Thursday, May 25, 2017

Road Haulage Celebration Had Everything from Horror to Humour

Annual RHA Event an Important Date in the Calendar
Shipping News Feature
UK – The annual Road Haulage Association (RHA) luncheon, held today once again in London's Hilton Hotel on Park Lane, proved to be more entertaining than ever, featuring as it did speeches from two well-known comedians. That is not to say there was not a serious side to proceedings, following as closely as it did after the horrors of Manchester. Indeed access to the event was partially blocked when police closed the footway leading up Park Lane due to an 'exercise'.

Outgoing RHA chairman Jim French welcomed his replacement Andrew Howard and told of progress made, with fee prices held whilst membership rose. He had special mention for chief executive Richard Burnett, describing him as a 'superstar', probably not an exaggeration given his recent title as one of the most influential haulage industry figures, coming in behind government ministers, the head of the DVLA and outgoing Senior Traffic Commissioner Beverley Bell who was present at the lunch, alongside her replacement, Richard Turfitt.

Richard Burnett’s own speech centred on the RHA’s 5 point manifesto which it is pressing the government to pursue having gained the ear of the authorities, particularly by outlining the requirements of the industry during forthcoming Brexit negotiations. These five are easing traffic congestion, better rest facilities for drivers, reducing fuel duty which is the highest in Europe, improving air quality whilst appreciating how much the haulage sector had already achieved in this respect and finally, addressing the skills shortage which sees potential jobs for over 45,000 drivers.

Certainly one of the highlights was the performance of Irish comedian Ed Byrne, who rapidly judged his audience and then regaled it with some tales of his own past escapades and some personal views and reminiscences, all in his own inimitable style. Byrne manages to switch effortlessly between raconteur and cracker of jokes and was an unqualified success.

One welcome returnee to the affair was Jim Davidson, representing the charity Care after Combat which has been wholeheartedly supported by the RHA, for which he thanked the members present profusely. Care after Combat, as Davidson explained, is not a hand out but a hand up, training those of our armed forces who have erred upon return from the field and ended up in prison. Whilst not condoning these past acts the attitude taken is that, time served, these ex forces personnel can be put into worthwhile occupations and turn their lives around. Last year of the 75 who passed through the scheme none have reoffended and 2,000 more are due to be assisted in the next year.

Still with the charitable theme, the prize draw attracted a sizeable sum for transport charity Transaid which collected a cheque for over £4,800 before the stage was handed over to Rod McKenzie, RHA head of communications who grilled well known radio and press figure Nick Ferrari, a feature which included not just the latter’s forthright views on themes ranging from transport to terrorism, but the chance to once again view ‘that’ interview with Shadow Secretary for Health Diane Abbot.

With a fine meal, and music from Idolising Nova, the latest RHA annual lunch has set a very high bar for 2018, a time when hopefully the clouds around Brexit may have cleared and we shall be able to judge how effective the modern Association has been in lobbying whatever government is in power by then.

Photo: The Q&A session between Rod McKenzie and Nick Ferrari was a lively, and opinionated discussion.