Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Road Haulage Freight Interests Unhappy With New Think Tank Report

Big Brother Proposal for Citizens to Report Idling HGVs
Shipping News Feature
UK – The recent report on air pollution from the Liberal Conservative outfit Bright Blue, 'Emission Impossible', has been roundly dismissed by the lobby group FairFuelUK which has successfully campaigned for some considerable time to ensure duty levels on fuel for private motorists and trucking companies remains at current levels. FairFuelUK is sponsored by both the Road Haulage Association (RHA) and the Freight Transport Association (FTA).

One of the key proposals in the report is raising the tax on fuel, and adding a further surcharge on diesel, something which would currently impact the haulage industry directly. Included in the report are various ‘facts’ based on reports which FairFuelUK says are unsubstantiated, something which founder Howard Cox says has exasperated him. Mr Cox roundly rejects many of the arguments put forward in the report saying there is no evidence higher fuel taxes improve air quality.

The figure bandied about that 40,000 deaths per year are caused by vehicle emissions, and quoted by the authors, is also questioned. That figure, originally from the Royal College of Physicians and Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health in 2016 has always been an estimate rather than a precise examination of the cases. Critics would doubtless say that some of these deaths, whatever the exact figures are, may well be attributable to those who were alive and suffered before the 1950’s Clean Air Act removed the smog which hung over British cities when coal was the primary source of heating fuel and power provision, and which estimates say killed 12,500 just at that time.

Bright Blue, headed by a former Conservative Party researcher, itself confirms that just 4.5% of the British NOx emissions it is concerned with actually emanates from HGVs. Compared to this aviation was responsible for 21.5% and shipping 40.8%. FairFuelUK says that motorists are simply an easy target and with current UK government policy banning the sale of any conventional petrol and diesel cars and vans by 1940, coupled with the plethora of recently introduced and burgeoning Low Emission Zones, added to the introduction of Euro VI lorry standards, many hauliers would say there is no reason for penalising them further.

In addition to lifting the freeze on fuel duty, something Chancellor Sajid Javid promised in his leadership campaign would not happen in the lifetime of this Parliament, and that proposed additional ‘diesel tax’, the Bright Blue report also advocates ensuring local councils can make ‘reasonable profits’ from their introduction of Clean Air Zones, ostensibly to be used to fight pollution.

It is the next proposed policy which will have many up in arms. Bright Blue believes citizens should have the right to report commercial vehicles, as is apparently the case in New York, photographing vehicles with idling engines and registering this online to allow prosecutions. ‘Recommendation six: Make it a requirement for local authorities with a charging CAZ to introduce a citizen-based reporting system to increase the enforceability of anti-idling measures.’ Note that, a ‘requirement’, careful lads, your pedigree is showing in the language of Big Brother.

There is also a call for the speed limit to drop from 30mph to 20mph in restricted roads. This policy would certainly be welcomed by many road safety campaigners but the authors claim ‘there is evidence’ that this speed reduction also makes for a cut in emissions, something hotly disputed by many and no ‘evidence’ has been provided in the report.

Many of the points made in the report are good ones but the naivety of the authors shows in their brief rundown of technological developments which reads like a school manual on what is a very complex subject. Howard Cox for one is not impressed, saying that since the London Toxic Charge and ULEZ were introduced, diesel particulate matter emissions have increased, for the first time in decades, continuing:

”It’s hard to know why this has happened, but it proves that punishing drivers simply isn’t working. They’ve merely levied a toxic charge that’s poisoning the good will of motorists, truckers and motorcyclists, for no benefit to the environment or health. For now, we continue to face an out-of-control environmental agenda driven by Left Wing media, with no joined-up thinking and scant regard for technical and practical realities.”

All sane people wish to see toxins eliminated from our environment. Unfortunately with population levels as they are, the demand on the logistics industry is such that to keep the vital supply chain secure, Britain depends on the road haulage industry above all others. Within a couple of years the investment needed by road freight operators to maintain a fleet acceptable to the new environmental standards required will see a cost increase which will affect all consumers.

With all the uncertainties surrounding the UK exit from the EU making the country’s deliveries of foodstuffs and other vital supplies susceptible, actions which increase costs across the board should be avoided. The cost of the new vehicles needed to supply the cities and be acceptable under the new regulations will already assure the demise of many smaller haulage outfits, passing the trade into fewer and ever larger companies, many owned by overseas interests.

The need to cut emissions from every sector, including transport is of the utmost urgency, what the country is prepared to pay, and the pace and degree of the clean-up will decide whether it is in fact paramount.