Road Haulage Association

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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

Fuel Alarm Bells Ringing

The combination of a planned fuel duty increase in August and inflated crude oil prices – resulting from tension in the Middle East – has set the alarm bells ringing…Again.

Headlines warn that fuel prices could hit £1.65 a litre within weeks, with the potential of a three pence duty increase to follow in August.

The price of crude oil has been pushed up thanks to our beloved financial types, gambling on the price of a barrel increasing further. The problems in the Gulf with Iran could mean that our ‘friendly’ supplies could be curtailed because of Iran’s influence over the Strait of Hormuz. 20% of the world’s oil passes through the 53km wide seaway. The speculators and hedge funds are buying up crude like there is no tomorrow; in the hope they can profit once the price increases further. That causes shortages, which inflates the price. Have you seen all the oil tankers parked off the coast of South West England and Wales? All full of oil waiting for the price to go up. What this means to you and me is for every £1.26 increase in the price of a barrel of crude, we pay an additional one pence per litre at the pumps. A far more volatile influence than planned duty increases.

Almost 60% of the pump price in the UK goes to the Chancellor and your association, along with FairFuelUK has been doing a great job lobbying to ensure he doesn’t get any more.

But the problems facing diesel and kerosene consumers are far more wide- ranging than gambling city types and a government in love with easy revenue from fuel duty.

But there is another and possibly more significant threat. You all know that there is a noticeable price difference between petrol and diesel. In the main it is to do with refining capacity. Even if we can get our hands on the crude oil, Europe and the UK’s ability to turn it into diesel cannot match demand. And the major oil companies simply aren’t interested in changing that. Why? Because while it costs us more to buy imported diesel, it costs them less if it is produced and refined outside Europe, enabling them to make bigger margins.

40 years ago the UK and Europe was fuelled largely by petrol. Our North Sea crude is perfect for producing it and so our refineries were built to service an overwhelming demand for it. Since then diesel has become the fuel of choice for 50% of car and 100% of commercial vehicle users and we simply don’t have the capacity to refine the quantities required. A new crude oil cracking tower costs around £500 million and as there are limited margins in refining, the oil companies and refinery owners either aren’t prepared to, or can’t afford to invest.

Add to this the fact that oil refineries are closing – Europe lost several in January as a result of the collapse of Petroplus – and matters just get worse.

Whether the government can do anything about it is a moot point. Yes it could soften the impact of inevitable fuel price increases over the next few years by reviewing the amount it taxes the sale of fuel; after all there has to be a limit how much it can and should take. But many would argue that the damaging increases – in diesel prices especially – would not be a result of a government’s actions, but from global influences and an acute lack of domestic refining capacity.

Thanks to the slow down in the U.S and European economies the demand for diesel has fallen. The BRIC nations are using up the global surplus to fuel their rapidly expanding economies. But once the demand for diesel returns in the West to pre-recession levels – which it eventually will – this combined with increased demand elsewhere in the world will result in shortages, compounding our problems even further.

Maybe the government can come up with a way to combat this threat. I hope so because by the end of the decade running a diesel powered vehicle in Europe could quite feasibly become the preserve of the rich. And everything we buy will be much more expensive or even unavailable because of the cost of delivering it.

Charging Heavy Goods Vehicles

The above headline is the title of a recently published consultation document in which the DfT puts forward its proposals to impose new charges on all heavy goods vehicles in excess of 12 tonnes GVW. It is a key part of the government’s commitment to take steps to level the playing field between UK and non-UK hauliers and is therefore welcome.

The charges will be graduated according to the existing bands for Vehicle Excise Duty (VED) purposes, ranging from £85 to a vehicle in band A to £1,000 for vehicles in band G (these are typically 2+3, maximum weight artics). The rate for a 3+3, six-axle artic will be £640.

Most importantly, the consultation document spells out the government’s commitment to ensure that any HGV user charge imposes no additional cost overall for the greatest possible number of UK road transport operators. In doing so, they have to work within the legal framework imposed by European Union (EU) rules. The proposal suggests that in introducing the new charges for all trucks over 12 tonnes GVW, the current rates of VED for UK trucks will be reduced to at, or just above, the minimum levels dictated by the EU. By linking the new charge to the existing system of VED, it will minimise the administrative burden on UK operators by allowing the application and payment processes for both to be aligned.

The RHA has been concerned for some years about the impact of foreign trucks on the UK haulage industry, has repeatedly drawn government attention to the volume of foreign trucks on our roads, and has drawn both public and political attention to the fact they contribute little or nothing to the cost of providing and maintaining our road network. This unfairness has continued for far too long and the proposed new charging regime is a welcome first step. But it is no more than a first step which will impose some charges of non-UK trucks and will therefore add to the costs of our foreign competitors, while not adversely affecting our members.
In considering this proposal, we are mindful of the EU’s Transport White Paper: Roadmap to a Single European Transport Area – Towards a competitive and resource efficient transport system which proposes wide-ranging changes which could result in compatible road charging systems, harmonised EU rules and a restructuring of fuel taxes, as well as seeking the abolition of all restrictions on cabotage and improvements to the core network of principal routes across Europe. Such moves are controversial to say the least, but they are the way the European Commission is thinking.
Needless to say, the RHA is monitoring progress on these proposals very carefully and will be seeking government support if we see measures being brought forward that will disadvantage our members.

Filling the gap for Trainers and Instructors

Filling the gap for Trainers and Instructors

Would you be interested in a unique opportunity for Instructors and Trainers from across the industry to attend their own conference at a central location?

There is currently no national venue for Trainers within the Transport industry to gather and hear the latest news and views on related topics. We aim to fill that gap!

2012 is the year that DCPC “comes of age”. After all the gossip and guesswork, those who have been delaying involvement are now waking up to the reality that this is an ongoing requirement. This year presents an unequalled opportunity for the Training sector to build on its successes.

Much has been written about the few “rotten apples” that have latched on to the latest Training requirements, but very little has been publicised about the many successes. Hard working Trainers who have honed and developed their skills to ensure their delegates and customers gain the full benefit of structured, worthwhile training deserve to have their voices heard.

The conference will accentuate the positives gained and discuss ways to achieve continued improvement.

Continued Professional Development is an essential element of a successful Trainer’s progress and the conference will provide an excellent opportunity for Trainers to acquire further knowledge of trends and developments.

The conference is open to In Company Trainers, employees of major training companies and small operations who wish to keep abreast of the changes and developments in the training field ,with a particular emphasis on Driver CPC and anyone who has a genuine interest in professional training developments.

What are the subjects being discussed? (Subject to speaker availability)

  • Driver CPC and O Licence Compliance (Traffic Commissioner)
  • HSE’s view of the importance of Driver Training (Nick Ratty – Head of Transportation unit HSE)
  • Driver CPC progress review and future plans  (Liz Heaton – Senior Post Test Operations Manager DSA)
  • Some facts, figures and trends  (Guy Chamberlain – Head of Post Test Op’s DSA)
  • Importance of Driver training/Driver CPC’s long term future (Government spokesperson)
  • A case study of successful DCPC implementation (Chris Watcham – Health & Safety Director, Mobile Mini UK)

Training Conference RHA National Training Conference

Commercial Vehicle Show 2012

2012 is going to be a big year for UK hauliers. You will be the ones who, quite literally, will be delivering the 2012 Olympics. Not just to the nation’s capital, but to all the other venues around the country which will be hosting events.

And if you’re not involved with or affected by the Olympics, life will still go on. Road haulage has always been a very accurate economic barometer for the rest of UK plc because if manufacturers are producing the goods, farmers are growing crops, retailers are selling products, or builders are constructing houses or offices, we are meeting the vast majority of their freight transport needs.

Road transport is always going to be high on everyone’s agenda and top of the list for those involved in road freight transport has to be the Commercial Vehicle Show 2012 and Workshop 2012, which will be held at Birmingham’s National Exhibition Centre from 24 – 26 April 2012.

As chief executive of one of the show’s partners – the others being the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) and the Institute of Road Transport Engineers (IRTE) – I am particularly proud of the Commercial Vehicle Show.

On that basis, I am delighted that bookings for the 2012 show have already surpassed expectation. We now have 260 exhibitors booked: that’s a 48% increase compared with this time last year and equates to 23,000m2 of exhibition space booked. Again, that’s up 43% year on last year.

This is great news for us as the only UK trade association focusing solely on road freight transport; and also for the industry on which the rest of UK plc is almost totally reliant.

However, the Road Haulage Association won’t just be at the 2012 CV Show for fun.We have a responsibility to be there, for our members in particular and for the industry as a whole. We shall be fielding a team of experts on every aspect of running a haulage business from training and tachograph analysis to fuel savings and insurance. From employment issues to technical matters, there is no area of the industry that we can’t cover.

In 2011 Transport Minister Mike Penning accepted my invitation to visit the CV Show to meet RHA members and also see the vast range of products and services supplied by the exhibitors. Such was the success of his visit that I have already invited him as my guest to this year’s show and, although I am waiting for official confirmation, I am very hopeful that he will be joining us once again.

The strength of the RHA comes from its staff and its membership. We take great pride in our ability to help and advise members on any issue or aspect of their particular operation. So please, if you come along to the show, make sure you visit us on stand 3A40. Even if it’s just to say hello, it will be great to see you.

Challenging but rewarding year

This year has been interesting and challenging, but once more the RHA has been particularly effective in representing its members.

It is a pleasure to list just some of our achievements. In no particular order, there is no doubt that we established effective liaison with Transport for London (TfL) in promoting our sector in the run-up to the Olympics and we have developed a much improved relationship with the Department for Transport (DfT) and a better working relationship with the Deputy Senior Traffic Commissioner and VOSA.

We were delighted with the Commercial Vehicle Show’s success and were equally delighted to show Transport Minister Mike Penning around as our guest. Furthermore, Penning’s decision to allow full service truckstops on motorways was a direct result of our campaigning. We also persuaded the DfT to introduce extensive relaxations to the enforcement of drivers’ hour’s rules because of last winter’s severe weather.

It was a pleasure to see the inclusion of several RHA lobby points in the DfT’s road safety strategy, including reducing the time the police take to investigate serious accidents on motorways. We have also been pushing the case for recovery operators to be able to use red lights and hope this will bring results early in the new year.

Other positive news from the RHA’s work representing the industry include raising the profile of fuel theft in the press and other media, and successfully arguing against the introduction of mandatory carbon reporting as a requirement of haulage contracts with large aggregates companies.

One area where we have seen real success is in our objections to four Operator Licence applications, including one of Ireland’s largest hauliers. The RHA stands out in having a policy of exercising our statutory right to object in the public interest and this is something we will continue to pursue whenever we have clear evidence that can support a formal objection.
We continue to develop the many services we provide to members and expand the benefits that members have simply because they have joined our Association. Our new-look website is a great improvement on what was already a great asset to the RHA and one feature of the site – the Find-a-Load section – is being improved.

We also launched RHA Smart Safety, which has been well received by those members who have taken advantage of the service, and our new Red Flag credit checking facility –  which offers exceptionally good value for money – includes a number of checks which are free for RHA members. RHA Training continues to offer the very high quality service for which it has become known and in 2011 I was delighted when we completed ISO9002 accreditation for that aspect of our activity.

Finally, a review of 2011 would not be complete without reference to FairFuel UK. As a result of our campaigning in early 2011, every litre of fuel bought since 1 April has been five pence cheaper than it would have been, and we have just seen Parliament unanimously agree that fuel price increases must be avoided.

The year started with one success on fuel duty. Now we have another and pledges of infrastructure investment on deregulation. Your RHA helped to achieve this.

What does OCRS mean to you?

With apologies to those who can already answer the question, please bear with me and read on.

The Vehicle and Operator Services Agency – widely known as VOSA – devised a system called Operator Compliance Risk Score (OCRS) some time ago. With the intention of using it to target their limited resources on the operators who are less likely to comply with the various rules and regulations that apply to road haulage, the system has been refined since its introduction and now includes 10 levels in each of two areas: Roadworthiness and Traffic. The 10 levels are split into bands of red, amber and green, so the best rating you can get is Green 00 in either area, and the worst you can get is Red 10.

To further complicate the system, your individual score is based on your performance, such as the test history of your vehicles or the results of roadside checks. Where there are no actual records, the typical standard of other operators, who are similar in size or type, are used. It is important to bear in mind that your score can change without you doing anything, as the score is designed to compare your performance with other operators. So if the average improves, your score goes down – and vice versa. So far so good, but we have to ask if the system is working and how it could be improved.

Clearly, the larger the fleet, the more likely it is that VOSA will have real data on which to base the score and therefore the more accurate the score will be. We have heard from large members with Green 00 scores who say they are not being stopped at VOSA checks – and that is a good thing. Smaller operators, however, are less likely to be checked, having fewer vehicles for testing, and it can therefore take many years before an historic score can be established.

In my view, the system is limited, as it relies on a very small base of information. So why not give operators credit for the actions they take to ensure compliance? Why not allow operators to register their membership of the RHA as a sign that they are trying to operate to high standards? Why not encourage operators to have their systems and procedures audited by RHA, and then record this on their OCRS score as an indicator of their efforts to comply? The concept of VOSA using data and intelligence to target their limited resources on the small but significant number of firms which deliberately seek to cut corners and therefore put lives at risk and compete unfairly is sound. The RHA wants to help VOSA make the system more effective, allowing responsible operators to go about their business without undue interference. There is still a major problem with so-called cowboys, and we need VOSA to concentrate its limited resources on rounding them up.

Digital tachos: retrofit now!

I would strongly advise members to consider the views aired in the September edition of ROADWAY concerning the differences between the first and second-generation digital tachograph.

When the digital tachograph was first introduced in May 2006, the European Union issued clear guidance about the relationship between the way analogue and digital tachographs record driving time and how enforcement by member states should reflect this. I refer to Guidance Note 4 to Regulations EC 561/2006 and EEC 3821/85.

The guidance note points out that drivers involved in frequent or multi-drop or stop/start operations may be faced with higher records of driving time when using the (first generation) digital tachograph than would be the case with an analogue tachograph. Compensating for the differences, the EU said that member states could allow up to 15 minutes tolerance over a 4.5-hour block of driving time, provided such claims could be supported by evidence.

At the time the EU said this was because the digital tachograph recorded driving time more accurately than the analogue. We all know that it was because it rounds up driving time to the next whole minute.

The introduction of the second-generation digital tachograph means that the operators of large commercial vehicles now have the opportunity to redress the balance. Operator tests, run in conjunction with the tachograph manufacturers, have proved that there is a profound difference between the way the old and new digital tachographs record driving time. The second generation only records the activity that accounts for the larger part of a minute and there are significant productivity gains to be had, as was illustrated by the trial conducted by RHA member Smith’s of Denny. Operators can retrofit the new tachograph now and, according to the tachograph manufacturers, the cost of doing so should be recouped in a relatively short time. All newly-registered vehicles must be fitted with version two from 1 October this year.

A major aim of the EU’s “Social Legislation in Road Transport” – the legislation behind all of this – was to harmonise conditions of competition between operators. The existence of the second digital tachograph raises the distinct possibility of competing operators being in a position where one would be prosecuted while another does not breach the regulations for the same working practices. As driving time recorded on an identical journey by both types of tachograph can vary up to as much as an hour – favouring the second generation unit and by even more if it is true multi-drop work – there could be legal challenges in the pipeline.

Unfortunately the RHA’s view is that there is very little prospect of VOSA or the DfT being minded to change its policies on enforcement. Currently, the official view is clear: the driver has driven the number of hours that the tachograph fitted to their vehicle says they have driven.

At some point the EU will no doubt issue guidance on this, but that will take some time and will need member states to lobby for it. So our advice to members is retrofitting is the best way to address the current imbalance.

Prepare for new O-licence rules

On 4 December there will be a significant change to the rules regarding operator licencing, with new regulations on admission to the occupation of road transport operator coming into force.

This major development in the industry will be covered in detail at the RHA Roadshows which are running from September to November (see page 9 for details) and members should attend these events to hear how their licences will be affected. We are grateful to transport lawyer Lucy Wood, of Rothera Dowson, who has assisted the RHA in preparing for these events.

The regulations replace the European directive that brought the transport managers’ CPC, rules on financial standing, and the concept of good repute to the UK: the original directive was one of the first pieces of legislation that the UK adopted after joining the Common Market.

As far as professional competence is concerned, the National CPC examination ends and all entrants will sit a combined National and International examination. Existing CPC holders who gained their qualification by examination will retain their certificate but holders of ‘Grandfather Rights’ certificates will have to demonstrate they have either been a transport manager on the same O-licence continuously for 10 years prior to 4 December 2009, or provide signed declarations from previous operators that they have worked for and been a named transport manager during the required 10-year period. Exemptions for holders of certain other professional qualifications will continue.

The new rules for financial standing will require operators to demonstrate that they meet the specified conditions in one of three ways, including annual accounts certified by a properly qualified person. The accounts must follow a specified form and content, including a balance sheet, profit and loss account, and notes on the accounts.

A new business without access to accounts will require a statement by a properly qualified person setting out assets and liabilities or an opening balance also certified by a properly qualified person.

The third type of evidence that will be acceptable is a financial guarantee of some sort, ranging from an overdraft facility to an invoice finance agreement. Please note that the ‘properly qualified person’ will need to include a statement giving personal details and their qualifications.

As far as good repute is concerned, the new regulations allow the Traffic Commissioner (TC) to take direct regulatory action against transport managers who no longer meet the requirement of good repute or professional competence and the TC must declare the transport manager ‘unfit’.

Such a declaration would remain in place until the TC determined good repute or professional competence was restored and the TC would establish what rehabilitation is required for the transport manager to regain his good repute or professional competence.

This could affect companies who use external transport managers because the loss of good repute due to an issue with one company would prevent them from being the transport manager for any others with whom they have a contract.

Too wrapped up in red tape?

I met Transport Minister Mike Penning recently and discussed a wide range of issues that affect our members and an email update was sent out after the meeting. One way or another the issues all boiled down to legislation, so it was encouraging to hear that he is keen to get rid of bureaucracy by removing as much of the red tape that surrounds us as possible.

We have had similar initiatives before and it can be difficult to identify areas where life could be simplified without jeopardising the purpose of the legislation. This might be health and safety, employees’ rights, the environment or fair competition – the four main objectives of much of the legislation which applies to RHA members. So where can we see opportunities for simplification?

One obvious issue is the overlap between the Working Time Regulations and the Drivers’ Hours Regulations, which can appear to conflict with each other at best, and contradict each other at worst. But, sadly, the potential to tackle this nonsense is limited because the government is not in full control here. These are pieces of European legislation, so Westminster’s options are limited. Indeed, it may fall to the RHA, through its network of fellow associations across Europe, to get the process going and we know how long that can take.

We will be pursuing this and updating members if and when any progress is made. On the purely domestic front there are quite a few pieces of legislation we believe could be removed altogether or simplified to the benefit of RHA members. Take employment law for example. This is a field well known for its complexity, with many employers falling into legal ‘traps’ because they fail to follow complicated and – with justice in mind – unnecessary procedures that are well intentioned but contribute nothing to the fairness of the process overall. Why can’t we make dismissing someone guilty of gross misconduct much simpler? We have seen cases lost against people who have assaulted colleagues or clients because of procedural failures.

That cannot be right and the employer must have some protection in law just as much as the employee. The other area of law which is particularly – many would say ridiculously – complex is health and safety (H&S). However, I must qualify this by saying that much of the needless difficulty could well be caused by external H&S consultants or in-house managers who have become so risk-averse that they impose totally unreasonable demands on the poor visiting haulier. How many members carry a full wardrobe of PPE kit because the demands of consignors and consignees are different? The Health and Safety Executive is often unfairly blamed for the more ridiculous examples – the so-called ban on ladders being one example – but it can help by giving guidance along the lines of “please do not use H&S as a smokescreen for your own stupidity” as well as by simplifying the regulations themselves.

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