A Career In Traffic Management
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
One of the newest professions, and one which is essentially characteristic of the present day, is that of traffic management. This profession is a direct result of present-day, large-scale production, and of the complicated and extensive railroad system by which so many of the products of manufacture are distributed. The need for traffic managers in industry arose from several facts. The growing complexity of the railroad routing and rating systems made necessary some expert, qualified to deal adequately with these matters as they apply to the distribution of goods by industrial concerns. The increasing number of governmental regulations dealing with freight shipments and tariffs has been another factor which has given rise to the need for expert traffic managers.
The traffic manager's duty is to see that products are moved from one place to another by the very best means, which may be taken as meaning in the safest, quickest, cheapest and altogether most serviceable and convenient way. This is but a very broad and general statement of what the traffic manager accomplishes. The actual duties connected with his work are many, and often of a highly technical nature. The traffic manager's work is by no means simple; it is not merely a matter of seeing that goods are transferred from one point to another. It is a matter of studying the output of a firm from the transportation viewpoint, and of so proceeding in the administration of the specific traffic problems that the industry's transportation costs may be reduced to the very lowest possible figure.
In attempting to fulfil these large functions of the position, the traffic manager must undertake various sorts of work, and approach his problems from various angles. His first duty is considered the "classification of line." He must, before any-thing else, analyze the firm's output as it affects the transportation of the product. Such matters as the amount of output, the character of the product—whether it be bulky or of small dimensions, light or heavy in weight, fragile or unbreakable—are all important considerations. Then the style of packing for the various types of articles to be transported must be decided upon, and here not only convenience and economy but legal regulations, too, must be considered. Certain products are supposed to be packed in a certain way. In the case of others, the traffic manager decides whether boxes or wrappers, crates or barrels, are more suitable and at the same time economical. Then the traffic manager standardizes the descriptions to be used on the various commercial papers, to conform with the classifications established by the railroads or other carriers.
The traffic manager also makes a close study of routes. He considers the railroad routes not only from the standpoint of distance covered but also takes into account the large centers through which the road passes, the number of days or hours it takes to transfer goods from one point to another over a certain route, the number of times goods must be transferred from one train or branch road to another, and the general excellence of the service given by the particular railroad under consideration.
Closely connected with this analysis of the firm's output and his investigation of routes is the study of rates. The rates charged for the various classifications of goods must be thoroughly studied and, if the traffic manager finds discrimination against some types of goods, it is his duty to attempt to remedy this, through an adjustment directly with the carrier, or through the intervention of a federal or state utility commission. The traffic manager must also keep himself thoroughly posted on existing tariffs. A close study of tariffs will enable him to see that the industry adjusts itself to impending changes in tariffs or regulations affecting its products, and so avoid loss upon future deliveries called for by contracts.
The proper adjustment of loss and damage claims, the tracing of delayed shipments, the keeping of accurate car records, the checking up of freight charges, the supervision of local trans-port (utilizing the services of teamsters and truckmen), the preparation of bills of lading and other commercial papers, the presenting of evidence and exhibits to public utility commissions in case of rate disputes, the keeping of exact accounts—are all duties of the traffic manager and his assistants. These assistants are tariff clerks, rate clerks, accountants, auditors and other such specialized workers.
The man who can successfully carry on the many varied duties of the traffic manager, never losing sight of their importance and meaning, must be a man with a rather unusual equipment. He must be a man of keen and analytical mind, unusual executive ability, broad vision, sound judgment and with a capacity and willingness to meet new problems daily. The knowledge he brings to his work should be broad and varied, and with it should go a desire to keep on acquiring knowledge, for there is always something new for him to learn.
The very nature of his work means that his education is never completed. However, before he is competent to begin his work, he must have a very intimate knowledge of certain matters. He must be thoroughly acquainted with manufacturing processes and manufacturing costs, and with commercial customs and conditions throughout the world. He must know as much as possible about rates and tariffs, their construction and applications, and the principles underlying rate construction and freight classification. He should also have some knowledge of commercial law, since much of his work is influenced by this, and he should have as comprehensive a knowledge as possible of railroads in general and government regulations applying to railroads. It will be seen, then, that the competent traffic manager must be a highly trained man, and a man who possesses the mental attributes necessary for the pursuit of practically every profession.
The field is so new and so few adequately trained men have entered it, that there are practically unlimited opportunities for the well prepared and capable man. There are thousands of industrial concerns for whom the transportation problem is a vital one. Those who have realized this fact are on the look-out for efficient traffic men. Those who have not yet come to a realization of this new profession's importance will no doubt do so eventually. And so the field is not only new, but it is also large and uncrowded. The work, while it requires constant study and continued effort, is, to the right type of man, very interesting. It gives him opportunity to do useful work of an extensive type, and offers good financial reward. The salaries of traffic managers in large industrial concerns are high, and besides, the position carries with it prestige and influence in the firm.
Traffic managers in industry are concerned with buying the services of railroads. Traffic managers employed by railroad companies are concerned with selling service. They go after business, through solicitation by agents and through advertising. Their work is in some respects similar to that of industrial traffic managers they, too, are interested in routes, rates and tariffs. But of course, they always see the opposite side of the industrial traffic manager's story. The latter works for the benefit of the shipper, while the railroad traffic man works for the benefit of the carrier. He must bring to his work the same sort of knowledge with which the industrial traffic man should be equipped. Besides this, he should have a thorough railroad experience—that is, know general railroad conditions at first hand, and be especially familiar with his own road. Previous experience as a railroad man will be very useful to the railroad traffic manager, as this will give him a more adequate under-standing of shipping problems.
The railway traffic manager should be endowed with a large amount of tact and the ability to influence clients favorably. Questions of service, of adjustments, of claims will arise which will necessitate that he exercise almost equal degrees of firmness and diplomacy. He will have to placate dissatisfied customers, and at the same time make only such concessions as the road can profitably grant. The work requires a man who knows how to deal with people in such a way that both they and the road will be satisfied.
In most cases, railroad traffic managers are trained chiefly in the school of experience, rising to their position from a humbler one in the ranks of railway employees. Sometimes they are men with a college or technical education, who have received some supplementary training in the railroad schools, and have advanced with comparative ease to the position of traffic manager. Often they are men who have started as trainmen and have advanced through ability and training also in the railway school.
Heretofore, many industrial traffic managers have been drawn from among those employed by the railroads. Such men have had to readjust themselves to the different conditions imposed by their new work. They have had to reverse their viewpoint—to look at things now from the shipper's side, instead of from that of the railroad. If a man can successfully adjust himself to the requirements of his new position there is no objection to taking him out of railroad work and putting him into the industrial field. However, as the profession continues to gain recognition, there is no doubt that the increasing number of men who enter it will make it unnecessary for industry to rely upon the railroads to supply it with traffic men.
A third prospect is open to the aspiring traffic manager. In-stead of working for one firm or one railroad, he may be employed to supervise the transportation problems of an entire community. Where a community is engaged, for the most part, in one pursuit, as the raising of cotton, grain or some other agricultural product, or in manufacture of various kinds, a transportation manager who will look out for the common interests and solve the common problems of all the shippers is sometimes employed. Such a man must possess the highest type of executive ability. He must be able to cope with large problems. His work can have results of the greatest importance. In many cases, the marketing problem seems to farmers to be one almost incapable of solution. Farmers all over the country are greatly handicapped because they do not know how to overcome transportation difficulties. A well-trained traffic manager might very often be able to suggest ways and means of reducing transportation costs and of securing better transportation service.
Whether the traffic manager is employed by an industry, a railroad or a group of industries or a community, his work re-mains of the greatest importance. The distribution of goods at a minimum of cost and with a maximum of speed, safety and general convenience means decreased expenses and increased profits for everyone concerned. Especially in a country as large as ours, where goods must be transported over such large areas from the points of production to those of consumption, the traffic manager is a most necessary and influential worker. It is in his power to increase very materially the prosperity of the nation, as well as its comfort and convenience.
BELLIS, HARRY E.: "Manual of Traffic Efficiency," Traffic Publishing Co., Philadelphia, 1916. "Freight Traffic Red Book," Traffic Publishing Co., New York, 1916.
HUNGERFORD, EDWARD : "The Modern Railroad," A. C. McClurg & Co., Chicago, 1911. "The Traffic Field," La Salle Extension University, Chicago, 1919.
Traffic Club Bulletin, Traffic Club of New York, New York. Traffic World, Traffic Service Corp., Inc., Chicago. Traffic gram, Indianapolis Traffic Club, Indianapolis, Ind.