Hundreds of British hauliers joined forces in London on 27 May to strike against soaring fuel costs.
In the last ten years the cost of diesel and unleaded fuel in the UK has almost doubled. In the last 12 months alone the bulk price of fuel has gone from 76 pence per litre to 106 pence per litre, an increase of 40 per cent.
TransAction is demanding that the government withdraws the 2 pence per litre duty increase due to come in October 2008 and that it implements an essential user rebate for the industry so that HGV drivers are able to claim back some fuel duty.
In addition, the petition, which is available to sign online at www.transaction-2007.com until August 2008, is calling for the government to de-couple essential commercial users from domestic users.
A convoy of lorries from Kent set off on the M2 in the morning, which was met by a second contingency travelling from Spalding via the M1.
All convoys met at Marble Arch for the protest rally at 11.30am, with the permission of the Westminster City Council.
Following the rally participants made their way to Whitehall where at 1.30pm a small party went to 10 Downing Street to hand the Prime Minister the petition.
The legal protest demonstration is being backed by the Transport Association.
The FTA, while not involved in the protests and not likely to support future demonstrations of this kind as they “disrupt” roads and deliveries, has said that something needs to be done.
Geoff Dossetter, director of external affairs at the FTA, said that the Chancellor is taking too big a cut and instead needs to help reduce the burden by abolishing the proposed 2 pence fuel duty.
He also suggested that the way vehicles are taxed needs to be looked at.
“We’re not on the streets, but we’re still very angry,” he said.
* Last week, the FTA called on the government to cut UK diesel duty by half ahead of European Parliament plans to begin liberalising Europe’s road freight market from 1 January 2009.
The European Parliament has voted on Commission proposals to loosen the rules on cabotage journeys. At present, domestic journeys made by a foreign haulier in another member state are restricted to casual work, but under the new plans contract work is also going to be permitted, with a limit of three journeys in seven days.
It is expected that cabotage restrictions will then be gradually lifted to a maximum of seven journeys in seven days from 2011, with full liberalisation from 1 January 2014.
Currently, diesel duty rates in the UK are double those in the rest of Europe. When the rules change foreign operators will be able to carry out contract business in the UK using cheap fuel purchased on the continent, without having to pay fuel tax or Vehicle Excise Duty.
The FTA has calculated that this will give foreign hauliers an eight per cent advantage compared to UK hauliers. The typical margin is usually two to three per cent.
James Hookham, managing director policy and communications at the FTA, said: “UK carriers simply cannot compete against such a price advantage. The competitive landscape for haulage is about to change forever.
“As a result, the days of British hauliers paying the highest fuel duty in Europe must be numbered. The Chancellor has got six months to cut diesel duty to EU average levels of 25 pence per litre.”
The British International Freight Association agrees. Peter Quantrill, director general of BIFA, said: “Having deferred the planned hike in the March budget, the government should now take the next step and cancel it, as well as introduce an essential user rebate. This would send a very positive message from government to businesses in our sector which operate on the tightest of margins and put us in a better position to both facilitate international trade and compete on a level playing field with foreign competition.”