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Title: 'Return Loads' to Increase Transport Resources by Avoiding Waste of Empty Vehicle Running.

Author: United States. Council of National Defense. Highways Transport Committee

Release date: November 11, 2006 [eBook #19757]

Language: English

Original publication: Washington Government Printing Office, 1918

Credits: Produced by Jason Isbell, Bruce Albrecht, Jeannie Howse
and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team at


AUGUST 1, 1918






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"The Council of National Defense approves the widest possible use of the motor truck as a transportation agency, and requests the State Councils of Defense and other State authorities to take all necessary steps to facilitate such means of transportation, removing any regulations that tend to restrict and discourage such use."







To increase the highways transport resources as one of the means of strengthening the entire transportation system of the country, and for the purpose of avoiding the waste incurred by running transport vehicles empty, return-load bureaus are established. These bureaus are a means of bringing together the shipper having goods to move and the operator of an empty vehicle which is possibly running to the point for which the goods to be shipped are destined.

With the cooperation of State councils of defense, chambers of commerce, local war boards, and other organizations the Council of National Defense, through its Highways Transport Committee and its State Councils Section, is building up a system for the efficient utilization of the highways of the country as a means of strengthening the Nation's transportation resources and affording merchants and manufacturers relief from necessary railroad embargoes and delays due to freight congestion.

State Highways Transport Committees are being organized in all States of the Union. The primary functions of the State Highways Transport bodies are the development of the five outstanding activities to which instant attention is being given by the Highways Transport Committee of the National Council of Defense, as follows:

Return Load Bureaus, Rural Express, Cooperation with Federal Railroad Administration, Educational, Transport Operating Efficiency.

These activities encompass, briefly, and in the order named, the following:

Elimination of empty running of trucks by bringing together shipper and truck owner in such way as to provide full loads wherever possible.

Rapid development, over fixed routes, of daily power-vehicle service, with definite schedules of stops and charges and provision made for gathering shipments both on outgoing and incoming trips.

Substitution of adequate truck service that the intracity and short-haul service of rail carriers may be relieved and partially supplanted; the relief of congested terminals, and an effective store-door delivery plan.

Organization of a campaign to place highways transport work throughout the States in its proper light before the public, that the support of the people in favor of national policies may be made certain. To this end an outstanding feature of the work will be enlistment of the support of all users of highways transport.

Making transportation more efficient through encouragement of such use[3] of highways transport as will eliminate making trips with part loads, the loss of time in loading and unloading, and unnecessary delays in the handling of receipts.

By taking part of the burden of the "short haul" off the railroads and placing it on motor trucks operating over the highways, millions of tons of merchandise and materials are transported satisfactorily and the railroads are given much needed relief. The motive power and cars thus freed from short-haul work can be employed in very important long-distance service. The Railroad Administration has indorsed motor transportation for this work and reported that this form of relief will make it possible for the railroads to operate more effectively under the present traffic congestion; hence shippers using the highways are assisting in the solution of transportation problems and rendering a patriotic service. It is also to be noted that if shippers use the highways for short hauls and thus relieve the railroads of a burden, they assist in improving general conditions so that they will indirectly benefit by having more prompt service on long-distance shipments.

Dependability of Highways Transportation Proven.

The practicability and dependability of highway haulage between neighboring cities has been demonstrated fully. Hundreds of local and intercity motor express lines are in successful operation in widely scattered sections of the country. The return-load bureau system has been installed in England, where it is now considered unpatriotic to run a truck without a load. Manchester, England, for example, and all the surrounding cities were among the first to start return-load bureaus and have reciprocal arrangements whereby they exchange information regarding available trucks and loads.

Much of the short-haul freight is carried on the highways by motor trucks. It is picked up at the door of the shipper and delivered at the door of the consignee, entailing only two handlings. It is delivered the same day it is shipped, which for certain commodities is the rapidity of transport desired. Frequently after motor trucks deliver a load, they return empty, whereas there are shippers who would avail themselves of the opportunity to send a load on such a truck to its home town. On the other hand, the truck owner would like to obtain a return load because the charge for it would reduce his own haulage cost. To bring the shipper and truck owner together serves the interests of both, hence the return-load bureaus are of mutual benefit. These bureaus are nonmoney-making patriotic organizations deserving of the support of shippers whom they serve unselfishly.

Return-Load Bureaus Listed in Telephone Directories.

In many cities the telephone companies have listed the return-load bureaus under the title "Return loads" in the local directories. By calling "Return loads" or the telephone number of the bureau, shippers can learn where trucks may be obtained to carry loads to points which the shipper wishes to reach quickly. In many cities there are motor express lines operating on daily schedule over regular routes, but there are also many companies, firms, and individuals that own trucks which stand idle part of the time. The return-load bureaus list these trucks and can place them at the service of the shippers on short notice.

[4]There may be many transportation problems confronting shippers, especially during the winter period, when it is difficult for the railroads to operate at maximum efficiency due to weather conditions. There is, however, no period in the year when the judicious use of the highways can not be of service both to the country and its shippers. It is suggested that a contact be made with the traffic manager of the local return-load bureau and the possibilities of this type of transportation studied. Preparedness is proportionately of as much benefit to the individual as to the Nation, and if consideration is now given by the shippers to the few problems that may be confronting them in connection with highway transportation, they will be in a position to profit by this form of transportation when the needs arise.

It is the purpose of the Highways Transport Committee to bring about as quickly as possible an organization of return-load bureaus in all States where it will be beneficial to establish reciprocal relations. In the meantime shipments can be made over those routes which have been designated for highway transportation. Motor trucks are a part of the transportation equipment of every community, and to increase their transport capacity they should operate continuously under full loads as far as possible. This is also in the interests of conservation, in that they do not "wear the road without the load," and effect a saving of the equipment and incidental supplies. Shippers can be of considerable assistance in making efficient this war-time measure by cooperating with the return-load bureaus. Shippers are urged to give as much advance notice as possible, so that the bureaus may notify those in other cities in time to arrange for loads for motor trucks on return trips.

Since transportation problems have greatly multiplied, due to the demands made upon the railways, waterways, etc., the one source left open for quick expansion is the highway. Manufacturers, merchants, and others interested in the shipment of materials and supplies of all kinds should give this form of transportation careful consideration and encourage the work of return-load bureaus. Shippers should realize the vital importance of patronizing these bureaus, which are so unselfishly rendering a great service, as the expenses of each bureau are cared for by the local community or organization where the bureau is located.

In many cases highway transportation costs less than rail express rates, while in some cases it is slightly in excess, but, regardless of rates, highway transportation is a war-time measure. Shippers derive great benefits from the quick movement of merchandise by rail over long distances, due to the relief the railroads receive as the result of short hauls being taken care of by motor trucks. Shippers thus directly assist in the solution of their own transportation problems by using the highways.

We are always interested in receiving suggestions regarding the operation of return-load bureaus, or suggested need for such a bureau where one is not already to be found. These communications should properly be directed to the highways transport committee of the State council of defense, or to the Highways Transport Committee, Council of National Defense, 944 Munsey Building, Washington, D.C.