Saturday, February 18, 2012

Fuel Prices Continue to Aggravate Road Haulage Freight Groups

Potential for Strike Action Next Week as Operators Fume
Shipping News Feature

UK – IRELAND – The cost of fuel continues to be a cause of annoyance to freight groups in both countries but whereas UK agencies are still pushing for plans to reduce duty levels road haulage groups in the Republic intend to take much more direct action by closing the roads of Dublin from 0800 hrs on Wednesday the 22nd February to demonstrate their anger.

Last week in Britain the Freight Transport Association (FTA) called on the Chancellor to cut fuel duty by at least five pence per litre and scrap the increase planned for August. In its pre-Budget submission to the Treasury, the leading trade body argues that such action could save consumers and businesses £3.6 billion and prove to be a vital shot in the arm for the UK’s ailing economy.

The FTA, together with the Road Haulage Association (RHA) backed the Fair Fuel UK campaign which was instrumental in having two planned increases in fuel duty deferred and an unprecedented cut in fuel duty of 1 pence per litre, a move which the groups say saved businesses some £500 million yet, despite this, the cost of diesel in 2011 rose 7 pence per litre costing hauliers on average £3,284 more to operate a typical 44 tonne articulated vehicle per annum. James Hookham, FTA’s MD of Policy and Communications, said:

“Never mind quantitative easing, cutting the still-disproportionately high amount we spend on diesel, which is, after all, a business essential, would be a simple and effective way to stimulate the economy. The billions that industry and consumers will save over a year would be invested elsewhere in the economy, giving the impetus to growth that is so badly needed.

“George Osborne gave industry a lifeline in the last budget, but with the economy still in the doldrums and a new round of duty rises looming, we are asking the Chancellor to extend this logic further for the sake of businesses, consumers and UK plc. It is clear that the economy still needs it.”

Meanwhile in the Republic confusion reigns over the Irish Road Haulage Association’s (IRHA) proposed industrial action all over Ireland next week when members were to descend on the capital to protest the cost of fuel. Despite several meetings with Government officials the Association said last week that the time to talk was over and haulage operators needed to demonstrate the depth of their feelings over a problem that sees many facing financial meltdown.

The IRHA claims that, had the Government taken up its suggestions at the last budget, it would have seen a net gain without the pain induced by what it considers the disappointing measures actually introduced. The organisation was apparently encouraging members who cannot reach Dublin to stage their own protests in other parts of the country. Following a meeting with Minister Noonan on Thursday the IRHA issued a statement saying:

“We welcome the response which was received from Minister Noonan this evening and his acknowledgement of the important role the road haulage sector plays in our economic recovery and the affect the rising cost of fuel is having on it. The Minister acknowledged our concerns that fuel laundering has reached epidemic levels and a workable solution on this issue will be forthcoming from the Department. We appreciate how quickly the Minister has established the working group and we look forward to progressing our proposals early next week.”

Whether this statement signals a change of heart regarding protest action is not clear at this time but the likelihood is that the IRHA will not remove the threat unless some firm positive commitments regarding the cost of diesel in the Republic are made in the next couple of days.