As the UK prepares to go to the polls on 8 June, logistics trade bodies have released their own ‘manifestos’ calling for the next Government to boost the sector by investing heavily in infrastructure and delivering ‘frictionless’ trade with the EU after Brexit.
Three UK logistics trade bodies, the Freight Transport Association, the Road Haulage Association and the British Ports Association, have put together wish lists of policies they want introduced after the general election. While they differ in focus, all three agree that the British logistics sector needs the next Government to invest in infrastructure and deliver ‘frictionless’ trade with the EU as part of a final Brexit deal.
The Freight Transport Association (FTA), the UK’s largest membership association in the logistics sector, welcomed commitments by the three main political parties to boost investment in road and rail infrastructure, but called on them to deliver their promises quickly if elected.
“Poor infrastructure wastes time and money, holds back UK competitiveness and results in more emissions,” said Christopher Snelling, the FTA’s head of national policy. “If we are to maximise the efficiency of road freight and make the most use we can of rail freight, we need massive continued investment in improving our networks. Whichever party is successful at the polls on 8 June, it is imperative that they stand by their manifesto promises on entering government and take immediate steps to implement these infrastructure investment plans.”
The FTA also called on the next Government to cut fuel duty and secure barrier-free, frictionless access to the European Single Market after Brexit. “Reducing fuel duty by just 3p per litre would generate more than £304 million a year,” said Snelling. “At a time when our trading relationships with the European Union are under scrutiny, this level of investment would provide just the impetus British business needs to establish new trading relationships and reinforce partnerships.”
View the full FTA manifesto
The Road Haulage Association (RHA) had similar objectives to the FTA, calling for politicians of all shades to support the road haulage industry by investing in the road network, cutting fuel duty and delivering a Brexit deal that keeps goods moving freely on both sides of the English Channel.
The RHA highlighted the increasing shortage of drivers as a major issue facing the industry, now that the number of drivers retiring each year exceeds new entrants. The organisation called on the next Government to help increase the supply of new drivers by improving training, funding new apprenticeship schemes, subsidising the £5,000 cost of an HGV license for new drivers and taking steps to improve their working environment.
View the full RHA manifesto
The British Ports Association (BPA) echoed the infrastructure priorities of its fellow logistics bodies, calling for the next Government to fund improved road and rail connections to ports and facilitate seamless trade after Brexit by keeping customs restrictions to a minimum for cargo traffic, particularly on roll-on roll-off (ro-ro) ferry services.
“We welcome the Prime Minister’s aspiration of frictionless trade,” said the BPA, “but the impact of customs requirements could be that ro-ro traffic faces significant disruption from Government border checks and potential inspections. Such checks and delays represents costs for shippers and the freight sector, and these costs will be passed on to importers, manufactures and consumers.”
The BPA also urged the next Government to introduce a more efficient, streamlined planning and consents regime for port development and to reduce the burdens placed on their members by EU regulations. It specifically called for the “unwanted and unnecessary” EU Port Services Regulation to be repealed as soon as possible.
Logistics sector demands ‘seamless’ Brexit, but is it possible?
Trade with the EU represents 48% of UK exports, so all three trade bodies had a lot to say to any future governing political party (or coalition) about Brexit, the single biggest issue facing the logistics sector and the UK economy in the years ahead. They all called on the next Government to retain frictionless access to the EU market after Brexit, but they differed on the details and naturally emphasised their own priorities.
“The Brexit deal must ensure there are no tariff, regulatory or administrative barriers to trade with the EU”, the FTA said, while “UK transport companies must have seamless access to the EU market.” The RHA and BPA largely agreed, but whether any British Government will be able to deliver these goals after 8 June is an open question.
Customs procedures were high on the agenda, with the RHA seeking to keep the current UK border at Calais and maintain the Le Touquet agreement for juxtaposed border controls in Britain and France. All three bodies highlighted the congestion chaos that could ensue if customs arrangements are not maintained, with 10,000 goods vehicles crossing the English Channel every day. The BPA’s concern was for the ports that could be the biggest losers, urging the next Government to avoid creating “lorry parks on roads leading to ro-ro ports such as Dover, Portsmouth and Holyhead.”
The trade bodies all highlighted the issue of freight movements between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland after Brexit and called for “uncomplicated” border controls to be preserved.
The post Brexit status of logistics workers from EU countries was of particular concern to the RHA and FTA, who called upon the next Government to confirm as soon as possible that these EU citizens will still be able to work in the UK after Brexit. The RHA said the 60,000 EU citizens working as drivers in the UK are “critical for the competitiveness of the UK economy and the smooth running of the supply chain,” particularly with a current driver shortage of 45,000.
The BPA said it was keen that any new Government takes every possible opportunity to “revoke unsuitable legislation and red tape”, particularly the recently passed EU Port Services Regulation, which it claimed will create a host of unnecessary requirements for UK ports and “potentially limit their competitive edge”.
It also highlighted the concerns of fishing ports, calling on the next Government to find a “pragmatic solution that allows more control over our own fisheries without limiting fish landings from EU vessels into UK ports.”
Infrastructure investment essential for logistics sector
The FTA said its 16,000 members had reported a “deterioration” of the UK road network in the past 18 months, both on the motorway network and urban roads, and called on the next Government to improve maintenance, which would reduce the cost of delays and congestion. The RHA claimed that congestion costs the UK economy £31 billion per year, while poorly maintained roads account for untold millions. The cost of repairing potholes alone has been estimated at £683 million per year, it said.
Both organisations called for improved roadside rest facilities for drivers, to provide secure overnight stays and 45-minute breaks.
The FTA also called for rail infrastructure costs to be cut by reducing Track Access Charges and sought the protection of water freight access, to help shippers to diversify their transport options.
The BPA said that while ports manage and develop their own infrastructure facilities, they needed the next Government’s help to improve road and rail connections to ports. Rather than focusing on “big ticket passenger transport schemes”, they asked for priority investment in freight and regional connectivity projects. The BPA welcomed the Department for Transport’s planned Port Connectivity Study (which has been delayed by the election campaign) but said “it is vital that following this stocktaking exercise the Government then invests in good road and rail connections to all ports.”
Cutting fuel duty would boost UK economy and create jobs
Both the FTA and RHA called for a cut in fuel duty by the next Government. The FTA called for a cut of 3 pence per litre, saying that research from the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) had shown this would boost the British economy and create 175,000 new jobs within a year, without any fiscal loss to the Government due to increases in other tax receipts.
The RHA said that UK fuel duty is currently the highest in Europe and represents a “massive tax on the entire supply chain.” With fuel accounting for a third of hauliers’ operating costs, the RHA called on the next Government to immediately “reduce the differential between duty rates in the UK and the rest of the EU.”