Everything is changing in the road haulage industry – some things by design, some by accident and many as hauliers scramble to keep up with changes in legislation, demand and the road haulage environment.
Road haulage systems change in the EU
To begin with, haulage between the UK and the EU has dropped by more than a third in the past twelve months.
In fact, in January 2021 the volume of goods travelling between Great Britain and the EU was 38% lower than in January 2020. There are a range of reasons that this could be true, from COVID-19, to better warehousing and distribution systems which deliver greater efficiency, to – of course – Brexit.
While all three have a contributory effect, there’s evidence to show that hauliers are preferring not to bring loads to Britain because the twin delays of Brexit border controls and Coronavirus checks have made such trips considerably less profitable. Of course this is also leading to increased charges, and while volumes are down 38%, road haulage prices to Britain have risen by 51% since January 2021. Add to this the fact that the European Parliament has defined new road charging rules, designed to help lorries and trucks to make the transition from time based charging to distance based charging, and we are looking at a revolution in haulage practice.
The idea behind this new agreement is that it should reduce CO2 emissions, a key objective of the European Parliament, designed to create a polluter pays system. In parallel, EU member states are meant to encourage the adoption of environmental friendly vehicles. The tradition ‘vignette’ or time based road transport charges should be phased out by 2029 across the EU, in favour of distance-based chargers in the form of tolls.
Within three years of the new rules coming into effect, MEPs should receive reports from the EU member states, showing that the charges levied are being applied to sustainable transport systems. It’s yet another way that Britain’s road haulage industry may find itself isolated from the wider EU policy on charging and providing for road freight transportation.
UK road haulage under pressure
In response, the UK’s Road Haulage Association has crafted a policy paper called “Eliminate, Minimise, Offset” which asks for a clear regulatory landscape that supports the UK industry’s investments in vehicles, standards and CO2 emissions reduction. It suggests that the UK should avoid knee jerk responses by offering a long term plan that supports investment in new equipment and technologies. CO2 neutral vehicles exist, but the policy paper suggests that nobody will buy them if the infrastructure is not in place.
There has already been a call for 10,000 charging points for lorries and HGVs and 300 hydrogen refuelling stations to be created – across Europe – by 2025. The British government has allocated £31.9 million to design electric propulsion systems for heavy goods vehicles, but without supporting infrastructure, there are concerns that this technological advance will not become mainstream.
In the short term, making good use of warehousing opportunities by ensuring that every haulage item is well transported, well stored and easy to pick and pack will help retailers keep their haulage costs down.
If you are looking for more assistance with your haulage needs call us today on 01279 452468.