Friday, July 10, 2015

Road Haulage Freight Groups React to Budget's Frozen Fuel Duty

Meanwhile FairFuel UK Has a New Target
Shipping News Feature

UK – A generally favourable reaction to the Chancellors budget this week from Britain’s freight carriers, with a particular interest of course from those in the road haulage community. In addition, having achieved its latest aim of keeping the continuing freeze on fuel duty, the pressure group FairFuel UK, which claims over a million supporters, says it will now target what it terms ‘opportunistic pricing at the pumps’.

The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) commented on the ‘sweeping changes’ to car Vehicle Excise Duty (VED) but Commercial Vehicle Manager Nigel Base said it was ‘lucky’ that none affected the CV sector whilst praising the duty freeze and further investment in apprenticeship schemes.

Two of the country’s main industry related groups came out in favour of the measures announced, but both with some reservations. Both parties voiced criticisms regarding what the industry ideally needs to stimulate it and to ensure a stable future. Road Haulage Association (RHA) Chief Executive Richard Burnett said:

“The freeze on fuel duty continues the very positive policy of the last government and will give a massive boost to business confidence not only in the road haulage industry but the economy as a whole. We would have preferred a 3p a litre cut in duty, to boost both jobs and growth but it was essential that duty was not increased. Our hauliers already pay by far the highest diesel duty in the EU and twice as much as many of our competitors.

"In his Spring Budget George Osborne recognised the shortage of HGV drivers and pledged action to help. This Budget does nothing to help solve the crisis, despite strong representation from across the industry. He has even failed to support the structure put in place by the RHA and JobCentre+ to get unemployed people into driving.

“By the end of 2016 we will be some 60,000 drivers short if action is not taken now. We are working hard to address the problem and we have a quality process in place for getting unemployed people work experience in the industry and if suitable, a route into full time employment. This scheme is called Driving Britain’s Future but this alone will not solve the problem. We need specific targeted funding before it is too late. The RHA will continue to work closely with the Treasury and other government departments to ensure the Chancellor keeps to the pledge made in the March Budget.”

The Freight Transport Association (FTA) made similar noises, saying sense had prevailed but felt that the measures taken did not go far enough. The FTA believes that the fall in fuel prices has been a major factor in the country’s economic recovery but that high taxes mean transport operators haven’t benefited, with only a 13% cut in prices at the pump despite a 43% drop in world oil prices with James Hookham, FTA’s Deputy Chief Executive saying:

“The Chancellor has listened to the voice of industry by keeping fuel duty at current levels, which is to be welcomed. However, the Government has emphasised that its primary objective is to protect the UK economy. We believe that reducing fuel duty would make a huge contribution to this objective and we will continue to campaign with FairFuelUK for a 3 pence per litre cut in order to stimulate economic growth.”

On this last point FairFuel UK has published the names of 32 MP’s to support the organisation’s plea that the retail price of fuel should now be scrutinised by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA). Whilst welcoming the duty freeze FairFuel UK says that its key backers the RAC, FTA, RHA, Association of Pallet Networks and Microlise, support its aims to prevent ‘further blatant, opportunistic and unfair profiteering taking place at the pumps’.

In particular with the wholesale price of diesel today being 6p less than petrol to investigate why retailers continue to price diesel more than petrol at the pumps. The UK is the only country in the EU to price diesel more than petrol and 26 out of 28 EU states now show diesel below a £1.00/litre. In the UK it averages £1.20. Howard Cox Founder of the FairFuelUK Campaign said:

“RAC Foundation's latest figures clearly show that diesel drivers have been ripped off by more than a £0.25 billion in the last 6 weeks at the pumps. This is brazen and unscrupulous profiteering by retailers exploiting 12 million motorists, white van drivers and the haulage industry. FairFuelUK calls on Brian Madderson Head of the Petrol Retailers Association to come clean as to why such opaque and maverick pricing practices amongst his members continues unchecked for all vehicle fuels.”