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What The Future Holds For The Haulage Industry

May 24, 2008
So, the Low Emission Zone has now been in effect for three months and fuel prices are continuing to rise. The freight industry is most certainly in crisis - as shown last month, when one haulage company presented a coffin representing the bankruptcy of many smaller firms and the loss of road haulage jobs to parliament. While LEZ has reduced the number of high emission haulage vehicles entering London (no surprise, considering the hefty fines required otherwise!) it certainly hasn't made our job any easier, and so there seems like no better time to review the London LEZ, congestion charges and similar schemes around the country.

LEZ

The most major event to happen in the capital in the last few months was the ousting of Ken Livingstone as mayor of London. Boris Johnson won the May 1st election, and this should be treated with cautious optimism by us. It's no secret that Livingstone's policies weren't exactly haulier friendly, but will Johnson be any better? In his manifesto, he promised to review the London Low Emission Zone, and pay more attention to the views of the transport industry, and that does thankfully include us with jobs in the road haulage industry. He even described the LEZ as "hastily implemented" in an interview with Motor Transport, but haulage workers of London shouldn't celebrate just yet. It appears the anti-LEZ stance was a fairly recent development, and as recently as February, his website said "will support the Low Emission Zone to improve air quality", so I wouldn't say we're home and dry just yet! If anything, we must continue to apply pressure to ensure he is true to his word and listens to us - even if his mind if already made up.

Elsewhere, following the 'success' of the London Low Emission Zone, Glasgow has become the next UK city to announce plans to introduce a similar scheme. Like London, the scheme is aimed to improve air quality and reduce congestion in the city centre, but will also extend to ways of tackling vehicles "idling by the roadside". It's still in the planning stage, so no costs have been announced, but Scots with road haulage jobs (or those who regularly take loads north of the border) should be prepared for more strain on their wallet. Although currently without a start date, the city had pledged to have a LEZ in place before the Commonwealth Games in 2014.

Congestion Charges

The good news is that incoming mayor Boris Johnson has scrapped the plan to charge high-emission vehicles a 25 per day central London congestion charge. That's a manifesto promise, so we have to make sure he sticks to it, but unlike the LEZ it is a promise he has made, so we have reason to be positive about this.

The general perception outside of the industry is that the central London congestion charge is working brilliantly, and there's talk of a similar scheme being introduced to the east midlands. Like the central London congestion charge, motorists would have to pay a fee to enter city centres during peak hours thus creating funds to promote other transportation methods. Likely to be included in the scheme are Derby, Leicester and Nottingham. Another city (though not in the midlands) to show an interest in the scheme is Norwich, but the council's plans to implement the scheme have stalled because the estimated revenue would not be able to fund sufficient transport improvements.

Hopefully a new study out this month will make these local councils reconsider. Researchers from King's College, London have come to the conclusion that 2003's central London congestion charges have made no overall difference to smog in the city because more taxis and buses have taken on the strain of commuters who have abandoned their cars. The researches in charge also pointed out the congestion zone only covers 1% of the Greater London area, so it was unlikely to have a marked impact. The increase in buses resulted in ruling out any initial improvements made, although they pointed out that it reduced traffic down by 40,000 vehicles per day.

Against this backdrop, we have news that the price of fuel is going to continue to rise this year (1.50 per litre by autumn is one estimate), and we have to accept that it's going to be a tough time for those of us with road haulage jobs. The best we can do? Continue to look out for our fellow hauliers, back the Road Haulage Association and be sure to keep petitioning the government and the new mayor. Boris Johnson has pledged to listen to us - it's now time to see if he will keep his word.
About the Author
Lyall Cresswell is the Managing Director of the Haulage Exchange. The exchange is for the heavy freight and logistics industry and offers haulage jobs for freight companies and owner operators all over the UK.
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