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International road freight UK market share hits new low

UK international hauliers saw their market share to Europe in 2006 dwindle to just 25.4 per cent of the total accompanied road haulage market, according to new provisional figures published by the Department for Transport today (Thursday 22 February) in ‘Road Goods Vehicles Travelling to Mainland Europe: 2006’.

The new data covering the fourth quarter of 2006 show hauliers from 2004 accession states continuing to see volumes rising steadily as they take advantage of lower labour costs. Activity by these carriers in the UK grew by 27 per cent in 2007 against the background of a 3 per cent rise in the total cross channel road freight market. Hauliers from new member states now account for 11 per cent of all road freight traffic with mainland Europe, up from 6 per cent two years ago.

Unaccompanied trailer movements also continue to grow strongly, up 4 per cent in 2006. 93 per cent of trailers travel on North Sea routes to the East Coast (mainly from Belgium and the Netherlands), thereby allowing shippers to avoid the heavily congested motorway and trunk road network in the South East of England. Simon Chapman, Chief Economist for the Freight Transport Association said, ‘UK international hauliers are struggling to hold their own against fiercely priced foreign carriers. The ability of UK carriers to take on international work continues to be hampered by the UK importing lots more goods that we are exporting. In the last five years imports by volume to the EU have risen by 52 per cent, while exports have risen by just 32 per cent. Foreign carriers who are on the spot are better placed to win this extra work from the continent, and will offer below-cost backload rates for UK freight into Europe.

‘Transport buyers in the UK are undoubtedly benefiting from the cheap rates offered by these foreign carriers – for both export backloads to Europe and domestic movements in the UK where foreign hauliers have the added benefit of cheap foreign diesel. However, the influx of foreign haulage capacity has introduced a transitory element into the market which UK transport buyers must avoid being beguiled by.’

FTA continues to have concerns over the roadworthiness of foreign vehicles and the safety of their drivers. Targeted roadside enforcement checks by the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency in 2006 found that 25 per cent of drivers of foreign registered vehicles had breached drivers’ hours rules, 31 per cent of vehicles had roadworthiness defects and 18 per cent of vehicles were overloaded.

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