Select Committee on Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum by the Road Haulage Association Ltd (P 31)



  The Road Haulage Association (RHA) was formed in 1945 to look after the interests of haulage contractors in various areas of the country, in effect, amalgamating local organisations that had been established. The association has subsequently developed to become the primary trade association representing the hire-or-reward sector of the road transport industry. There are now some 10,000 companies in membership varying from major companies with over 5,000 vehicles down to owner-drivers.


  The road haulage industry plays a pivotal role in the UK economy carrying some 81 per cent of all domestic freight. In 1999 this amounted to:

    —  991 million tonnes carried in hire-or-reward vehicles;

    —  576 million tonnes carried in own account operators' vehicles;

    —  a total of 1.567 billion tonnes moved by road transport;

    —  149 billion tonne kilometres on road transport;

    —  an average length of haul of 50 km for rigid vehicles, 136 km for articulated lorries and 95 km as an overall average.

  There are around 112,000 holders of operating licences, some for own-account transport and others for the provision of hire-or-reward services. Between them they operate some 421,000 goods vehicle of over 3.5 tonnes gross weight of which about 70,000 are 38 tonne lorries. It is worth noting that twenty years ago approximately 500,000 vehicles carried a smaller volume of traffic reflecting the very considerable efficiency gains that the industry has made. The industry employs about 500,000 drivers together with a similar number of ancillary staff in warehouses, workshops and offices.


  UK Ports are an essential element to the continuing success of the UK economy—without them we would not be able to maintain the lifestyle that we currently enjoy. The freight industry, both international and domestic, relies heavily on our ports. According to Government figures:

    —  over 388m tonnes of international freight moved through UK ports in 1999 representing 95 per cent of the UK's international freight tonnage movements and 75 per cent by value; and

    —  another 177 million tonnes of domestic freight moved through UK ports;

    —  there were five million vehicle movements and over four million unaccompanied containers passed through;

    —  there was an 81 per cent increase in the tonnage carried in containers between 1988 and 1999;

    —  Ro-Ro traffic has grown by 51 per cent since 1991 and accounted for 14 per cent of all UK port freight traffic in 1999.


  As major users (customers) of the UK ports, hauliers and freight distributors have a number of basic requirements that they need to be provided by Ports. These include:

    —  Good access (by road or rail etc) to and from the Port—Professional road users are covered by stringent regulations covering drivers' hours etc. Delays getting to and from Ports could interfere with the hauliers' ability to meet their customers' deadlines and/or increase the overall cost (if for example, replacement drivers are required because of driver's hours limits etc). The imminent introduction of the Working Time Directive for mobile workers will further reduce the scope for accommodating delays as it will result in a considerable reduction in drivers' hours. In addition, if more freight is to be encouraged to use the railways, then better (and in many cases new) rail links must be provided;

    —  Efficient service within the Port—delays within the Port should be kept to a minimum to ensure unnecessary extra costs (to the haulier) are not incurred;

    —  Good security within the Port—good security is important for a number of reasons: hauliers' cargoes often are of extremely high value and there are occasions where it is necessary for vehicles to be kept in the Port for a lengthy period of time; a significant amount of traffic comes through ports in unaccompanied containers and trailers and therefore relies on the vigilance of the port's staff; with the introduction of fines for vehicles found to be carrying (knowingly or otherwise) illegal immigrants, good facilities are essential;

    —  Fair and reasonable charges—charges should not discriminate against particular types of users and should not be excessive. The higher the charges incurred by hauliers, the higher the cost to their customers and thus to the consumers of the goods;

    —  Development of ports (in terms of capacity and facilities) to meet demand—if goods cannot efficiently be moved through ports, consignors and consignees will simply look for alternatives. On occasions such alternatives may exist within the UK but if they do not, then business may well be lost to continental competitors. Clearly this would have a detrimental impact on UK businesses and on the economy.


Dover—"Operation Stack"

  All too frequently the M20 is used as a park up because of delays to ferry crossings caused by poor weather or industrial action in France. Freight Clearance not being completed at the Port of exit in particular for unaccompanied traffic can cause problems for the haulier and shipper especially if a driver runs out of hours.


  The road haulage industry has been concerned for many years about the inadequacies of truck parking and over-night facilities for drivers generally, and more particular in regard to the lack of secure parking. So it was particularly disturbing to be advised by Southampton City Council recently that Lorraine's Auto Security Park was closing in order to allow for an important housing development and no alternative proposed. This is only one example of a continuing trend by local authorities. Some 3,000 or more heavy vehicles and their loads still go missing every year—many of which are never recovered—representing an estimated insurance value of around £1 billion annually. This is a continuing menace causing excessive cost and untold disruption to the industry at large, and potential financial disaster to the individual haulier whose vehicle is stolen.


  Driver facilities at ports need to be improved especially good wash facilities for drivers. For example, the Port of Tilbury refuses to allow drivers access to canteens on the Port. The net result is a constant sprinkling of parked HGVs with loaded containers parked just outside the Port opposite Asda. This makes a mockery of security measures within the Port areas. Driver hours and the waiting at Ports for tipping and collection make the likelihood of rest periods being taken at the ports high.


  The Government has begun to tackle some of the problems being experienced with the publication of its paper "Modern Ports: A UK Policy". The RHA welcomes the publication and many of the commitments contained within it. However, there are a number of issues where we do not feel problems have been adequately addressed.

  For example, whilst we are pleased that the Government will be looking at the possibility of extending freight facilities grants to encourage water borne freight, we are disappointed that the Government is not giving greater encouragement (or even assistance?) to Ports to invest in rail improvements. We accept that between them the Strategic Rail Authority, Railtrack and the Ports have the responsibility to bring about increased investment, but we remain to be convinced that, left to their own devices, the situation will improve in any significant way.

  We are disappointed also that port security seems to be tackled in a piecemeal way and is given a low priority. Security at ports has increased significantly in recent years but is not infallible where forged/stolen documents are used. The quality of CCTV equipment needs to be updated to digital recording (video recording needs replacing) at all sites. Reliance placed at a later date for evidence of vehicles/drivers leaving will be severely compromised. There is a need for minimum standards of CCTV equipment used at ports. This is an area that cannot be compromised as it has been in the past. As mentioned above, ensuring the security of valuable vehicles and their loads is a high priority for our members.

  The document states that the HSC is currently consulting on proposals to update the "Dangerous Substances in Harbour Area Regulations". We currently face revisions of the ADR regulations and some changes to the IMDG Code together with some possible revision of the UK Regulations. We would suggest, therefore, that there needs to be as much uniformity as possible between all the differing relations in order to make comprehension as easy as possible as well as enforcement. The RHA would also endorse any initiatives in maintaining and further training of "front line" personnel particularly where it would enable them to recognise Dangerous Goods and hazards.

  Specialist Liaison Committees are very good way of discussing and addressing many specific Port issues and concerns raised by our Members. This Form of Best Practice should be extended to all Ports.

  Finally, little attention has been given to the importance of an efficient road system to access the ports. The majority of people and freight still arrive at the ports by road. Such roads must be maintained to the highest standard to avoiding causing unnecessary delays to reaching and entering or leaving the port.


  The RHA welcomes the Committee's inquiry and hopes that it will lead to the further steps being taken by Government that we feel are necessary to facilitate the required improvement. Failure to ensure that UK Ports are able to meet the requirements of their customers will be damaging to those Ports, to the freight industry, to businesses and to the economy as a whole.

January 2001

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2001
Prepared 26 July 2001