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14th February 2008
Page 3
Page 3, 14th February 2008 — TEA AND SYMPATHY DOESN'T CUT IT
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Which of the following most accurately describes the problem?

At this week's meeting with the Freight Transport Association (FTA) and Road Haulage Association (RHA), Chancellor Alistair Darling listened sympathetically to the associations' pleas for him to abandon plans for another hike in fuel duty but offered little hope they would have any effect.

The "damned reality" as the RHA's Roger King puts itof dealing with government is that road transport is just one voice among many putting its case. Ministers looking at the big picture cant grasp what is obvious to us UK operators are groaning under intolerable increases in costs and red tape. Adding insult to injury is the fact that the UK fuel duty escalator is widening the gap between our operating costs and those on the Continent. If fuel duty goes up 2p a litre in April, the annual fuel costs of a UK-registered LGV will be 220,000 more than its French equivalent.

The European Economic Community was invented as a fair trade zone, with equal access to goods and services on the basis that costs and standards would be harmonised. Official stats may say that foreign hauliers take only a tiny percentage of UK domestic work, but Vosa concedes the vague rules on cabotage are difficult to enforce. Even the DfT's Haulage Industry Task Group admits the impact of cabotage on the haulage industry extends beyond the loss of market share in particular, through the threat of foreign competition having a wider impact on buyers' price expectations".

The UK transport industry feels overwhelmed by the weight of rules and regulations coming out of Brussels, and one way to redress the balance would be to harmonise operating costs. Why shouldn't fuel duty. VED and road pricing be the same across Europe? And why not make the enforcement of vehicle condition and drivers' hours regs uniform across the 27 EU states? Then competition would be on a more level playing field, with the best operators succeeding through their own efforts rather than getting a leg-up from their national governments. Pie in the sky? It will be while all we get is tea and sympathy, but little action from Downing Street.

"Why shouldn't fuel duty, VED and road pricing be the same across Europe?

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