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“A road freight system overhaul cannot be done by the private sector alone”

The UK government has threatened to tax haulage businesses to fund a driver shortage fix – but is this the best solution?

18th August 2022

Zeus HGV driving along motorway

Written by

Alistair Lindsay

Chief Operating Officer

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A road freight system overhaul cannot be done by the private sector alone

First published in Supply Management on 18 August, 2022

When the road haulage sector pleaded for more support to deal with ongoing challenges, a new supply chain levy is not what we had in mind. Not only are we still dealing with the aftermath of Brexit and supply chain disruption caused by the pandemic, but also record-breaking fuel prices, inflation and an HGV driver shortage. Normally, it would be easy to welcome measures to improve conditions for drivers, but too many questions remain.

Firstly, we need assurances that this new levy will not fall on to the shoulders of small owner-operator fleets (with 10 trucks or fewer), which form the majority of registered haulage firms in the UK and underpin our national supply chain. Many of these are already selling trucks or going out of business.

At a time when economic growth depends on consumers having access to goods in shops, the haulage industry needs more focus – not hindrance – on investment, support and growth. The supply chain sector needs to do its part, but progress will come from innovation and development, and this cannot happen without government involvement. When it comes to building more facilities, we should be seeking to partner with the government’s own EV Infrastructure Fund, so that we are also expanding recharge ports along motorways.

Currently, there are more than 1,000 public EV charging stations outside Greater London. The fact is, cleaner fuels and alternative energy options can be supported from UK-based energy providers, without the need for foreign imports. This crisis could be the stimulant for a rapid overhaul of our road freight system, but it cannot be done by the private sector alone. It is an encouraging sign to see the government realise that urgent action is needed. But this latest proposal appears to ignore its role in creating much-needed change – at a time when we should now be combining our efforts.