Saturday, January 22, 2011

Truck Fuel Costs And Intermodal Transfer Still Causing Passionate Debate In Freight Circles

Yet More Voices Raised in Protest - Have You Registered Your Opinion Yet?
Shipping News Feature

UK – The UK authorities are coming under more pressure from all stakeholders in the freight and logistics community over fiscal policies, particularly with regard to fuel duty and the abolition Scottish Grants to extend intermodal use.

We have covered previously the support being given to the FairFuel UK campaign which has now had thousands of signatures to call for the proposed April rise in duty to be abandoned and a fuel price stabiliser to be implemented. According to critics stabilisation of pump prices was a manifesto pledge of the Conservative party and the fact that a coalition government is now in place is no excuse to sidestep the issue.

Since the publication of its annual survey of operating costs for the 12 months to October 2010, the Road Haulage Association (RHA) has now established that typical costs for UK hauliers have increased by a staggering 3.3% with fuel up over 10% since last August. In addition to high profile support from industry and manufacturing groups such as those mentioned in previous articles individual companies such as Eddie Stobart have been quick to register their support.

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) held a poll of members which registered overwhelming support for cost regulation after AA figures showed a monthly average price rise of 6.13p/litre which is confirmed by figures from the Department of Energy and Climate Change who say diesel has now reached 131.6p per litre. The FSB are firm believers in a fuel price stabiliser and are running their own campaign where you can e mail your local MP.

Now the RAC Foundation have said a price of £8 a gallon could be reached, particularly if crude oil prices, currently around $100 a barrel, approached anything like 2008’s peak of $147. The organisation is unsure that stabilising the cost to the haulier is a practical solution however with Professor Stephen Glaister, director of the Foundation, saying:

“Talk of a complex fuel duty stabiliser is a bit of a red herring. Who for example, would set the price at which fuel was stabilised? If the government wanted to help drivers and hauliers, the quickest and easiest thing for them to do would be to cut fuel duty, or at least abandon April's planned increase. The relentless rise in prices at the pump will inevitably put firms out of business and mean motorists driving less, both of which could lead to the perverse situation where overall revenue for the Exchequer drops. Ministers are on the verge of killing the goose which lays the golden egg.”

On Tuesday 25th January, at 9 am, motoring writer and TV presenter Quentin Willson, will be on College Green, opposite the House of Commons, to present MPs with letters from the Fair Fuel UK Campaign in an attempt to further publicise the widespread discontent amongst Britain’s freight sector.

In Scotland the row continues over scrapping the Freight Facilities Grant scheme and reducing the whole grant regime to support transport 'modal change' by over 70% to just £2.9 million by 2012. The Freight Transport Association (FTA) wrote last year asking the Government to reconsider axing freight mode shift grants. The letter was undersigned by key industry leaders including the bosses of distillers the Edrington Group and hauliers the Malcolm Group.

As we stated last week this has been rejected by the Scottish Authorities with Keith Brown, the new Transport Minister blaming the UK Government’s Spending Review and saying there is no room for manoeuvre. Quite how this fits with the politicians of every hue declaring to anyone who will listen that environmental matters are at the top of their agendas, shall remain a mystery.

Intermodal shift has always been trumpeted as a cornerstone of the UK’s war on climate change but it seems that the transfer of freight to rail and water in a bid to get trucks off Britain’s roads has, in a time of fiscal frugality, been quietly shunted into the sidings.