New data for 2007 from the Department for Transport, published today (22 May), shows the number of foreign trucks entering Britain on international journeys reaching an all-time high of 1,719,000 – up seven per cent on 2006. By contrast, the number of UK registered trucks travelling abroad has reached a 14 year low of just 400,000 vehicles. UK hauliers now account for just 19 per cent of international road haulage traffic between Britain and Continental Europe. Twelve years ago, in 1995, UK carriers accounted for more than half of international traffic.
The growth in overall traffic levels shows no sign of letting up. Total traffic was up five per cent in 2007. It has doubled in ten years.
Almost all of the growth seen in foreign traffic has been by hauliers based in the EU accession states which have come into the EU since 2004. These countries currently account for 23 per cent of all cross-Channel road haulage, up from 18 per cent in 2006 and three per cent in 2003 before these states joined the EU. Polish and Hungarian vehicle numbers are up fourfold in four years. Czech and Slovak vehicles are up threefold.
Simon Chapman, FTA's Chief Economist said, 'One in eight of the heaviest vehicles on Britain's road network is now a foreign vehicle. Whilst in Britain, these vehicles are able to take advantage of the competitive edge that low taxed foreign diesel purchased in Luxembourg and France is able to give them when competing for work with UK-based hauliers. This fierce competition, which is exacerbated in the case of East European hauliers by lower wage costs, means UK hauliers are being undercut by rates they cannot touch. On average foreign haulier costs are eight per cent below those of UK carriers, in an industry where margins are wafer thin – at two to three per cent.
'The decision by the European Parliament this week to allow even greater access of foreign trucks to the UK domestic road haulage market from January 2009 means the high water mark of this tide of foreign competition is a long way off. The Chancellor needs to take decisive action to alleviate the competitive pressure that UK hauliers are under, by reducing diesel duty by 25 pence per litre down to the EU average.'
In his 2008 Budget, the Chancellor announced that the Government had abandoned plans to charge foreign vehicles for their use of UK roads through a time-based UK vignette.