Select Committee on Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Written Evidence

Memorandum submitted by the Road Haulage Association Ltd (O64)


  The Road Haulage Association (RHA) was formed in 1945 to look after the interests of haulage contractors in various areas of the country, in effect, amalgamating local organisations that had been established. The Association has subsequently developed to become the primary trade association representing the hire-or-reward sector of the road transport industry. There are now some 10,000 companies in membership varying from major companies with over 5,000 vehicles down to single vehicle owner-drivers. As such this response concentrates on the needs/interests of the commercial road transport operator.

Background to the industry

  The road haulage industry plays a pivotal role in the UK economy carrying over 80% of all domestic freight. In 2002 this amounted to:

    —  1,019 million tonnes carried in hire-or-reward vehicles;

    —  608 millions tonnes carried in own-account operators' vehicles;

    —  a total of 1,627 million tonnes of goods going by road;

    —  149 billion tonne kilometres on road transport; and

    —  an average length of haul of 46 kilometres for rigid vehicles, 133 kilometres for articulated vehicles and 92 kilometres as an overall average.

  There are around 52,000 businesses in the industry and between them they operate some 425,000 vehicles over 3.5 tonnes gross vehicle weight. There are around 104,000 holders of operating licences, some for own-account transport and others for the provision of hire-or-reward services. There are around 52,000 businesses in the industry and between them they operate some 425,000 vehicles over 3.5 tonnes gross vehicle weight. It is worth noting that 20 years ago approximately 500,000 vehicles carried a smaller volume of traffic demonstrating the very considerable efficiency gains that the industry has made. The industry employs about 500,000 drivers together with a similar number of ancillary staff in warehouses, workshops and offices.

Reform of sugar regime

  Although on the face of it the proposed reform of the sugar regime would appear to have little to do with road haulage, the RHA would point out that over 1,500 UK based haulage companies are actively involved in the transportation of sugar based products. Any reduction in the market value of the raw material (in this case sugar beet) that affects the UK sugar industry undoubtedly will have a knock-on impact on our members' businesses. Thus, whilst the RHA does not seek to comment on the merits, or otherwise, of arguments in favour of reform, we must draw attention to the potential impact on UK road haulage businesses.

  In view of this the RHA believes that, if it is decided that changes to the current regime are necessary, then the Government should implement a policy that minimises any potential damage to the UK sugar and road haulage industries.

  The UK sugar industry believes that the policy that best achieves this would have the following features:

    —  the maintenance of supply management through quotas for domestic EU sugar and isoglucose production and equivalent measures for the preferential (ACP and LDC) developing country suppliers with access to the EU market;

    —  production quotas to be made flexible so that, in conjunction with a Community restructuring mechanism, production can be moved to better suited and more efficient areas, while the overall total of European production has to be reduced to take account of external pressures;

    —  prices will need to be reduced to take account of the EU's WTO commitments;

    —  compensation should be paid to sugar beet growers in line with the way in which CPA reform measures have been applied for other agricultural products;

    —  the contentious area of subsidised quota exports should be addressed, but in so doing, the position of the UK industry as being in balance between supply and demand, should be recognised; and

    —  the changes should be phased in gradually to allow the sector time to adjust. A timescale similar to that agreed for dairy (ie about 10 years) would be appropriate.

  The UK sugar industry believes that an approach such as this would offer the best solution for stakeholders in the industry and would encourage efficient industries to flourish. In addition they believe this would ensure that the burden of reform would be shared fairly between participants in the industry. As a result, this approach has the support of the RHA.

1 April 2004

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