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Call for action: talk to your MP now!

Since returning to work following the Christmas break, I have attended a couple of events at the Houses of Parliament.

While parliament is not due to be dissolved until 30th March the General Election effect has well and truly taken hold. The normal bustle and buzz has disappeared and as our sponsored intern at the All Party Parliamentary Group for Freight – Torrie Whittington – explains on page 25, the Palace is ‘quiet, really quiet’.

Most of the rank and file MPs have returned to their constituencies, undoubtedly to prepare for what is to come.

This presents you with the best opportunity to gain access to your MP to establish where they stand on the key issues that affect your business, well in advance of the madhouse that will be the official election campaigning period leading up to 7th May.

There are several core issues that the RHA has identified. The perennial issue of fuel duty; the chronic shortage of drivers; the crisis over recruitment and the image of our industry and the severe lack of roadside facilities are right at the top of our agenda. You will undoubtedly have several other issues that affect you on a more local basis.

My biggest concern is how the new government will tackle the deficit reduction. The current administration has heeded our, and the calls of FairFuel UK to keep fuel duty frozen. But a new government with different economic priorities and policies could easily use the cash cow that is fuel duty and raise it to fund their political aims. You need to establish where your MP and rival candidates stand on this for reasons I do not need to explain.

It is unlikely that your MPs noticed the affect the shortage of drivers had during the run up to Christmas. Most don’t have knowledge of our industry, or its challenges. But with an estimated net loss of another 35,000 drivers during the course of 2015, it is highly likely the impact of this will be all too apparent next Christmas. We have been meeting with ministers and have more meetings planned over the next few weeks to secure government help with recruitment and training. But it is quite possible they won’t be in power on 8th May, and an MP near you will. So please take this opportunity to share your experiences and sound them out on how they stand on this key issue, not just for us, but the extremely negative effect it will have on the wider economy.

Ours is not the only industry that is struggling to attract young people. Getting the message across to school leavers about the value and rewards of a vocational career is crucial. There has to be a political will to steer young people in the direction of an alternative to university or a career behind a desk. Where does you MP stand on education and how aware are they of the skills shortages in the manufacturing, logistics and automotive sectors?

So this is a call to action, because you have an opportunity to educate and influence the members of the future government and an opportunity to decide which horses you will back in the race for Westminster.

 

Richard Burnett

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Getting our points across


It is good to see that our man at the ministry, Stephen Hammond MP, does take our industry seriously; and wants to know about the needs of all road users, including hauliers.

A couple of weeks ago, the RHA’s Director of Policy, Jack Semple, acting chief executive, Nick Payne, and myself met with the Minister a few days after he had been driven round the streets of London by RHA member Peter Eason of ELB Partners.

This gave Mr Hammond the opportunity to see, first-hand, the problems that face LGV drivers every day. One issue that is of keen interest to the Minister is the issue of cyclists, and Peter Eason was not disappointed when they were undertaken by a lady cyclist; no hi-vis jacket, no helmet but with ear phones in place while texting on her mobile phone. How crazy are some road users?

The meeting we had with Mr Hammond was held at the Department for Transport in the late afternoon, which in the end was to be a bonus for us as we did over-stay our allotted time. Of course cycling and entry to construction sites was high on the agenda, and he did remark on his visit to ELB. We also told him that hauliers were finding it more and more difficult in keeping up with what the construction industry required, as different sites required hauliers to fit different equipment. We suggested there should be some common practices put in place by official bodies, rather than the ad hoc process we seem to be up against.

There were several questions asked about DVSA (formerly VOSA). In particular, rooting out seriously non-compliant operators. He thought that the OCRS scoring was doing this but we had to correct him noting that the industry was finding that there are too many inconsistencies, and that DVSA needs to make sure all their staff, sing off the same hymn sheet. We also pushed the case to permit private examiners to conduct DVSA annual vehicle testing – with DSVA staff monitoring and audit the system. This would create more flexible test timings, so enabling our industry to be more productive by getting vehicles back on the roads quicker. The other item aimed at DVSA was the Restricted “O” License. We pointed out that many of these operators do not abide by any of the obligations that we as Standard Operators do, despite using similar sized vehicles and the same roads. We pressed the point that they should also be more accountable; bearing in mind the rest of Europe does not have this inequality in operating standards.

On the matter of Drivers CPC we have again pressed the point of being able to have three and a half hour periodic training courses, stressing the point that drivers do lose their concentration after sitting in a class room for seven hours, and that the shorter sessions would be more interesting and absorbing for them.

One very interesting point made by the Minister was that in early March we will finally find out what is happening in regards to raising the speed limit for HGV’s on single carriageway A-roads to 50mph. He would not be drawn as to which way the decision would go, but hopefully in the next few days, we will, at least, see some reward for the RHA’s hard campaigning on the issue.

Having been given the chance to speak to the Minister, we don’t expect immediate results but if we – along with people like Peter Eason – take the opportunity to get our points of view over to the people that make the decisions, we stand more chance of getting results that enhance and help our Industry. Never give up a chance to speak with people in authority. If people in our Industry continue to chip away, raising the profile of issues that affect us, eventually breakthroughs will happen.

Peter Barber

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.

Standfirst

If you would naturally stop to help if you came across a crashed vehicle, then read on. 

Previewed at 2013 CV Show and launched last summer, the not for profit ‘Driver First Assist’ (DFA) scheme has been busy training, registering and equipping its vanguard.

There are over 35 million road users in the UK and the roads network is arguably the UK’s largest work place. And like in every place of work, accidents happen, but until now – unlike factories and offices – there has not been a formal mechanism for providing and training first aiders to give immediate assistance at the roadside, prior to the arrival of the emergency services.

The Driver First Assist scheme aims to train frequent road users to provide life saving first aid and manage the scene at a road traffic collision (RTC), prior to the arrival of the emergency services. It is primarily aimed at professional commercial vehicle drivers but it also includes anyone who earns their living behind the wheel, or publically spirited motorists who feel they would benefit from the knowledge the training imparts.

The scheme has the full backing of the police, fire and ambulance services and the Traffic Commissioners. The training consists of one seven-hour course and is delivered by serving emergency services trainers, all of whom perform front line duties when not in the classroom. For in-scope commercial vehicle drivers the course counts towards the Driver CPC periodic training requirement.

We have expressed reservations about the scheme in the past. Primarily we have questioned whether giving all comers a badge and some basic knowledge, is enough to then trust and expect them to react accordingly should they be the first on the scene at a serious RTC? We were invited to attend the course to see for ourselves, what the scheme is really all about.

The course venue was the South East Ambulance Service HQ in Banstead in Surrey and the content was delivered by PC Steve Rounds from the Central Motorways Police Group and Dave Evans of the Ambulance Service. PC Rounds was quick to clarify that attendance on the course should be voluntary and while it counted towards Driver CPC periodic training, individuals attending with a view to becoming a DFA should do this because they want to. He said: “What we are really about is giving publically spirited drivers, who would stop to help at the scene of an RTC anyway, enough knowledge to firstly keep themselves safe, to save life and to give timely and accurate information to the emergency services. Included in this is guidance on how to manage the scene until the emergency services arrive.”

Both trainers openly admitted that due to distance or congestion, it often takes 15 minutes, or more, for police, fire or ambulance to get to crash scenes. While the UK has one of the best road safety records in the world, an average of five people per day die on our roads and 55% of fatalities occur before the emergency services arrive. The principle cause of death is from cardiac arrest (the heart stops). Cardiac arrest occurs for various reasons but without intervention, death will occur within four minutes. Interestingly, PC Rounds said that drivers falling into unconsciousness at the wheel causes over 50% of RTCs. The police refer to it as death at the wheel.

To address these issues, and more, the DFA scheme aims to give participants the basic skills to save life. In terms of cardiac arrest this involves establishing that the casualty is non-breathing and unconscious and then delivering hands only cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).

But before any first aid training is delivered the course covers determining if it is safe to stop to assist in the first place, and communicating information to the emergency services via 999, 112 or motorway telephones. Conducting a dynamic risk assessment is the recommended procedure to cover this step. Once the DFA establishes they can help and it is safe to do so, the course covers how to approach the scene; how to position their, and other motorist’s vehicles on various road types to protect the accident scene; establishing the location of the RTC; assessing the scene and what the emergency services need to know and making the call. This is put across in a very common sense way, with the emphasis always on the personal safety of the DFA. PC Rounds repeatedly said that there was no compunction to assist if by doing so it would put the DFA in danger. He used the example of an RTC where a tanker was involved and was leaking harmful chemicals onto the road. He said: “You must ask yourself whether your presence at the scene is a positive benefit or an unacceptable risk. If you think keeping well back, calling the emergency services and preventing other members of the public from approaching the vehicle, is the best and safest course of action, that is what you should do.”

The course also covers collision scene dangers. In addition to the danger of further vehicle collisions, displaced vehicle occupants, moving traffic and hazardous cargo is also covered. DFAs must ask lorry drivers if they are carrying anything hazardous and include this information when calling the emergency services. The meanings of UK hazardous cargo warning panels and placards were explained so a DFA can relay this information, or act upon it themselves, for personal safety reasons or if an evacuation is required.

The two main causes of death in any situation are: you stop breathing or you bleed out. Shock can also be fatal. These are the three main subjects covered by the first aid element of the course. Instructor Dave Evans from the South East Ambulance Service again emphasised the importance of self-preservation, even when attempting to save another’s life. He said: “The first rule is to ensure you are not putting yourself in danger. You should approach vehicles with caution, ensure you have an escape route, avoid contamination from liquids and be aware of unstable loads. You should only enter a vehicle involved in an RTC to save life.”

The first aid element lasts for three hours and following theory and tuition we were expected to demonstrate assessing a casualty; administering hands only CPR; placing a casualty in the recovery position and bandaging a wound to stop bleeding.

The fact the first aid training is delivered by front line paramedics means they impart exactly the right level of information and in a way that makes the prospect of dealing with an unconscious non breathing casualty easier to contemplate.

In addition the first aid syllabus touched on spinal injuries. We were taught to establish if there was suspicion of a neck, back or spinal injury and were shown how to limit further injury to the casualty – both in and out of a vehicle – by immobilising and supporting the head, using our hands, until medical help arrives.

The course lasts for seven hours to comply with the requirements of the Driver CPC. Delegates are assessed on the practical exercises and there is a test at the end. These to elements are required by the emergency services to pass delegates out as DFAs, but have no bearing on the Driver CPC periodic training requirement of attendance only.

There is no compulsion to become a DFA following the course, but delegates that wish to do so receive an invitation. A fee of £25 covers the cost of providing the DFA Toolkit. The kit comprises a BS approved long sleeve hi-viz lightweight jacket with DFA logo, a first aid kit, an ID card, indemnity insurance, a key ring and window sticker. Membership with DFA lasts for a period of three years, following which, members need to update their skills by attending a refresher course. This ensures skills and knowledge remain consistent with emergency services operational best practice.

The pre-requisites for attending this course, in terms of personal attributes, for potential DFAs are a reasonable level of intelligence, a can do attitude and common sense. Prior experience of managing stressful situations would be beneficial, but is not essential. Until faced with a real situation no one can be sure how they will cope and we got the impression from the course that DFA and the emergency services want DFAs do what they feel comfortable and safe with and certainly don’t want people to be heroes.

We felt the course and its content was excellent and was pitched at just the right level. The course costs £95 and because DFA is not for profit, it is looking for corporate sponsors to help reduce costs and to fund more equipment and training. For more information go to: www.driverfirstassist.org

Peter Shakespeare

The Industry’s Voice in Parliament

The All Party Parliamentary Group for Freight Transport. This is not a title that slips easily off the tongue, but it is the name of a body in the Houses of Parliament that provides a voice for the industry and it is a body that will become more and more active through to the end of the year and beyond.

The RHA recently agreed to fund a member of staff – Sam Hargreaves – in the office of Rob Flello MP, who chairs the group, and Sam is currently working on a programme of activity that will explore key issues for the industry. He is also mapping our members against the list of MPs who support the group, with a view to generating much more engagement between the industry and Parliament. Subjects that are being considered include such matters as parking and rest facilities, security in the industry, road maintenance and improvement and the likely skill shortages that we will face as the economy comes out of recession.

Issues that have been discussed at recent meeting include the use of alternative fuels, the longer semi-trailer trial and VOSA’s ‘Testing Transformation’ programme. The summer will see more background work being done with a view to establishing good contacts between RHA members and MPs who are members of the group and I hope that our members will respond positively to any approaches that they might receive.

The Fair Fuel UK campaign has demonstrated clearly the effectiveness of high quality engagement with MPs and I am sure that the industry will benefit from getting involved with the group’s activity. Another activity that will raise the profile of the industry with Government is the Commercial Vehicle Forum, the first of which took place last year. This event is organised by RHA in conjunction with the SMMT and IRTE, as Commercial Vehicle Show partners, and this year it will provisionally be held on 22nd October at the British Museum and is likely to take a format similar to ‘Question Time’, with a high profile panel that will address the big issues of the day – make a note in your diary. The theme for the event will be efficiency, with themes covered including such matters as economic efficiency, which covers the desire to make the maximum number of deliveries, in the fewest miles whilst consuming least fuel. Clearly environmental efficiency will be another area to be covered, with Government keen to ensure that the industry is making real progress with minimising its carbon footprint. Further details of the event, such as the keynote speaker and the list of panellists will be announced in due course, but in the meantime, save the date, as I am sure that this is going to be a ‘don’t miss’ event for many operators. There is no doubt that we are now on the threshold of a new era of relations between the haulage industry and Parliament: I hope that RHA members will respond positively and get involved.

 

Geoff Dunning

Bad debts lead to unfair competition

Writing this immediately before Christmas enabled me to think ahead and consider what challenges the industry and the RHA will face in 2013. One thing is clear: the economy will struggle to recover, with talk of a triple dip being all too common in the latter months of 2012. Christmas gives much of the haulage industry a welcome boost but it doesn’t help those who specialise in other sectors, particularly construction which remains sluggish.

One feature of the recession to date has been the shrinkage of the industry, with the number of O-licences, the size of the national fleet and the number of new licence applications all showing significant reductions compared with 2008. This was a natural consequence of the decline in demand seen across the economy and represented the inevitable attempts to balance supply and demand in an industry which is all too often seen as a commodity, rather than a service.

This shrinkage also put the spotlight on the consequences for individual businesses, with hundreds of firms closing – willingly or otherwise – because they have run out of cash. And we must not lose sight of the fact that those firms which fail have clearly been running at a loss for some time, all the while competing with firms which are not recording losses.

The trade press regularly reports on this firm entering into a Creditors’ Voluntary Arrangement (CVA), that firm entering into administration or another firm appointing a receiver or a liquidator. In every case debts will be unpaid – often running into hundreds of thousands of pounds – and often the money is owed to Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC). In other words us, the taxpayers. Such actions are always legal, with very few directors being pursued for wrongful trading, but other companies have not been able to write off large amounts of debt, but continue to trade and remain solvent.

This begs the question of what information is given to the Traffic Commissioners (TCs) about the obvious change in circumstances represented by the financial position, with a recent Transport Tribunal decision making clear that financial standing should be met continuously, not just at a given moment in time. Furthermore, the TCs will no doubt have a view on operators who have failed to notify them as soon as their financial situation made it difficult if not impossible to meet the financial standing rules.

The RHA’s position is clear. Our Articles of Association require that a membership shall cease if a company enters into any agreement with creditors, be it CVA, administration or receivership, and the Board of Directors recently confirmed there would have to be exceptional circumstances for a firm in one of those situations to be re-admitted. Limited company status extends significant protection to both directors and shareholders while imposing relatively few obligations in respect of creditors, particularly HMRC. The RHA believes financial management is as important to good repute as OCRS scores and urges the TCs to look more closely at firms that cannot pay their debts on time.

Geoff  Dunning
Chief Executive

Roadway November 2012

On the first page of November’s ROADWAY operator profile (pages 46 – 49) our intrepid reporter, Bob Tuck, assures readers that the magazine isn’t getting on its soapbox about the green agenda.

Talking about one of the key drivers behind the success of a Bootle-based bulk tanker operator he says: “Terms like ‘reducing our carbon footprint’ have come more into vogue and, while initially they may have been mooted by the politically correct ‘global warming’ fraternity, the idea is something the logistics world should not only adopt, but also champion.

“This isn’t ROADWAY getting on its high horse but simply an echo of the beliefs of Steve Granite, MD of Merseyside-based Abbey Logistics Group.” Granite goes on say: “If you are more environmentally friendly, then you are more cost effective. Cut out waste and you cut down on cost.”

Very wise words I hope you will agree. I didn’t intend to make this edition of the magazine all about reducing: the amount of energy we consume; the amount of pollutants we produce and the number of empty miles we run. But as you read our reports about: The IAA Commercial Vehicle Show; the road test of Daf’s XF105 460 ATe 40 tonner; the Abbey Logistics Group profile; the Clayton/Don-Bur twin cargo semi-trailer and Michelin’s latest tyre offering, you should begin to realise that our industry has gone green.

If you missed that particular boat, I suggest you get paddling and catch it up quickly, because if you don’t you will not be able to compete in the brave new world of road transport and logistics. Thinking back to Bob Tuck’s thoughts about ROADWAY and soapboxes…he was wrong. We are on one.

But ‘Going Green’ isn’t just about climate change or stopping the Maldives from disappearing beneath the waves. These considerations are none the less important – I don’t want to loose my favourite holiday destination – but what ‘Green’ means to you is using fewer resources, working more efficiently and ultimately spending less to achieve more. And that equals remaining competitive, generating bigger profit margins, growth and securing your future. Things many hauliers have been struggling to do over recent years. Yes lobbying for a fairer deal from government also has its place, but the clever time and money is being invested in the new technologies, which can help hauliers and logistics companies – not just in the UK, but also across the globe – tackle the biggest challenge…spiralling fuel costs.

But as ever there is a spanner in our works. And it isn’t the obvious one. It is the UK’s Annual Investment Allowance, or AIA. Reduced from £100,000 to £25,000 in April, Jack Semple expertly points out (on pages 26 and 28) that small to medium sized enterprises (SMEs) in our sector have dramatically reduced the amounts of capital they are willing to invest in their companies. For example, rather than buying new ‘Green’ fuel-efficient trucks they are renting to cover shortfalls or to avoid replacing fleet. This in turn means fewer older trucks are being taken off the roads and the expected pull forward of Euro 5 truck orders prior to the Euro 6 implementation in December 2013 has not happened…yet. And unless SME hauliers can change their approach they could miss the boat while the rest of Europe grabs all the production slots.

The RHA is calling for the government to do something to stimulate the SME sector and help it invest in its future.

Returning to the theme of ‘Going Green’ it is in this area where the investments should be made. SMEs are the backbone of this industry and the economy. If they miss that boat we are all in trouble.

Peter Shakespeare
RHA Publications