Road Haulage Association

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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: http://www.fairfueluk.com 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.

FEBRUARY 2011

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.

DECEMBER 2010

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