There is something rather plaintive about the Road Haulage Association’s plea in its election “manifesto” that the next government “acknowledge the importance and good work of the haulage industry in public as well as in private”. It’s a fair point – but it tends to highlight the fact that politicians regard freight transport as a vote loser.
And, with the general election just days away, I suspect that politicians will be concentrating on what is happening in Warwickshire North, Hampstead and Kilburn, and Thurrock – marginal constituencies that are likely to determine the outcome of the election.
Of course, that doesn’t mean that industry organisations should not use the opportunity to campaign on important issues. Both the RHA and the Freight Transport Association have come up with lists of priorities. Not surprisingly, a cut in fuel duty for commercial vehicles comes at the top of both lists. Both also want to see more support for skills development, and investment in transport infrastructure.
The FTA talks about wanting to see support for the uptake of environment-friendly freight, while the RHA is specific in suggesting a scrappage scheme to encourage the uptake of Euro 6 trucks.
The FTA is also calling for the government to commit to a plan for increased hub aviation capacity and preserve current access to night flights.
Logistics puts the bread on people’s breakfast tables, fuel in their cars, and iPhones to their ears. It employs one in twelve of the population and is worth almost £75 billion to the economy. But there are no votes in trucks and sheds, so why should politicians listen?
Perhaps we are missing an opportunity to reinforce the connection in politicians’ minds between developing the country’s logistics networks and making life better for the people who matter most to them – voters.
There are some proposals that lean in that direction – for example the FTA wants help for towns and cities to “develop transport plans, which deliver economically vibrant, safe and attractive places”.
Logistics developments can generate a lot of opposition – take, for example, the campaign against the Radlett rail freight interchange – and there is no denying that they can be disruptive for some people. But, surely it is time to encourage politicians to recognise the value of freight transport plans for the entire country that deliver economically vibrant, safe and attractive places.