The Freight Transport Association has welcomed the publication of the summary of evidence of the Haulage Industry Task Group and key conclusions regarding cabotage and the operation of foreign vehicles in the UK. However, FTA regrets the Government's hesitation in committing to a database scheme for supporting the effective roadworthiness enforcement of foreign trucks. The Government has merely opted for a feasibility study into the matter.
Following the scrapping of the proposed Lorry Road User Charge scheme on 5 July 2005, FTA and the Road Haulage Association jointly established the Burns Inquiry into Fuel Costs, Foreign Competition and Freight Taxes. The report of the Burns Inquiry was submitted to the Government in time for the Chancellor's Pre-Budget Report in December 2005 and, as a consequence, the Government established the Haulage Industry Task Group to investigate the findings.
During the twelve months since then the industry has fully engaged with both the Treasury and the Department for Transport in an in-depth study designed to further test the findings of the Burns Report. FTA believes that there is now a common understanding between the Government and the road transport industry regarding two areas of concern:
” The Government had contended that cabotage, the domestic operation of an international road transport operator in a foreign country, impacted on the UK transport industry by just 1 per cent. However, it has now recognised that when non-competing domestic UK own account vehicles are excluded – fuel tankers, refuse vehicles, aggregate tippers etc – the cabotage footprint is in the order of 15 per cent. It has also recognised that this constitutes a substantial competitive problem for UK hauliers.
” The Government has also recognised that the compliance of foreign lorries falls woefully short of UK standards in terms of breaches of drivers' hours regulations, overloading and roadworthiness condition. Roadside measures are already being taken to deal with this problem.
FTA regrets that the Government has not been able to be more positive regarding a scheme for charging foreign lorries to use UK roads. The Pre-Budget Report even fails to commit to introducing a database of foreign trucks to help VOSA enforcement. Many foreign vehicles have a clear competitive advantage compared to UK vehicles by virtue of high fuel duty in the UK. Moreover, they pay nothing to use UK roads and would continue to do so until the introduction of a national road pricing scheme scheduled for ten or more years in the future.
FTA has to be disappointed that rather than taking decisive action, the Government has come up with a holding position on charging foreign lorries to use UK roads and has further exacerbated the cost competition problems the industry faces today by further increasing fuel duty at this time.