Road Haulage Association

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Taking our issues direct to government

By the time you read this I will have met with the Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne and his Treasury officials.

The meeting followed our demands for Mr Osborne to sanction licence acquisition funding to help address the driver shortage.

But this meeting was only the start of a long journey. At the end of that journey there must be a clear and sustainable action plan, which will deliver a much better industry with a solid, well-motivated and sustainable workforce.

I went to the meeting with a clear mandate from, you, the RHA membership. Firstly you are telling me that despite the government playing down the severity and impact of the driver shortage, it is very real and your number one challenge, currently.

Secondly you are completely frustrated by the rebuffs and empty words that come out of Westminster whenever the subject of our road haulage and logistics industry pops up on the Government’s radar.

You want clear solutions and proper, investment in and recognition for, the industry that underpins the whole of the UK’s economy.

Investing in drivers, in terms of licence acquisition, is only the tip of the iceberg. What must be addressed are all the other elements that sit underneath the fact that we have an acute shortage of HGV drivers. These include: poor road infrastructure; a lack of facilities for drivers; a lack of awareness about the industry among young people and careers advisors in schools; barriers created by insurers; the poor press the industry often receives and overregulation. These factors combine to create the poor image the industry suffers from and the resulting problems we experience, attracting fresh blood and young talent into it.

You have also told me that a lack of an effective organisation to represent the careers and skills interests of the industry is an issue. There are many excellent recruitment initiatives being driven forward by you at a local level, and Abbey Logistics’ ‘Think Logistics’ campaign is a good example of one, which deserves industry wide support and help from government.

I presented all these views at the meeting and insisted that the government responds with genuine support and clear solutions.

I would also like to re-emphasis last month’s ‘Call to Action’. While my meeting at the Treasury was a great step in the right direction, and far more beneficial that 20 seminars discussing the problems we face, we know from our experience working with FairFuel UK that ministers will only really wake up the gravity of issues if they are being lobbied by the constituency MPs. What you need to do is to become a pain in the posterior as far as your local MPs are concerned. With a General Election only three months away, invite your MP to discuss where they stand on the issues that challenge you and ask them to convey your message, and the message of the people who rely on you for employment, to their colleagues in the corridors of power. If they can’t come to you go and knock on their doors.

The RHA is working on a road map of the MPs who serve your constituencies. This will help you and us to engage with them.

Keep a close watch on the weekly policy and campaign bulletin emails for more information on this and the progress we are making with government.


Richard Burnett


A budget for the voters…just not these ones!

Chancellor George Osborne delivered a highly political budget on 19 March.

With a General Election looming this was no surprise. If you are: employed, a first time house buyer, a saver, like beer, work in the entertainment industry and live on a Scottish island with no Internet; you got a result.

As far as this industry was concerned, yet again, we got some cold comfort.

The Chancellor failed to make a financial commitment to targeted funding for hauliers to address the driver shortage, despite intensive lobbying by the RHA.

The rejection at this stage of our call for support is a poor decision for the economy, for tax receipts and for the industry. But we note his commitment to finding an: ‘industry-led solution with the right level of access to, and funding support for training.’ We look forward to further discussions.

The government will review the speed with which HGV driving tests and driver medical assessments currently take place and will consider options to accelerate both in order to help address the shortage of qualified drivers.

I understand the issues here are down to a lack of resources at DVLA and DVSA. The government has to address this, otherwise any ‘industry-led solution” will stall before it gets off the line!

The expected announcement of a continuing freeze on fuel duty was a relief all the same; but the government still hasn’t got the message that a cut would bring broader economic rewards.

HGV VED was frozen and there were wins for small businesses and all businesses will welcome the reduced rate of corporation tax.

Our lobby for funding support and all other driver shortage related issues will now be even stronger in the coming weeks. I would like to thank the many RHA members and other organisations that have supported this work so far and continue to do so. But with the election only five weeks away all of you have a golden opportunity to bend the ear of MPs and potential MPs.

The current administration could be gone by 9 May and what replaces it needs to take a crystal clear message from our industry into government. It’s a simple equation: No drivers, no trucks. No trucks, no deliveries. No deliveries equal shortages. They’ll get the next bit.

Meanwhile, the RHA is committed to pressing ahead with its programme of advising members, promoting the industry and working to improve drivers’ conditions.


Richard Burnett

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

Building on relationships and strategies

It’s nearly six weeks now since I joined the Road Haulage Association as the new CEO.

I have to say it’s been an absolute whirlwind, and I cannot believe how many people I have met in such a short space of time. I would like to thank everyone for making me feel so welcome.

As I begin to understand how the RHA operates, I have also started to build my network of contacts, meeting government officials, MPs, the Traffic Commissioners, other trade associations and associated lobbying groups.

I have also had the opportunity to attend two regional council meetings as well as my first board meeting and I have visited a number of members’ businesses, to see their operations at first hand.   It has been great spending this time to gain a valuable insight into their perceptions of the RHA while understanding their needs.

In order to develop the vision and strategy for the RHA moving forward, bringing the organisation more in line with the current market challenges, I have engaged an external public relations agency to review both internal and external communication channels, to drive a more proactive approach to promoting the great work that the RHA is undertaking for its members. The current situation is too reactive and needs to change.

In line with this external review I have also started staff briefings to share my vision of creating ‘The trade association of choice that represents the road transport industry in the UK’.  The objective of these briefings is to start involving the whole RHA team at every level in shaping the future of our organisation while at the same time gaining their ‘buy in’ and support.

The briefings also provided a platform to praise publicly some of the great work that the RHA team have undertaken recently. A good example of this is the work that the RHA’s technical services manager, Ray Engley, has completed, by creating the RHA guide to safe and secure loading. This publication was circulated with last months Roadway magazine and has received plaudits industry wide including recognition from Senior Traffic Commissioner Beverley Bell at the Bakewell member briefing. The demand has been so great that an initial order for 10,000 pocket size guides has been placed with our printer for broader circulation to drivers. It can be purchased online through the RHA Shop.

Over the forthcoming months as the RHA’s leadership team works on the future strategy, I will ensure that I keep you all up to date with progress and in parallel we will continue to lobby Government on the top 3 issues identified by our membership. That being: the driver shortage, fuel duty and road congestion. We will of course develop a proactive media campaign that supports this and highlights the economic impacts and our position in the national press.

On a lighter note, I would like to close this month’s update by congratulating CEVA Logistics on winning the Environmental Improvement award, sponsored by the RHA at this year’s CILT dinner. It was an honour presenting the award, which was a real testament to the CEVA team who deliver excellence in this area.

I look forward to catching up with you all again next month.


Richard Burnett


Understanding the RHA and your needs

I write this article, having just completed my first full week as the new CEO of the RHA.

I would like to thank Geoff Dunning for his support while handing over the reins of the business. Geoff has clearly been instrumental in creating a solid base upon which I can continue to build and I want to take this opportunity to wish Geoff a long and joyous retirement.

For me the process of review has started and I’m keen to really understand what makes the RHA tick, particularly from our Members’ perspectives, and where we can add further benefit and value.

I will be assessing every element of what we do and how we do it, engaging with the board of management and front line teams as well as you, the members. My objective is to develop a clear vision and strategy to take the RHA to the next level, so it is seen as the ‘leading’ trade association that represents the transport industry.

There are a number of projects that the team are currently working on, and one in particular is focussing on a new CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system that will be game changing for the RHA. In conjunction with this it is my intention to change the current website design, which is of course the shop window for our organisation, and in parallel review our PR, media and marketing strategy to ensure that we are reaching a broader audience through both national and trade press, to raise awareness about the key issues that are affecting the industry right now.

As you read through this month’s ROADWAY you will note that there are a number of articles that talk about some of the key issues that are affecting the industry right now, among them the driver shortage, focus on compliance and Driver CPC to name but a few.

Drawing on my own recent industry experience, I would also add another issue, which needs addressing, road congestion. This growing issue is one that is directly impacting on the cost of operation. I have already engaged in a number of high-level discussions with key government officials on this topic and will keep you updated as progress is made.

Coming back to the driver shortage issue for a moment, this has been well publicised, however we need to stop discussing it and start acting to find a long term solution for the industry and as our director of policy, Jack Semple, has eluded to in his update, we are working on the RHA policy to address the issue and will share our position imminently.

As I have already said in previous interviews, I feel very proud and honoured to represent the road transport industry as the CEO of the RHA and look forward to engaging with all of you over the forth coming months as I get my feet under the table to drive forward a more commercially focused association that provides outstanding value for its membership.


Richard Burnett

Farewell and best wishes

My first involvement with the logistics sector started when I joined the Freight Transport Association in July 1975 as an assistant regional secretary. In those days we were talking about drivers’ logbooks and introducing a new ‘chart style’ version that required drivers to draw nice neat lines showing what they had been doing.

Another piece of legislation that came into force while I was at the FTA were the rules on ‘Admission to the Occupation’. These brought the concepts of good repute, financial standing and professional competence to the industry; with the latter introducing the CPC for transport managers. I was involved in establishing the FTA’s first CPC courses and in fact actually passed the very first exam. Following 12 years at the FTA, I started with the RHA as district manager of the Darlington office in July 1987.

One big feature of the RHA in those days was TipCon, a major event for the tipper industry, which had been held in Harrogate for many years. This eventually became our contribution to the partnership that operates the CV Show, largely as a result of pressure from vehicle manufacturers, who only wanted one show per year. The SMMT and IRTE ran their own shows at the time, and threw their hats in with us. Another key activity was an annual conference, which was always held aboard. The first one that I attended was in Madeira (See photo), and we went to every part of Europe and even subsequently went as far afield as California and Florida – where over 500 people attended. The Conference was made possible by real competition between the vehicle manufacturers, who paid up to £250,000 in sponsorship for a week in the sun with a captive audience!

At that time the RHA was a very different to the organisation than it is today. For a start we had some 18,000 members, with the vast majority of the extra numbers being owner-drivers. We had seven ‘District’ offices scattered round the UK – the result of a previous consolidation.

We negotiated drivers’ wages in many parts of the country, but the RHA provided few of the services we do today. Then commercial activity was mainly related to sales of drivers’ record books (the predecessor to the tachograph), so the vast majority of our income was derived from membership fees.

There were a number of legal aid funding schemes, but they were non-profit making. Over the next few years, the various Districts independently started to introduce revenue-earning schemes. Contracts of employment, training and tachograph analysis were the first proper ventures into the commercial world. These moves were almost always resisted by vested interests within the membership, but slowly they built up a decent clientele.

To my mind, the big change came in August 1994, when the seven districts became four regions and a real momentum behind commercialisation built up. A more structured approach was developed, with moves towards centralising the RHA’s main services, starting with the Haulier’s Shop, followed by RHA Training at Peterborough. The first central member recruitment team was established there in 2000. Also during this period, we saw significant growth in the RHA “Business Partner” concept, which built on the RHA LawPlan model. This centralised legal insurance scheme was developed out of the merger of the various local legal aid schemes.

At the same time that the regions were established, there was a significant change in the governance of the RHA. The Regional Councils were formed and the National Council was abolished.

As chief executive for the last five years, I added to this change. Moving the office of the chief executive, the finance and marketing functions to the commercial hub at Peterborough and selling the headquarters office in Weybridge was the most significant.

This decision was driven by a financial imperative, as were other actions such as the sale of the Bristol office on Cribbs Causeway. But the RHA is now in much better shape than it was at the beginning of 2009.

The last two years have seen steady expansion, enabling us to: invest in the refurbishment of our Peterborough building; buy a new office for the staff in Bristol that will include a training facility; expand our shop activities extensively by the purchase of a warehouse and commit to a new IT System fit for the demands of a modern RHA and 21st Century commercial enterprise.

My one regret is that I did not develop the potential of RHA’s specialist groups. They remain a ‘rough diamond’ and are a tremendous asset. And there is enormous scope for their expansion and as a consequence expansion of the RHA as a whole.

To my mind it is ridiculous that they operate largely in isolation from the rest of the RHA and it is nothing short of scandalous that one of them sits on a six-figure sum of money but does not use it to the members’ benefit. I hope that my successor can address this.

Having said that, the RHA is generally in very good shape and I look forward to seeing how Richard Burnett takes us forward. There is no doubt in my mind that we need a fresh pair of eyes to look at the organisation and to shape our strategy and I wish the Association all the best for the future. I have no doubt that it will go from strength to strength.


Geoff Dunning

Haulage rates…Unreasonable penalty charges and getting paid!


There has been a fair amount of coverage in the trade press recently relating to major haulage users who unilaterally extend payment terms, effectively using their transport suppliers as banks.

This is totally unreasonable and we urge members to resist this sort of action. As if that is not bad enough, there are also more and more cases of delivery and collection sites imposing charges of up to £1,000 because of the alleged failure of the carrier to be there on time; present a load in sound condition or some other issue such as the driver having a bad haircut.

Again, we urge members to resist having to make these payments unless there is a reasonable case for doing so and there is a similar arrangement when the third party causes delays to your vehicle.

For far too long we have simply accepted unreasonable impositions that add cost without any compensation in the form of increased haulage rates. But now we are getting more and more examples of a shortage of vehicles, with customers – increasingly acting through clearing houses – having to ring round to find someone with vehicles available. Do not accept rates that you are not happy with and do not accept unreasonable penalty charges unless there are clear and documented arrangements for payments when there are delays to your vehicles.

Returning to the issue of getting paid, there is a little light at the end of the tunnel, in the shape of moral support at least, from the Government, which recognises that many large customers do not treat their suppliers reasonably and are trying to encourage a prompt payment culture. There is a Bill in Parliament – the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Bill – which includes provisions that directly apply to large public sector contracts and will require larger companies to make a declaration about their payment performance. It has been the case for some time that Government contracts include a prompt payment arrangement but that approach rarely cascades down the supply chain beyond the prime contract holder. There is now some hope that we will see that change, with hauliers involved in work related to major public contracts getting paid promptly. The other provision – regarding companies reporting their payment performance does not guarantee quicker payment but it should help to develop a new payment culture. We certainly hope so. The fact is that a large proportion of your costs have to be paid out long before you receive payment from your customer – with fuel and wages being obvious – and delaying these payments is not an option.

Clearly the decisions to accept any given rate or payment period is a commercial one, and one that has to be left to individual operators, but bear in mind the fact that the cost of financing your business will increase if your customer takes longer to pay and that increased cost should be reflected in the haulage rates that you charge. Supply and demand is such that there are opportunities to stick to your guns on rates – don’t accept anything less than you believe to be the right rate for the job.


Geoff Dunning

RHA Annual Lunch – a great success!

Our Annual Lunch, held at the Park Lane Hotel on Piccadilly on Thursday, 16th May was a great success.

I have received several comments to the effect that it was the “best ever” and I have to say that I agree with them. Events such as this rely on a number of elements for them to work and firstly, this year we had an excellent venue, which provided the perfect setting and delivered high quality food and service. We also had an excellent line up of speakers, with the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander MP and the England Grand Slam winner and British Lions rugby star, Martin Bayfield, providing serious and entertaining speeches. This no doubt had a major influence on the next factor, which was a sell-out audience filling the Park Lane’s ballroom with over 320 guests, including a number of prominent invited guests, such Sir Peter Hendy from Transport for London, Peter Shaw and Mike Hawes representing our CV Show partners SOE/IRTE and SMMT respectively, Rob Flello, Chair of the All Party Freight Group and Theo de Pencier from FTA.

So the stage was set for a great day and every expectation was fulfilled, starting with an excellent address by Danny Alexander, who paid tribute to the RHA for its effectiveness in representing our members’ interests, saying: “…Geoff and his team made absolutely sure that, I was under no illusion about just how important fuel price and fuel price stability is to your industry.”  He also recognised the leading role that we had played in pressing for action to impose charges on foreign trucks and urged the RHA to continue to draw to the Government’s attention those parts of our motorway and road network that cause the worst problems because: “…where traffic slows down, our economy slows down.” Our second invited speaker was Martin Bayfield. At six feet ten inches tall, Martin creates an immediate impression wherever he goes, but it was his presentation that made the most impact on his fellow guests. His stories from both police service and playing for England and the Lions were simply hilarious and his whole performance was immensely entertaining. If ever you get an opportunity to hear him – take it.

Our National Chairman, Peter Barber took the opportunity to recognise the hard work of the staff, the commitment of our members and the support of his fellow members on the Board of Directors. He went on to say: “The RHA as a whole and we, as individual hauliers, need to be clear about our role in the economy and how we will contribute in the future and the RHA will be sending a clear message to that effect.”

Peter concluded by announcing my own retirement date, generously crediting me with getting the association into the strong position that it is today and presenting my wife Sandra with a fabulous bouquet of flowers – to loud applause and the occasional wolf whistle! I will be leaving at the end of August and will have more to say about my departure next month.


Geoff Dunning

Two major RHA events


I hope that a large number of members will see the benefits of attending the Commercial Vehicle Show at the NEC in Birmingham this year.

Taking place from 29 April to 1 May, this year’s event will showcase a very wide selection of products and services from the full range of suppliers, large and small, so you are certain to find something of value. The RHA has two interests in the show – as part-owners together with the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders and the Institute of Road Transport Engineers, and as exhibitors.

As far as the former is concerned, we are delighted to see there is an increase of about 10% in both the number of exhibitors and the space taken, so we will be filling Halls 3a, 4 and 5 with an excellent range of stands. Mercedes-Benz, Iveco, Renault Trucks and MAN are all exhibiting together with van manufacturers including Ford and Vauxhall, so vehicle makers are well represented, as are bodybuilders such as Montracon.

And then there are the smaller stands covering everything from spares to training, bringing the total number of exhibitors to about 450. Many members will find displays of ERF and Foden restored vehicles of interest as they add a different dimension to the show. It will also be a pleasure to welcome a number of guests, especially the Secretary of State for Transport Stephen Hammond MP and Chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Freight Transport, Rob Flello MP – both of whom have expressed an interest in touring the show.

As far as our own stand is concerned, we will be showcasing the three aspects of the RHA: the trade association, our campaigning activities and the full range of commercial services we have available. There are several new developments for members, including our new tachograph analysis service and RHA Smart Test, in which we have partnered with ScreenSafe, leading experts in the provision of drug, alcohol and other harmful substance testing.

Staff will be on hand to explain the full range of RHA activities, including our involvement with FairFuelUK, which has successfully campaigned on the issues of fuel duty – resulting in a 1p per litre reduction and the government agreeing to freeze duty for the life of this parliament. Other campaigning subjects include the difficult issue of the relationship between trucks and bicycles, the excellent working relationship that we have with our Traffic Commissioners and our discussions with DVSA (formerly VOSA) on their enforcement strategy.

This is also an opportunity to remind members that the RHA Annual Lunch will take place at the Park Lane Hotel in Piccadilly on Thursday 15 May. We are pleased and honoured to have as our principal guest the Right Honourable Danny Alexander MP, chief secretary to the Treasury, who will no doubt have much to say to his fellow guests about the government’s approach to the taxation of fuel, as well as other policy issues.


Geoff Dunning


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.