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A week is a long time in politics

“A week is a long time in politics.” This has been attributed to British Prime Minister Harold Wilson in the mid-1960s but regardless of who said it first, the words are probably even more relevant today that when they were first voiced.

The past week has brought about more government change than most of us will have seen in a lifetime.

We have a new Prime Minister and the battle for leadership of the Opposition has started in earnest.

At the end of June the British public took the momentous step of voting for the UK to leave the EU. Now that the decision has been made, it is now our job to establish the implications for our members in particular and the industry as a whole.

The PM has decided upon her new Cabinet. Many of the familiar faces with whom we have formed excellent working relationships have moved to other departments so much of our previous work will be passed on to new hands.

We were very pleased at the announcement of the new Chancellor of the Exchequer, Phillip Hammond. I understand that the RHA worked closely with him when he was appointed Secretary of State for Transport in 2010. He is also the MP for our Weybridge office and we were delighted when he accepted an invitation to visit the office for an exclusive interview with Roadway magazine when he took up his transport position.

Another familiar face is Chris Grayling.  Again, the Association formed a good relationship with him during his time as Shadow Secretary of State for Transport in 2005. The press team  arranged for him to drive an HGV – an experience he thoroughly enjoyed. His familiarity with our industry will be another great advantage.

In effect, we will be starting from scratch. But this time, we’re not only telling the new administration what we as the UKs 5th largest sector do, we also, as a result of the Brexit vote, have a new government department dedicated to Brexit.

Until the day that the UK actually leaves the EU we will be spending a great deal of time in Whitehall to discuss the points of concern to our members to establish the extent of EU influence on each issue.

There are many issues of concern to our members including the Road Transport Directive on working time for mobile workers. This is widely seen as an example of the EU at its most misguided. We already have core rules that govern driving and rest time for drivers and this additional regulation has always been seen as unnecessary EU bureaucracy.

We have already approached the new Minister for Brexit with the request that we meet with him and his team at the earliest opportunity.  This will be an extremely big ball and we want to get it rolling as quickly as we can.

Rest assured that our responses to all the issues on the table concerning the industry will be clear, consistent and in the long term interests of our members.


RHA says the Transport Select Committee is too cautious on all lane running

All lane running (the use of hard shoulders) is in the interests of all road users to minimise delays without compromising safety.

RHA director of policy Jack Semple said: “Motorways are where hauliers and their drivers do much of their work and safety is key. Big trucks need a safe place to work. All lane running can deliver this, with the right design.

“Motorways are among the safest roads we drive on and this status must be maintained. That can be done with all lane running with the right infrastructure in place and the right signalling.

“The RHA believes that all lane running has the potential to deliver much-needed environmental and efficiency improvements without compromising safety. It is short-sighted to rule it out.”

Knocking on Parliament’s door

The Chancellor’s announcement that he will deliver an emergency budget on 8 July has given the RHA a fantastic opportunity to renew its pressure on government.

In the past you needed to keep a close eye on the media to see our political lobbying efforts in action. Blink and you may have missed it. And this lack of visibility has been the cause of members questioning what we do for them.

I want our members and the broader industry to be very clear what the RHA is doing to address the multitude of issues that hinder us; and in many cases threaten our ability to support the economy.

To ensure our effectiveness as an influencer and to deliver the results you need to see, we are assembling the biggest PR and campaigning machine in the RHA’s history.

Over the last three weeks we have mobilised the RHA regional teams to ask members to write to their MPs so they can lobby George Osborne concerning the absolute need for the Government to provide £150m of funding – in the July Budget – to help employers recruit and train new HGV drivers. We delivered a personal letter on the subject to David Cameron at No10. Our communications team has been working tirelessly to wake up the national and local broadcast and print media to the issue and resulting from that effort we have enjoyed some high profile coverage.

In our budget submission to George Osborne, we have covered a number of key issues, including: fuel duty, investment in roads, VED, the capital allowance and our position on alternative fuels. While the driver shortage is our prime focus we will also be applying pressure – directly and indirectly – to ensure these issues are addressed.

But this is just the start. If we are to get the recognition in the eyes of government and the public, that this industry desperately needs to become a career of choice, we need to do much more.

Through our sponsorship of the 21 year-old BTCC driver Tom Ingram, we have the opportunity to put Tom through his HGV test. This works on a number of levels. He is known to millions of motorsport fans and his association with us means he can play an ambassadorial role for our industry. The media is beginning to pick up on this and we aim to get a television production company to make a documentary about Tom undergoing his HGV driver training. This in itself raises the profile of the industry and especially among young people. Keep watching this space for further news on the ‘new’ RHA working for you.

Successful show and campaigning

The CV Show was a great success both as an event in itself and for the RHA, with existing members visiting the stand, new members recruited, services sold, and RHA campaigns being promoted. It was a real pleasure to meet and host Patrick McLoughlin MP, the Secretary of State for Transport, and to chair a meeting with a small number of members of RHA and our partners – the SMMT and the IRTE. This was followed by a tour of the show, which presented a great opportunity to make a number of points to the most senior transport politician.

We also welcomed Rob Flello MP, who is chair of the All Parlimentary Road Freight Group. The RHA is now funding an Intern – Sam Hargreaves – who works in his team at the House of Commons but who is employed by RHA. That is a real first for RHA and we should never miss an opportunity to point this out to members and non-members alike, as it gives us a direct link into the political machine.

As part owners of the CV Show, it was particularly good to hear so many exhibitors saying how pleased they were with visitor numbers and quality; and several made some sort of commitment to come back in 2014. Several companies, including HGV manufacturers, have already spoken to Crystal Communications – who market and operate the Show for the partners – and provisionally booked space. All in all it was a fantastic three days for the RHA – congratulations again to everyone who contributed to this success!

March saw yet another success for Fair Fuel UK, with another planned duty increased not just postponed but cancelled altogether. The organiser of Fair Fuel UK, Peter Carroll, approached RHA and FTA at the beginning of 2011 with an idea for a high profile political and media campaign designed to lobby for a new approach to fuel duty rises in the corridors of power in the Houses of Parliament and I and my FTA colleague, Theo de Pencier, were quick to recognise the benefit of the two organisations working together to fund the campaign, agreeing also that the campaign should relate to all fuel users. As a result, other backers have come on board and the challenge now is to move up a gear and to look for a real reduction in duty, rather than simply fighting proposed increases. Having said that, it is right to reflect on our success so far: March 2011, 5p inflationary rise postponed and a 1p cut given, smaller rise of 3p now planned for September 2011; August 2011, 3p rise postponed to 2012: January 2012, 3p rise postponed again to August 2012; August 2012, 3p rise postponed to Jan 2013 and January 2013, 3p rise cancelled March 2013, 3p rise planned for Sept 2013 cancelled. There is absolutely no doubt that the Fair Fuel UK’s campaign, of which RHA is a major and founder member, has been spectacularly effective and is now a significant influence in Parliament.

Geoff Dunning