Road Haulage Association

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Tag Archives: Fair Fuel UK

RHA campaigns: a long agenda

By the time you read this we will probably know – or have a good indication – what the Chancellor is doing about fuel duty. And I can only say that a tremendous amount of work has been done to carry forward the great campaigning successes of 2011 into this year.

Whatever happens, we must not lose sight of the fact that the RHA’s involvement and support for FairFuelUK has been a resoundingly effective political lobby, with a number of proposed increases in duty being dropped or postponed and a real reduction being achieved.

But our campaigning is not restricted to fuel duty – important thought that undoubtedly is. In fact, the RHA has a very long list of issues that are being tackled and we are making progress on most fronts. Space does not allow me to mention everything, nor to give full details of the topics that are referred to. Members are kept up-to-date on progress in a variety of ways, including our on-going programmes of members’ meetings around the country, e-newsletters from both the regions and Weybridge and, of course, ROADWAY. I urge all members to read as much of this as possible, so you are kept in the know. In no particular order, here are some of the things we are dealing with, together with a short note of the current situation:

On lorry charging we are supporting the latest proposals: indeed, we would like to see them brought in sooner rather than later. We know this does not fully resolve the ‘level playing field’ but it is a step in the right direction.

In London, we are working with Transport for London (TfL) to ensure that members’ interests are taken fully into account in planning for the Olympics and we believe that everything possible is being done to tackle the obvious challenges we will face during the coming summer.

We are also working with TfL to address the real difficulties that arise from trucks sharing congested streets with cyclists. The tragic loss of life that can occur seriously affects everyone involved, and we hope that all interested parties will work together to find effective ways forward.

Also in London, we are considering if and how the FORS scheme might be developed, without simply adding to the administrative burden that all hauliers face.

Another problem being addressed is the wide-ranging area of driver skills, training and recruitment. This is a longer term issue in some respects, as the fact that many more drivers are leaving the industry than are passing LGV tests will not have an immediate impact on members, but when economic growth returns, there is every chance that recruitment will not be simply a matter of waiting for drivers to come knocking on your door.

Finally, there are two issues in the recovery industry that are being tackled: hard shoulder safety and statutory fees. Neither is going to be resolved overnight, but we will make sure that progress is made.


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.

Five pence relief – the war on fuel duty goes on

The price of fuel you are buying today is five pence per litre lower than it might have been due to the campaigning work of the RHA and its partners through FairFuel UK.

This saving is because of the cancellation of the ‘escalator’ of one pence, the postponement of an inflation rise of three pence and the reduction in duty level of one pence. It is a great victory for the industry.

It has to be said, though, that the price of fuel is still high and might go higher, and the rate of duty in the UK is still much higher than most of Europe, so this represents the winning of a battle – the war on fuel duty goes on.

One central feature of the FairFuel UK campaign was the number of MPs who signed up to support us (more than 140) and that was largely as a result of individuals contacting their MPs demanding action. The government clearly felt enormous pressure which led them to act. Having built this firm foundation of support in Parliament, we must build on it and keep the momentum going. RHA members are rightly sceptical about letters to MPs, but I have an excellent example of why this is so important. At the height of the campaign to canvas MP support, I wrote to an MP who I know has an interest in the road haulage industry setting out the RHA’s concerns. His reply was: “I’d be happy to reply in detail about my views on this (or any other issue for that matter) to any member of the RHA who lives in [the constituency]. The best way to get answers from MPs is not for us to receive emails like the attached but to hear directly from our constituents.” Needless to say, we have arranged for a number of his constituents to write to him.

It is also important to stress that any members willing to put pressure on their MPs will get full support from the RHA. Our staff will help members, including attending meetings and preparing briefing papers. You are not alone and the combined strength of the RHA and its members can become a powerful political voice in Whitehall and Westminster.

Yes, the price of fuel is still high and causing problems for many members and their customers. Yes, the level of fuel duty is still too high, and is the primary cause of the high price of diesel in the UK. And yes, the price of fuel is not the only issue the RHA must tackle, but at long last we have implemented a concerted and effective, industry-wide campaign and ensured that the government doesn’t just listen, it acts. The fight goes on!

April 2011  RHA Chief Executive – Geoff Dunning

Our plea to the Chancellor

The RHA will be taking part in the presentation of a petition to 10 Downing Street on 2 March and I hope that you have signed up to the FairFuel UK campaign, which is also supported by the FTA and a number of other organisations.

In addition to the petition, we have been working with these organisations to increase pressure on the Chancellor to cancel the planned 1 April duty increase announced last year, which is subject to confirmation in the March Budget Statement.

This increase is not 1p – as has been regularly and mistakenly reported in the press – but is planned to be Retail Price Index (RPI) linked, plus 1p. We all know that this measure of inflation has been rising steadily and reached 5.1% on 15 February. Duty is currently 58.95 pence per litre, so a 5.1% inflationary increase will be 3p – plus the 1p extra, making a total of 4 pence per litre! Needless to say, if inflation carries on rising, as many forecasters expect, the hike in fuel duty will be even more.

RHA action has included a massive amount of media coverage, with large numbers of RHA members and staff being interviewed by the press, ranging from national TV stations to local newspapers. To every single one of you who has got involved in this work, please accept my gratitude. Your help is a great example of cooperation.

Now is also the time for members to contact their MPs, telling them how important it is that fuel duty does not rise by any more. I am often told that members have been in touch with MPs who know little about our industry: that is all the more reason for you to write, setting out how many voters are involved in your firm and how important your business is to the economy in their constituency.

The Chancellor will make his Budget statement on 23 March and we hope it will be good news. We know that the government is in a very difficult position and it has to mend the nation’s finances. We are equally sure that massive increases to the price of fuel when the economy is so fragile puts at risk the economic recovery that the UK so badly needs and threatens growth in the private sector which will pay the taxes required to balance the books.

It is not too late to help prevent yet more increases in fuel duty – especially critical at a time when diesel is already at record prices because of high crude oil prices caused by pressures in the global markets and by the sterling/dollar exchange rate.

The RHA wrote to the Chancellor before Christmas asking him to reconsider the increase. A great deal has happened since to persuade him to change his mind. I hope he does.

March 2011

RHA and members: a powerful team

As I write this, the price of fuel is very close to the all-time high of £1.09 pence per litre plus VAT reached in January 2008. Oil prices have risen in the last two weeks, so it is likely that the price of diesel will have risen further by the time you read this.

The RHA has joined with the FTA in supporting FairFuelUK, a campaign that is intended to press the government to drop plans to increase duty by about three pence per litre in April – the actual increase is one pence plus inflation, whatever that might be at the time – and to introduce some sort of mechanism that brings stability to fuel prices. Some may argue that we are fighting a losing battle, as the government is in severe financial difficulty and needs every penny of tax that it can get, but we do not agree.

Our position is based on the fact that the haulage industry needs to be recognised for the key part it plays in the UK economy and that pushing our costs higher and higher, through both oil price increases and fuel duty rises, simply adds to the problems that the economy faces, making recovery less likely and slower.

We all know that the price of fuel is not the only problem we face. If the diesel price was to drop dramatically, customers would quickly be calling for rates to be reduced – as some contracts do automatically. Some sectors of the haulage industry already face severe competition against the many foreign trucks that travel our roads, who do not pay a penny towards their development and maintenance, and use fuel that is not taxed to anywhere near the same level as that sold in the UK. And we all know there are far too many hauliers who are even now prepared to slash rates in a desperate attempt to keep their wheels moving, and even to keep their business afloat for a bit longer before the inevitable insolvency.

The RHA has never lobbied, and will never campaign, solely on the subject of fuel prices, but this issue is at the top of most people’s agenda now, so we make no apology for trying to persuade the government that an ever-increasing price for diesel will damage the UK. We have been urging politicians and officials to respond and wrote to the Chancellor of the Exchequer before Christmas drawing this issue to his attention and looking for action.

What can you do? Please go to website: and sign the online petition. Please ask all your friends, family and business contacts to do the same. Also, please get in touch with your MPs and tell them just how much damage the high price of fuel will do to your business and to the economy. Together, the RHA and its members have a very powerful voice and now is the perfect time to make it heard.


Working with government

It was a real pleasure to see the Secretary of State for Transport visiting our offices in Weybridge. As our local MP, we had already met Philip Hammond at a constituency event, but his acceptance of an invitation to visit the RHA and to be interviewed for ROADWAY gave us an opportunity to question one of the key decision-makers for our industry.

One refreshing aspect of his comments was the way that he readily acknowledged an old-fashioned view of the industry when he took up his post. More important was his recognition, having met hauliers, that ours is an industry which is often cutting edge and sophisticated and plays a key role in the UK economy. Such a change in opinion only comes from exposure to the realities of the modern road haulage industry, and we were delighted when he made the point that getting in touch with local MPs is a very effective way of lobbying.

This is why the RHA is developing Deliver UK, which will encourage members to get involved in a comprehensive programme designed to change the attitude of MPs and government.

The Transport Secretary made it very clear that the industry must embrace the concept of being “green”. Given that the vast majority of CO2 emissions in our sector come from using diesel fuel, there is little doubt that the “greening” of road haulage can be a win-win situation: burning less diesel means cost savings as well as producing less CO2.

We have seen some of the big players in the industry claiming to be green, and their contracts often impose similar obligations further down the supply chain. But how much of this is window dressing? How many times do so-called green companies force hauliers into inefficient operations for their own convenience? How many loads are shipped when the vehicle is well below capacity for spurious health and safety reasons? How many times is the transfer of freight from road to rail a glorified publicity stunt, which actually produces more CO2, not less?

We know there is a need to produce less CO2, but please can we have a degree of common sense? Can we have less box-ticking and more real action that genuinely does see the win-win situations that benefit hauliers as well as their customers?

Finally, it was also reassuring to hear that Mr Hammond is progressing with plans to level the playing field when it comes to foreign trucks. We hope that such a scheme does not affect the huge sections of our industry that do not face foreign competition. We also hope that the government does not overlook the fact that the compliance standards of foreign firms often falls way behind the UK operator. That is just as important to the level playing field as a road-user charge.


Awards Lunch is great success

The RHA’s first Awards Lunch was widely regarded as a great success. We had more than 250 people in the Grand Connaught Rooms to hear a wide-ranging speech from our chairman, listen to the new Logistics Minister Mike Penning, and find out who had won each of our five new awards. RHA chairman Andy Boyle pulled no punches in reminding our principal guest of the industry’s concerns, focusing on the very poor state of much of our road network. He described our roads as “crumbling before our eyes” and very few of those present would have questioned that.

I would like to say how pleased I was that the day ran so smoothly and was so well received by those who attended. Congratulations to Chris Seaton, Kate Gibbs and Peter Shakespeare for their achievement in bringing the awards lunch together and making it so enjoyable for everyone who attended. I know times are very hard in the industry at the moment, but it is good to let our hair down sometimes, and the fact that so many people came along made it more than worthwhile.

You will find the list of award winners on page 12 and, while it might seem unfair to single out one for special mention, I do want to congratulate Val Smith on winning the Unsung Hero Award. Val chaired the RHA from 2003 to 2005 and anyone who knows her will agree that she is one of the most unassuming, charming and bravest “movers and shakers” in the industry.

In the opinion of the judges, much of what she has done for the industry has not received the recognition it deserves. When campaigning publicly for a better deal for her local members in Northern Ireland, she did so at considerable personal risk. She has given selflessly of her time to the RHA for many years, all while running and growing her haulage business, Bondelivery. And everything she has done for the haulage industry, especially in Northern Ireland, was achieved while bringing up a young family.

For many of those who attended, the highlight of the day was hearing from Mike Penning who, as Minister for Logistics, is without doubt one of the most important people for our industry. It is he who will make the significant decisions on new and changed legislation, so it was particularly interesting to hear what he had to say. The Minister’s speech covered a wide range of subjects, and we were very pleased that he chose our event to make the formal announcement that the Driver CPC regulations would not be ‘gold-plated’. That is a welcome sign that the government is listening, as was the clear commitment to tackle the issue of unfair competition from foreign hauliers. We await further details of their plans with great interest.


Deliver UK: make a difference

Over the past ten years or so, many RHA members have written to MPs using
standard letters prepared by the RHA. More often than not, the response has been lukewarm to say the least and, as a result, there is widespread cynicism about the effectiveness of contacting your MP.

The time has come to change that. The time has come to make our voice heard in the corridors of power and ensure the interests of the haulage industry, which is critical to the success of the UK economy, are properly taken into account.

Together, we can make a real impact.

Now that the dust has settled on the General Election, all the various ministerial posts have been filled, and the government has settled its position on how and where budget cuts will fall, we have an opportunity to engage with the various MPs who influence policy.

Over the summer, we have been building a list of key MPs, including not only ministers in important departments, such as the DfT and the Treasury, but also the Whips who are the ‘eyes and ears’ of ministers and play a vital role in briefing them about many issues.

For many years, there has been the view that the road freight sector’s interests have not been properly communicated to Parliament. Deliver UK is a completely new approach which will change this situation dramatically and permanently. Deliver UK is a carefully planned, targeted approach to making our voice heard, using our members’ influence to ensure that government not only listens to our views, but reflects those views in the decisions it makes.

Every member has a part to play. Every member can help us achieve the objective of ensuring that MPs listen to our concerns.

Deliver UK will work on a number of levels. The first stage is the identification of those MPs who are most important to our campaign to get our interests taken into account when decisions are made.

During this stage we will be approaching members direct and asking them to get involved in writing to MPs, attending their surgeries, inviting them to visit members’ depots and, most importantly, getting our messages across about the issues which matter, and the changes we want to see.

The first stage will take us through to the end of this year, after which we will extend our reach to a wider range of MPs who are interested in specialist areas of significance to members and are willing to listen to our concerns and follow them up with ministers in a positive and constructive way.

In the meantime we encourage members to approach any MP, whatever their role within Parliament. One thing is absolutely clear: if we don’t tell decision-makers what is important to us, no one else will. If you are asked to get involved, we hope you will.


Lorry charging: a Trojan horse?

Our government seems to be committed to finding a way of making a Lorry Road User Charge scheme work, with its programme including a new system of charging which will ‘ensure a fairer arrangement for UK hauliers.’

The RHA’s established policy on fuel duty is in three parts: we are looking for stability on prices; we expect to see meaningful charges being applied to foreign operators, and we require a rebate scheme that will result in no increase in costs for UK hauliers. It is on this basis that any discussion with the DfT will be taken forward.

We are aware that others will have different views, not least the LibDems who pre-election were talking of a charging scheme, the proceeds of which would be used not to compensate UK hauliers but to fund a major expansion of the rail network.

It is also likely that environmental groups will see an HGV charging scheme as a means of promoting their totally unjustified claim that UK-registered trucks do not pay their way. Needless to say, that is a point which we will be vigorously rejecting, as there is more than enough evidence to show that the real problem is foreign vehicles which contribute nothing, despite taking a very large proportion of UK long-distance haulage work.

It is encouraging to see that the government wishes to ‘ensure a fairer arrangement for UK hauliers.’ The challenge is to ensure that real progress is made, that the work is not distracted by meaningless diversions designed to slow down or even halt development, and that the agenda is not confused by parties with other objectives which are irrelevant or misleading. Equally important is the need to avoid being tempted into a deal that does not meet the three tests set out above: stability of prices, charging that applies to foreign operators and a significant rebate for UK firms.

The RHA will be embarking on a series of meetings with the DfT and the Treasury designed to pursue our aims. This work will be supported by a growing number of RHA members who have agreed to assist us by getting involved in Deliver UK – a targeted programme of contact with MPs.

For too long, our industry has failed to get its message into Parliament, with the vast majority of MPs knowing little or nothing about road haulage. That has to change, and the RHA is helping any member who is prepared to get involved. Whether you have one truck or a fleet, your voice is important to ensure that the haulage industry’s views are heard in Westminster. No other single influence has as much impact on the legislator as informed communication from industry experts such as RHA members. Your association will be taking the lead and, together, we can make our voice heard.


Driver CPC: threat or opportunity?

As an industry we have always had an element of cynicism in response to change or efforts to regulate our activities.

Far too many employers have an in-built reluctance to train staff and many drivers choose not to improve their knowledge and are scared of any attempt to do so.

Some employers assume that drivers arrive with them ‘fully trained’ because they hold an LGV licence, and some drivers see training as something that is a chore – like a trip to the dentist. So it is not surprising that the chatter among drivers and on driver forums is totally negative.

RHA Training works with large numbers of drivers, and the worst groups to motivate and stimulate are those where the employer has arranged the training on a Saturday and then expects the drivers to attend in their own time having completed a week’s work.

The RHA has every sympathy with hard-pressed members who face the choice of paying the fuel bill and wages or buying DCPC training but, unless they approach it in a more positive light, they will continue to waste their money and the drivers will continue to mirror their behaviours.

It is essential that employers consider what they want to achieve from their investment. Just ask: ‘How can I improve my business? Is it reduced fuel consumption, fewer accidents, improved compliance, better customer service, etc?’ Only then should they consider how to achieve that, and see how that can be done within the syllabus. This way any training will offer a return on their investment.

We are also very concerned about rumours of cheating by some trainers. JAUPT’s auditing process will not catch anyone cheating: it will only identify honest trainers who have missed out some element of a bureaucratic process. There is no ‘policing’ as such and this has to change.

Many operators, large and small, have realised that the most cost-effective way to approach DCPC has to be one-day-a-year, which controls costs in each year, manages downtime and ensures benefits are gained as early as possible.

This also allows drivers to get used to their annual training day and, in an ideal world and if handled well, they might even begin to look forward to it.

The first experience that drivers get of the CPC will be critical to their view of the process going forward, so selecting the right course from the right provider in the first instance is crucial.

The SAFED programme proved without doubt that even the hard-bitten cynical driver can learn new ways of working that saves money: the average fuel saving across over 6,000 drivers was better than 10%. The DCPC is a reality, and operators should use it to their benefit.