Manifestos from haulage industry pressure groups
There is nothing like a snap, emergency budget from the Chancellor of the Exchequer to focus minds and encourage the sharpening of pencils by lobbyists.
From the moment George Osborne announced his intention of delivering just such a budget on the 8th of July 2015, pressure on the government from the leading representatives of the road haulage industry intensified – in the event, with somewhat mixed results.
Probably the two leading pressure groups for the industry are the Road Haulage Association (RHA) and the Freight Transport Association (FTA), so it might be helpful to review the main features of the platforms each adopted and then to consider the Chancellor’s budget response.
Road Haulage Association
The principal elements of the RHA’s manifesto for pressuring government may be found in a press release of the 23rd of June 2015 and refer to:
- lobbying for government expenditure of some £150m to fund the recruitment and training by employers of new HGV drivers to alleviate the current chronic shortage – this the RHA gives as its principal objective;
- a reduction in the rate of fuel tax;
- further investment by government in the road and motorway infrastructure;
- reduction in the rate of vehicle excise duty (VED) or road tax for HGVs;
- capital allowances for road haulage operators; and
- promotion of the RHA’s position on the use of alternative fuels.
Freight Transport Association
The Freight Transport Association renewed its statement of current objective in press releases on the 7th of July – the very eve of the budget on the 8th:
- headlining the FTA’s manifesto is a reduction in or freezing of the rate of fuel tax;
- the Association argues that although fuel prices have been steadily dropping, with a fall of 43% on the world oil markets, the price of fuel at the pumps in Britain have fallen by only 13% – the potential for maximising the positive boost to economic recovery of falling oil prices therefore risks being missed;
- although it is probably of no immediate relevance to the budget itself, the FTA has also been one of the most vociferous lobbyists for the crisis at the port of Calais to be resolved through some form of government action;
- the FTA describes the current situation as “deplorable”.
As may have been expected, the Chancellor addressed only one of the issues recently raised by the RHA and FTA – not by cutting, but by maintaining the current freeze on fuel tax for a further year.
Responding on the day of the budget itself, the FTA said that the freeze showed common sense had prevailed, but was able to say little more to hide its disappointment that no reduction was announced.
Nevertheless, the FTA has already pledged to continue its fight for a reduction in fuel duty, calling for it to be cut by 3 pence a litre, as a boost to further economic recovery.
The conclusion to be drawn is that whilst lobbying by the industry’s leading proponents may have had some limited effect, by no means all the desired outcomes have yet been achieved. Continued lobbying is to be expected.