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Out of the recession, into an election

  • 25 February 2010
  • By Justin Stanton

With a general election date announcement just around the corner, we thought it was appropriate to focus much of February’s Trucking Britain Out Of Recession survey on political matters. The results are both as surprising as they are anticipated.

We drew up a list of 12 issues and initiatives that – if addressed or initiated – can help the road transport industry, and asked respondents which three are the most important for the next government to address.

Unsurprisingly, taking commercial vehicles off the fuel duty escalator was the most popular choice: this chimed with 72% of respondents. However, the rest of the results are not entirely as expected:

  • Take CVs off the fuel duty escalator 72%
  • Introduce a levy on foreign operators 57%
  • Maintain (and increase) investment in infrastructure 32%
  • Invest more in VOSA to tackle rogue operators 29%
  • Deliver the truck parking strategy (launched in November 2009) 24%
  • Revise the Highway Code to educate all road users to be more aware of trucks on the road 18%
  • Tackle truck crime 15%
  • Launch a CV scrappage scheme to get pre-Euro-3 trucks off the road 11%
  • Review pre-pack administration rules 11%
  • Ensure the report into longer semi-trailers is complated, published and its results given a fair hearing 10%
  • Review VOSA’s transformation strategy 5%
  • Work with the industry to establish carbon emissions reporting 5%

Drilling into the data, there are some tell-tale variances, not least on the longer semi-trailers report.

Overall, it was seen as important by just 10%; however, the issue was seen as important for 23% of logistics/contract distribution firms, while it attracted the attention of just 3% of hire-and-reward hauliers and 5% of own-account operators.

This result is repeated when the data is analysed by fleet size: 23% of those running 51 vehicles or more believed the issue to be important, but only 8% and 5% respectively of small and medium-sized fleets felt the same.

Reviewing the rules over pre-pack administrations attracted little interest among own-account operators (5%) and logistics/contract distribution firms (6%), but is an important issue for hire-and-reward hauliers (18%).

On the other hand, making sure that the government works with the industry to establish carbon emissions reporting only really chimed with own-account operators (14%); just 3% of logistics/contract distribution firms, and only 1% of hire-and-reward hauliers shared that view.

We then asked which single issue or initiative was the most important to them.

Predictably, either lowering fuel duty or the introduction of an essential user rebate were by far the most popular, but there is a great deal more that the industry wants, as the following reveal:

  • “Carry out a root and branch review of legislation, removing unnecessary bureaucracy.”
  • “Appoint a minister who knows about and understands transport, and who takes notice of operators’ problems.”
  • “Help the industry through the recession by implementing incentive schemes, like rewarding hauliers that have reduced/are reducing their carbon footprints.”
  • “Scrap the hikes in amounts needed for O-licence financial standing, and allow more flexibility in where the money can be obtained from.”
  • “Look at some kind of law where companies are forced to pay within 30 days.”
  • “Put VAT on fuel up to 20%.”

Pre-pack administration rules drew some operators’ ire: “Clamp down on pre-pack abuse,” said one, while another, probably burned by a firm’s collapse and subsequent pre-packed resurrection, said: “Stop the ridiculous laws surrounding pre-packs, and the ease with which people go bust and start again. That to me is worth a 5p/litre reduction in fuel duty.”

Finally, one cynical, but no doubt seasoned, wag had this defeatist suggestion for what the next government should do: “Do nothing at all for five years, so we all know where we stand.”

We can understand that reaction, after all, this industry has shouted at government until it’s blue in the face with little or no real success, but that doesn’t mean we should give up.

We asked if respondents had ever contacted or met their MP. Given how much we moan about government not listening, it helps if we do say something to its representatives.

In fact, it’s incumbent upon us to do so; the industry can’t just rely on the major associations – we’re all foot soldiers in this battle, we’ve all got a part to play.

Therefore, it is disappointing to note that less than half (42%) of the respondents have ever written to or emailed their MP, and less than a quarter (22%) have actually met their MP.

More worrying still is the fact that 13% didn’t vote in the last election, and 8% do not plan to vote this year, while another 10% are unsure.


Operators’ short-term forecasts are generally positive, with 61% either very optimistic or fairly optimistic about the next three months. Most positive of all are the operators working in the agriculture sector: 89% are either very optimistic or fairly optimistic about the next quarter.

In the longer term, 71% are either very optimistic or fairly optimistic about the next 12 months. Most positive of all are those in the agriculture sector: 89% are either very optimistic or fairly optimistic about the next year.

A total of 84% of respondents are either very confident or fairly confident that their business will survive the recession. More than a quarter (27%) said they had recovered from the recession, while another 39% expect to do so in the next 12 months.

Work, work, work

Since we started the Trucking Britain Out Of Recession survey last September, some of you have had to work harder than ever just to stand still.

More than a third (36%) revealed that their typical weekly working hours had increased either slightly or significantly since last September; 41% said their hours were about the same, while 23% enjoyed a reduction in hours.

Well, ‘enjoyed’ is not necessarily the right word, because the reasons given for working fewer hours focused on the reduction in volumes. One respondent insisted hours have dropped significantly: “Mainly because of the poor weather in January.

“Most of our haulage is building-related, and it was either too cold, wet or icy to get onto sites, so we had few orders placed for stone and gravel delivery.”

Another respondent to the survey whose hours have remained about the same noted: “Workload is reduced; however current work is more in-depth!”

Another in the same boat offered this: “Running the business has become harder due to the tough market, but lower volumes means [there is] less admin, so there is a neutral effect overall.”

One manager, whose hours have increased, said: “We’re working harder than ever to maintain the same margins.

“Personally, I’m doing more hours, although the drivers are doing less due to current volumes.”

A handful of respondents to the survey also noted that they were busier because either their volumes have risen or they are competing for more business.

The next Trucking Britain Out Of Recession survey will be available online from Monday 1 March.


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