As soon as the current government was elected lobbyists were knocking at their door. One of the major players was the Road Haulage Association, which during the election published a manifesto for the government to improve the plight of fleet owners.
This is one of the most pressing issues facing haulage companies today. The RHA has met with ministers to call for grants for potential drivers to become fully qualified. This should ease the problem but the government needs to act.
Haulage companies believe that this is the best outcome of these ongoing discussions between the government and industry.
One of the glaring points the RHA raised was that the UK pays the most fuel duty in the EU. The manifesto points out that one articulated HGV will cost a company £14,000 a year more in fuel duty than anywhere else in the EU over a year. This makes it incredibly hard for businesses to compete on the open market with their rivals on the continent.
The RHA would support a continued freeze in fuel duty. In an interview with Fuel Card Services Ltd Steve Clark, he worried that this may not continue. He said, “In the campaign there were so many promises of what the government wasn’t going to raise tax on. They didn’t mention fuel tax among this list”.
Vehicle Excise Duty (VED)
The RHA’s manifesto appreciates that VED has remained largely unchanged over the years. It stated: “Any increase would add to the burden on an essential industry that is already overly-taxed and would immediately damage the competitiveness of UK road haulage and its customers.”
One of the first things to be cut in local authority budgets in this age of austerity has been road improvement and repair – better to slash the pothole budget than to be unable to provide care for disabled children… It is well known that our roads are crumbling and often in a bad state. At the time of writing this piece, I have hit the same pothole at Junction 7/8 of the southbound M1 every day for the last four weeks!
The RHA gives a mixture of praise and a warning that the minimum level currently offered by the government cannot go any lower because it would impact the competitiveness of the country as a whole: “The current road maintenance budget is the minimum the new government must also guarantee. Additional cash should be made available where there is a clear need to do so, as was the case in the last parliament.”
Security and comfort
One of the things that blights drivers and hauliers is the high level of crime on the roads. A whole criminal industry has emerged where people slash curtain siders and empty the trailers. The RHA calls for more secure parking areas on the motorway network where drivers can park up and rest without fear that someone will raid their payloads.
Another issue about places to park up is the poor facilities. When a driver is parked up overnight the last thing he or she wants is a blocked toilet and a filthy shower. These seem to be real issues nationwide, and doesn’t make truck driving very attractive to people who may consider it as a career.
CO2 emissions, cycle safety, professional development and other taxation are looked at in the manifesto that paints a picture of how one of the most important industries in the UK could benefit from a proactive, supportive government. The word from the industry isn’t encouraging – don’t expect the government to come on board lock, stock and barrel!