive carelessly and selfishly on busy roads knowing that if other drivers do not give way they will come out second best, to the bulkier white van at a heavy financial cost. As the lorry has emerged carrying goods, so to have coaches and buses  carrying people. Buses tend to operate within city centres where as the coach is a type of bus that operates over longer distances.

The most recognizable buses in the world are London’s red buses that are used extensively by commuters, shoppers and tourists on a daily basis. There are over 8000 buses operating on 700 different routes and they cover 1.8 billion passenger journeys each year. Coach companies tend to cover the journeys from city to city. In The States Greyhound Lines serve over 3,800 destinations and they began operating in 1914. Today the company has 1229 buses and each year their services cover a distance of 8.8 billion km. The longest route is possibly from Bangor, Maine to Los Angeles which takes over 3 days.

Black taxis waiting for passengers

Another popular form of commercial transport are taxis. The black cab taxis are synonymous with being in London and are also known as hackney carriages with the drivers being separated from their passengers by a glass panel. In order to drive one of these carriages the driver has to pass a special test which is called “The Knowledge”. This involves the driver having to have a specialist knowledge of all of the routes and the general geography of London. There currently over 21,000 qualified black cab drivers in London.

The taxi drivers of New York are also infamous but their vehicles are yellow and green and they are not separated from the passengers. To drive a taxi the driver must possess a medallion and it is estimated there are 51,000 drivers in the city. The drivers are as well known for their personalities as they are for their vehicles. Roads offer countless commercial opportunities to a wide variety of vehicles.