WELCOME to our comment column, in which leading figures from the region present a thought-provoking view on an issue affecting their company or organisation or the wider community.
Today it’s the turn of ANNE PRESTON, managing director of haulage firm Prestons of Potto.
I SUPPOSE as someone who has been in transport in one form or another all my life you would think that I should know everything about the industry, but you can never say that - for it is forever changing.
Yet some things remain the same as they did 40 years ago.
We are the lifeblood of the British economy yet in all the years I sat on the Board of the Road Haulage Association and Skills for Logistics we had endless debates about our image - getting the public to like and understand us as well as attracting young drivers into the business.
The nearest we ever came to this was in 2000 when the fuel protests made the UK realise how vital we were – no food on the shelves soon makes British housewives feel a lot different about lorries and indeed the Government too – but it is short-lived.
Tony Blair and now Gordon Brown relentlessly increase the fuel duty.
We currently pay 48.35p per litre, in October it will be 50.35p.
Yet our competitors in Europe enjoy an average fuel duty price of 23p.
This is having a disastrous effect on manufacturing costs in the UK.
No wonder over 80% of all vehicles coming into the UK are now foreign.
For a long time Governments have been talking about Road Pricing for all and reducing fuel duty and tax to give us a level playing field – but this seems a long way away if ever.
Surprisingly very little of the money received from fuel taxation both from cars and lorries is invested in British roads, but is squandered by endless bureaucracy and record numbers of Government advisors. Hence our roads are one of the most congested in Europe costing industry over £20bn a year.
In one single year not one mile of motorway was built in the UK.
We in UK are bogged down by legislation.
In Europe they take very little heed of it.
Several countries in Europe have still not incorporated the Working Time Directive - something we did several years ago.
You often hear about how much lorries pollute. I think we have made remarkable strides in this direction.
There has been a 40% reduction in our carbon footprint compared with 20 years ago.
Today, 20 lorries produce the same noise emissions as one lorry 20 years ago.
And while cars on the road have increased 13 fold since 1950 to 33 million today, lorry numbers have reduced from a record 600,000 then to 420,000 today.
Did you know for every truck delivering to a supermarket 400 cars leave the supermarket with those goods?
Over the years the facilities for drivers have not improved. Many truckstops, as well as filling stations have closed to make way for other development and scant regard is made to road layout for the lorries when developing new industrial estates.
When I started my career at Potto no loads had a time of delivery, today almost 100% have a time, mainly in the morning in what has become known in the industry as Just In Time.
Just in Time has been very costly to us because we are always unsure about delays on route, we have to allow more time into our planning, resulting in often getting to your customer early.
The driver himself has to report back on their progress throughout the journey by mobile phone and in many cases satellite tracking, and this puts a lot more pressure on his daily working day.
Lots of play is made of using alternative modes of transport and while I would agree that this could be increased, it could not be increased significantly. I am sure in my lifetime there will never be a rail link to your local supermarket.
In spite of my fears for the industry, we are a resilient bunch in road haulage.
This year my company is celebrating 50 years in the business with projects at Terminal five, the first loads to Stratford for the Olympics, 1,200 loads of concrete to the new Emirates Stadium, thousands of cans of Coca Cola delivered to Tesco, Asda and many more, all carried by a lorry.