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Farewell and best wishes

My first involvement with the logistics sector started when I joined the Freight Transport Association in July 1975 as an assistant regional secretary. In those days we were talking about drivers’ logbooks and introducing a new ‘chart style’ version that required drivers to draw nice neat lines showing what they had been doing.

Another piece of legislation that came into force while I was at the FTA were the rules on ‘Admission to the Occupation’. These brought the concepts of good repute, financial standing and professional competence to the industry; with the latter introducing the CPC for transport managers. I was involved in establishing the FTA’s first CPC courses and in fact actually passed the very first exam. Following 12 years at the FTA, I started with the RHA as district manager of the Darlington office in July 1987.

One big feature of the RHA in those days was TipCon, a major event for the tipper industry, which had been held in Harrogate for many years. This eventually became our contribution to the partnership that operates the CV Show, largely as a result of pressure from vehicle manufacturers, who only wanted one show per year. The SMMT and IRTE ran their own shows at the time, and threw their hats in with us. Another key activity was an annual conference, which was always held aboard. The first one that I attended was in Madeira (See photo), and we went to every part of Europe and even subsequently went as far afield as California and Florida – where over 500 people attended. The Conference was made possible by real competition between the vehicle manufacturers, who paid up to £250,000 in sponsorship for a week in the sun with a captive audience!

At that time the RHA was a very different to the organisation than it is today. For a start we had some 18,000 members, with the vast majority of the extra numbers being owner-drivers. We had seven ‘District’ offices scattered round the UK – the result of a previous consolidation.

We negotiated drivers’ wages in many parts of the country, but the RHA provided few of the services we do today. Then commercial activity was mainly related to sales of drivers’ record books (the predecessor to the tachograph), so the vast majority of our income was derived from membership fees.

There were a number of legal aid funding schemes, but they were non-profit making. Over the next few years, the various Districts independently started to introduce revenue-earning schemes. Contracts of employment, training and tachograph analysis were the first proper ventures into the commercial world. These moves were almost always resisted by vested interests within the membership, but slowly they built up a decent clientele.

To my mind, the big change came in August 1994, when the seven districts became four regions and a real momentum behind commercialisation built up. A more structured approach was developed, with moves towards centralising the RHA’s main services, starting with the Haulier’s Shop, followed by RHA Training at Peterborough. The first central member recruitment team was established there in 2000. Also during this period, we saw significant growth in the RHA “Business Partner” concept, which built on the RHA LawPlan model. This centralised legal insurance scheme was developed out of the merger of the various local legal aid schemes.

At the same time that the regions were established, there was a significant change in the governance of the RHA. The Regional Councils were formed and the National Council was abolished.

As chief executive for the last five years, I added to this change. Moving the office of the chief executive, the finance and marketing functions to the commercial hub at Peterborough and selling the headquarters office in Weybridge was the most significant.

This decision was driven by a financial imperative, as were other actions such as the sale of the Bristol office on Cribbs Causeway. But the RHA is now in much better shape than it was at the beginning of 2009.

The last two years have seen steady expansion, enabling us to: invest in the refurbishment of our Peterborough building; buy a new office for the staff in Bristol that will include a training facility; expand our shop activities extensively by the purchase of a warehouse and commit to a new IT System fit for the demands of a modern RHA and 21st Century commercial enterprise.

My one regret is that I did not develop the potential of RHA’s specialist groups. They remain a ‘rough diamond’ and are a tremendous asset. And there is enormous scope for their expansion and as a consequence expansion of the RHA as a whole.

To my mind it is ridiculous that they operate largely in isolation from the rest of the RHA and it is nothing short of scandalous that one of them sits on a six-figure sum of money but does not use it to the members’ benefit. I hope that my successor can address this.

Having said that, the RHA is generally in very good shape and I look forward to seeing how Richard Burnett takes us forward. There is no doubt in my mind that we need a fresh pair of eyes to look at the organisation and to shape our strategy and I wish the Association all the best for the future. I have no doubt that it will go from strength to strength.

 

Geoff Dunning

Haulage rates…Unreasonable penalty charges and getting paid!

 

There has been a fair amount of coverage in the trade press recently relating to major haulage users who unilaterally extend payment terms, effectively using their transport suppliers as banks.

This is totally unreasonable and we urge members to resist this sort of action. As if that is not bad enough, there are also more and more cases of delivery and collection sites imposing charges of up to £1,000 because of the alleged failure of the carrier to be there on time; present a load in sound condition or some other issue such as the driver having a bad haircut.

Again, we urge members to resist having to make these payments unless there is a reasonable case for doing so and there is a similar arrangement when the third party causes delays to your vehicle.

For far too long we have simply accepted unreasonable impositions that add cost without any compensation in the form of increased haulage rates. But now we are getting more and more examples of a shortage of vehicles, with customers – increasingly acting through clearing houses – having to ring round to find someone with vehicles available. Do not accept rates that you are not happy with and do not accept unreasonable penalty charges unless there are clear and documented arrangements for payments when there are delays to your vehicles.

Returning to the issue of getting paid, there is a little light at the end of the tunnel, in the shape of moral support at least, from the Government, which recognises that many large customers do not treat their suppliers reasonably and are trying to encourage a prompt payment culture. There is a Bill in Parliament – the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Bill – which includes provisions that directly apply to large public sector contracts and will require larger companies to make a declaration about their payment performance. It has been the case for some time that Government contracts include a prompt payment arrangement but that approach rarely cascades down the supply chain beyond the prime contract holder. There is now some hope that we will see that change, with hauliers involved in work related to major public contracts getting paid promptly. The other provision – regarding companies reporting their payment performance does not guarantee quicker payment but it should help to develop a new payment culture. We certainly hope so. The fact is that a large proportion of your costs have to be paid out long before you receive payment from your customer – with fuel and wages being obvious – and delaying these payments is not an option.

Clearly the decisions to accept any given rate or payment period is a commercial one, and one that has to be left to individual operators, but bear in mind the fact that the cost of financing your business will increase if your customer takes longer to pay and that increased cost should be reflected in the haulage rates that you charge. Supply and demand is such that there are opportunities to stick to your guns on rates – don’t accept anything less than you believe to be the right rate for the job.

 

Geoff Dunning

RHA Annual Lunch – a great success!

Our Annual Lunch, held at the Park Lane Hotel on Piccadilly on Thursday, 16th May was a great success.

I have received several comments to the effect that it was the “best ever” and I have to say that I agree with them. Events such as this rely on a number of elements for them to work and firstly, this year we had an excellent venue, which provided the perfect setting and delivered high quality food and service. We also had an excellent line up of speakers, with the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander MP and the England Grand Slam winner and British Lions rugby star, Martin Bayfield, providing serious and entertaining speeches. This no doubt had a major influence on the next factor, which was a sell-out audience filling the Park Lane’s ballroom with over 320 guests, including a number of prominent invited guests, such Sir Peter Hendy from Transport for London, Peter Shaw and Mike Hawes representing our CV Show partners SOE/IRTE and SMMT respectively, Rob Flello, Chair of the All Party Freight Group and Theo de Pencier from FTA.

So the stage was set for a great day and every expectation was fulfilled, starting with an excellent address by Danny Alexander, who paid tribute to the RHA for its effectiveness in representing our members’ interests, saying: “…Geoff and his team made absolutely sure that, I was under no illusion about just how important fuel price and fuel price stability is to your industry.”  He also recognised the leading role that we had played in pressing for action to impose charges on foreign trucks and urged the RHA to continue to draw to the Government’s attention those parts of our motorway and road network that cause the worst problems because: “…where traffic slows down, our economy slows down.” Our second invited speaker was Martin Bayfield. At six feet ten inches tall, Martin creates an immediate impression wherever he goes, but it was his presentation that made the most impact on his fellow guests. His stories from both police service and playing for England and the Lions were simply hilarious and his whole performance was immensely entertaining. If ever you get an opportunity to hear him – take it.

Our National Chairman, Peter Barber took the opportunity to recognise the hard work of the staff, the commitment of our members and the support of his fellow members on the Board of Directors. He went on to say: “The RHA as a whole and we, as individual hauliers, need to be clear about our role in the economy and how we will contribute in the future and the RHA will be sending a clear message to that effect.”

Peter concluded by announcing my own retirement date, generously crediting me with getting the association into the strong position that it is today and presenting my wife Sandra with a fabulous bouquet of flowers – to loud applause and the occasional wolf whistle! I will be leaving at the end of August and will have more to say about my departure next month.

 

Geoff Dunning

Two major RHA events

 

I hope that a large number of members will see the benefits of attending the Commercial Vehicle Show at the NEC in Birmingham this year.

Taking place from 29 April to 1 May, this year’s event will showcase a very wide selection of products and services from the full range of suppliers, large and small, so you are certain to find something of value. The RHA has two interests in the show – as part-owners together with the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders and the Institute of Road Transport Engineers, and as exhibitors.

As far as the former is concerned, we are delighted to see there is an increase of about 10% in both the number of exhibitors and the space taken, so we will be filling Halls 3a, 4 and 5 with an excellent range of stands. Mercedes-Benz, Iveco, Renault Trucks and MAN are all exhibiting together with van manufacturers including Ford and Vauxhall, so vehicle makers are well represented, as are bodybuilders such as Montracon.

And then there are the smaller stands covering everything from spares to training, bringing the total number of exhibitors to about 450. Many members will find displays of ERF and Foden restored vehicles of interest as they add a different dimension to the show. It will also be a pleasure to welcome a number of guests, especially the Secretary of State for Transport Stephen Hammond MP and Chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Freight Transport, Rob Flello MP – both of whom have expressed an interest in touring the show.

As far as our own stand is concerned, we will be showcasing the three aspects of the RHA: the trade association, our campaigning activities and the full range of commercial services we have available. There are several new developments for members, including our new tachograph analysis service and RHA Smart Test, in which we have partnered with ScreenSafe, leading experts in the provision of drug, alcohol and other harmful substance testing.

Staff will be on hand to explain the full range of RHA activities, including our involvement with FairFuelUK, which has successfully campaigned on the issues of fuel duty – resulting in a 1p per litre reduction and the government agreeing to freeze duty for the life of this parliament. Other campaigning subjects include the difficult issue of the relationship between trucks and bicycles, the excellent working relationship that we have with our Traffic Commissioners and our discussions with DVSA (formerly VOSA) on their enforcement strategy.

This is also an opportunity to remind members that the RHA Annual Lunch will take place at the Park Lane Hotel in Piccadilly on Thursday 15 May. We are pleased and honoured to have as our principal guest the Right Honourable Danny Alexander MP, chief secretary to the Treasury, who will no doubt have much to say to his fellow guests about the government’s approach to the taxation of fuel, as well as other policy issues.

 

Geoff Dunning

 

Peter Shakespeare says: “We need helpful intervention not bad”

The chair of the Parliamentary Freight Transport Group has issued a press release, rubbishing a EU driven proposal to cut pollution by imposing a 60mph speed limit on the 32-mile stretch of the M1 between junctions 28 and 35a.

Rob Flello MP said the proposal was ‘deeply flawed and would cause far more damage than benefit’.

He said:  “I can’t see BMW drivers from Bonn having to observe a speed limit on the autobahn and yet Mr and Mrs Smith from Leicester will be forced to trundle up the M1 at 60mph.”

Flello spoke out after the Highways Agency (HA) launched a consultation on the scheme. The HA claims the existing 70mph limit is having ‘adverse effects on air quality’ and that cutting it would reduce emissions.

It also said the new limit would deliver ‘reduced congestion, increased capacity and improved journey time reliability’.

The agency said the restriction would apply from 7am to 7pm all week and was likely to remain for ‘several years’.

In a letter to the Government, Flello said: “The proposed speed restrictions will increase congestion on this critical route, increasing air pollution and harming both the regional and national economy.

“They also fail to take into account the development of new engine technology which is making both private and commercial vehicles cleaner and more efficient.”

The MP, who represents Stoke-on-Trent South, said ministers should instead meet commercial vehicle manufacturers and focus on cutting congestion.

His concerns, backed apparently by much of the transport industry, are shared by the RAC, which has warned that they could ‘pave the way for similar restrictions on other sections of motorway’.

Meanwhile in Scotland, legislators have finally seen the light and have approved a hard fought bid – principally driven by the RHA – to trial a 50mph speed limit for HGVs on the single carriageway sections of the A9 between Perth and Inverness. Evidence from a similar exercise in New Zealand, presented to the Scottish Government by the RHA, showed that the increase from 40mpg improved road safety and reduced emissions.

We all know that once the speed limit signs are turned on managed stretches of motorways, everything grinds to a halt as the snake like traffic flow adjusts its speed. Everyone then vies for position, changes lanes and generates more congestion. The extra and unnecessary exhaust fumes being pumped out become palpable. The answer to maximum engine efficiency and low emissions is optimal engine temperature, constant revolutions and driving in a low gear. This is only possible if traffic is free flowing and not all bunched up at the same speed. Rob Flello is spot on when he suggests our legislators go and speak to the truck manufacturers for a lesson on automotive engine technology. After all they have just spent £billions on achieving the highest emissions standards possible.

Not only is this 60mph proposal a knee jerk reaction, it is dangerous. Once the speed and environmental Nimbies get hold of this they will be calling for a blanket 60mpg limit on all motorways. And the frightening thing is significant numbers of the ill informed public and press will support it.

Personally I would like to see the speed limit on motorways raised to 80mph, along with a national increase to 50mph on single carriage A-roads for HGVs. If the Government wants to do something really effective to reduce emissions from traffic, it should re-introduce the scrappage scheme for old vehicles – this time to include HGVs – and as Rob Flello says, invest in the infrastructure so the traffic keeps moving.

RHA Benevolent Fund

Not many people realise that besides helping hauliers in membership, the Road Haulage Association also has a charity. The RHA Benevolent Fund was set up to help people who have fallen on hard times and need some financial assistance to make ends meet or to improve their quality of life. When applying for assistance, the main criteria of the fund is that the applicant has worked for a member or an ex-member of the RHA or that they are a dependant of someone who worked for a member or ex member. It is not just for drivers but any member of staff.

Over the last few years we have found that many people don’t even know that the fund exists. However we hope, through this article, to help raise the profile of the Benevolent Fund as more outside bodies apply for assistance than actual members helping employees or ex-employees.

Over many years we have helped people with medical related issues, carpets, school uniforms, electric powered vehicles, funeral expenses, council tax, utility bill arrears, home repairs and many other things.

We have helped a young lady who took part in last year’s London Paralympics. She attained a Bronze Medal for all her hard work. We have also helped a driver who in his mid-twenties was paralysed in a road accident. We helped adapt a van so he could work as a delivery driver.

In the last few weeks the fund has made its biggest award yet to help an ex haulier who has suffered a massive brain stem stroke; leaving him unable to use his legs, along with other major life changing conditions. We have funded widening doors, a hoist and other alterations at his home to make life easier for him and his family.

There are many more instances where this financial assistance has already made a difference and there will be many more to come. The fund depends almost entirely for its ability to show benevolence on generous financial support from members.  Every year many donate when they renew their membership and in a number of instances, a more substantial donation is gratefully received. Over the years this has amounted to many hundreds of thousands of pounds!

Other ways to help are from employees through a payroll giving scheme and from the “Centurions Scheme.”  Each “centurion” pays £100 membership a year and every month a draw takes place with a 1st Prize of £125, 2nd Prize of £75 and a 3rd Prize of £50. Every June the top prize is £500!

If anyone is interested and wants details of any of the above ways to donate to the RHA Benevolent Fund then please feel free to contact us at the office at Ingliston. You never know who will need help in the future.

If you know of someone who may benefit from some help, send an e mail to p.glancey@rha.uk.net or write for an application form to Road Haulage Association Benevolent Fund, Roadway House, The Rural Centre, Ingliston, Newbridge, EH28 8NZ.

We would be delighted to hear from you.

Positive end to the year

I am feeling very positive, as the end of another interesting and challenging year, rapidly approaches. And from what I hear, so are members.

The RHA is still tackling the ever-present challenges of keeping a lid of fuel duty, fairer regulation and enforcement and protecting compliant professional hauliers from the less diligent in our industry. And on a daily basis it continues to represent members’ interests as new issues come to the fore, both nationally and locally.

Thanks to a more buoyant economy members are now hopefully returning to a position, where they can start investing in their businesses again. If the results of recent press tests are born out in daily operation, Euro 6 is not the demon everyone feared it would be. Buy a new truck today and that is what will be delivered and it seems the manufacturers have developed a range of add-ons, which will help operators to be more profitable and compliant. Next year’s CV Show (29 April to 1 May) will help you make the best buying decision for your operation.

As I see it the biggest challenge we will face next year, and potentially over the next few years, are the Driver CPC five-year periodic training deadlines. From September 10th 2014, if your drivers are not in possession of a Driver Qualification card, and are stopped by the police or VOSA driving an LGV professionally, they are – with a few exceptions – breaking the law. And as the O Licence holder, you will be held responsible by the Traffic Commissioners for permitting them to do so.

After your O Licence, your drivers are your most prized assets and there is nowhere better to invest. After all what is the point of a nice contract and a fleet of shiny new Euro 6 trucks, if you don’t have anyone to drive them? Recent DSA figures show that there is still a long way to go, in terms of periodic training, to ensure the driver population is DCPC compliant by next September. If you need help RHA Training offers some excellent cost effective periodic training courses.  It is inevitable that the industry will lose some older drivers next year, so it vital that we retain and train the remainder.

And finally I would like to publically thank and congratulate the RHA’s director for Scotland and Northern Ireland, Phil Flanders, for a job well done.

Sadly Phil leaves the RHA at the end of this month after 15 year’s loyal service. Phil’s role differs from our other regional directors in that the director for Scotland & Northern Ireland has to contend with the differences in policy and legislation at the devolved governments of two countries and represents his members’ interests personally without the help of a large policy team. Phil has done sterling work on behalf of members and I was delighted that his efforts were recognised at the recent Scottish Transport News Rewards. In his spare time Phil is also passionate about the plight of Elephants in the Far East and has raised over £10,000 to help sanctuaries in Thailand. On behalf of staff and members, good luck and thank you.

Geoff Dunning

The Members’ Voice

One feature of the RHA that receives little – perhaps too little – attention is the large number of members who contribute to the work of the Association through its various committees, councils and our board of directors. There are hundreds of people representing members large and small from the length and breadth of the country, with dozens of RHA meetings being held every month. The ultimate governing body of the RHA is our board of directors, which is made up of three elected representatives from each of our four regional councils, plus the immediate past chairman, and meetings are attended by myself, plus the directors of finance, operations and policy in a non-voting capacity.

The board’s main role is the overall supervision of the executive team, with an understandable focus on the RHA’s finances; so a large proportion of the regular bi-monthly meetings are taken up by careful review of our management accounts. Latterly, the board has been considering the prospects for 2014 and in November it will approve our budget for next year. Another key aspect of the board’s work is the determination of policy in respect of the wide range of issues that confront this industry, such as the FORS scheme in London, fuel duty – including the issue of rebated fuel and the growing issue of cycle safety.

The RHA’s four councils are made up of elected members, plus nominees from our specialist groups and from our largest members. This ensures a good mix of individuals and interests, and results in enthusiastic and at times heated debate on a very wide range of subjects from local highway problems such as diversions caused by road works, to national matters including Her Majesty’s Revenue and Custom’s attitude towards tax free subsistence payments. The councils also monitor the work of the board, by reviewing and responding to the regular report that is produced after each board meeting. This process ensures that there is a two-way flow of information and comment between the board and the councils and, ultimately, to the members at large via Roadway. One important role for the councils is the approval of new member applications. It is often assumed that anyone can join RHA by simply paying the fee, but that is not the case. Every application is subject to the approval of the relevant council, with any company that is felt not to meet our standards being recommended to the board for rejection.

Then we have the various specialist group committees, which meet at whatever frequency suits their needs. Clearly, these meetings focus specifically on issues relevant to their activities, from car transport to waste, and each meeting provides an excellent forum for the detailed level of discussion that these, often technical, matters require. Most recently the Transport, Distribution and Warehousing Group has been particularly active, developing a programme of activities that appeals to members with this type of operation. I urge members to take a look at the different options that are available and to take advantage of the information and guidance that is provided on several specialised operations.

Geoff Dunning

The CV Show: see us on stand 4F30

The 2013 Commercial Vehicle Show will be taking place just a few days after this edition of ROADWAY is delivered to members and I hope we will see a large number of visitors at the show itself and on our stand – 4F30.

The RHA’s over-riding objective is to help its members to be profitable, compliant and sustainable and you will be able to find out everything you need to know about this at the show.

In each of the three main strands of RHA activity – our trade association, our commercial services and our lobbying and campaigning – you will find support for your business and assistance to help make you profitable, compliant and sustainable.

There is not enough space in this short column to explain the many ways we can help, but I can briefly outline some of the main areas covered by the trade association fee that you pay.

Getting the right rate for the job is difficult at the best of times, so knowing what is profitable and what is not allows you to make the right decision when it comes to some of the more ridiculous rates on offer. RHA Cost Tables help you to do that. A fundamental element of your costs is your fuel spend and knowing what you are paying is vital. Our weekly fuel price survey helps you to do that. Staying on the right side of VOSA is a complex task these days, with wide-ranging legislation affecting every aspect of your operation, so up-to-date easy-to-understand explanations of the legal requirements is a must-have for your business. ROADWAY, our Helpdesk and our area managers help you to do that. Saving fuel is a must for every operator but reducing your carbon footprint might not be a high priority – that depends to a large extent on the demands of your customers. Our specialist technical manager can help you to do that.

Whatever you are trying to do, be it making a profit, staying compliant or demonstrating a responsible position in respect of sustainability, there are ways that the RHA can help you. Some activities are included in your membership fee and there are a few examples above. Some are commercial services, such as training, tachograph analysis, O-Licence audits or contracts of employment, each designed to offer a quality product at a competitive price. And our lobbying and campaigning covers areas intended to contribute to a level playing field, including our action in respect of insolvent companies which undercut those who seek to make a profit.

One way or another, the RHA is helping you to make a profit, to comply with the various rules that apply to the industry and to support you in contributing to reducing the impact of climate change. There has never been a better time to be a member of the RHA. Come along to stand 4F30 at the CV Show to find out more.

 

Geoff Dunning
Chief Executive

Profitability, compliance, sustainability

 

The RHA’s Board of Directors recently confirmed a new five-year strategy for the Association. We will focus on three priorities for the industry: profitability, compliance and sustainability – and we make no apology for putting profit first.

We know that our members are in business to make a profit, and we will be working very hard during 2013 to support companies in that aim. As part of that work, our Board recently decided to cancel the membership of any business that reaches a formal agreement with its creditors and to look extremely closely at their trading patterns in the months or even years prior to the agreement before accepting any application to have the membership re-instated. The issue of ‘phoenix’ companies has long been a thorn in the side of the industry, and that is why the RHA will be discussing the performance of directors of insolvent companies with the Senior Traffic Commissioner as the year develops.

Compliance remains a key issue, and the UK should be rightly proud of the generally good safety record that British-operated trucks have demonstrated over the years. Our view is very simple: as long as there are those who deliberately or repeatedly flout the law, the attention of the enforcer (VOSA) and the regulator (the Traffic Commissioners) should be focussed on the non-compliant, leaving those operators who put a great deal of effort into getting it right to go about their business without being distracted. Needless to say, our industry and our operations are technically complex, so occasional contraventions may occur, but it should not be difficult for a reputable firm to demonstrate simply and quickly a culture of compliance that will be acceptable to both VOSA and the TCs.

Sustainability is high on the government’s agenda and therefore is important to the industry, but we have a good track record of managing carbon dioxide output – even though we talk in terms of fuel consumption. Our priority for 2013 is to show the legislators this is our way of tackling the issue, even if it doesn’t fit with their language.

I hope that everyone has the dates 10-12 April in their diaries for a trip to the Commercial Vehicle Show at the NEC in Birmingham. An excellent event is expected, with wide-ranging representation from all aspects of the industry and, at the time of writing, we have over 350 exhibitors who have taken space.

The Euro 5 versus Euro 6 argument will no doubt be high on many people’s agenda; and operators will be deep in conversation with manufacturers about lead times, fuel consumption and, of course, prices. We are also delighted to see trailer manufacturers well represented at this year’s show and there is bound to be interest in progress with the longer semi-trailer trial. Last year’s show saw a few of the first examples, so this year we will be able to compare notes and experience.

 

Geoff Dunning
Chief Executive

 

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