Lorry Drivers and small hauliers rallied hundreds strong at Marble Arch in London yesterday to demand a government fuel subsidy or fuel tax relief for their industry which they say is heading for catastrophe.
With many of them threatened with going out of business or losing their jobs, the mood was one of anger at the Brown government and determination that there would be change.
One driver said: ‘We’ve been approaching London since 6am this morning. There are 90 of us from Medway and 150 from Essex, in other parts of the country there are between 600-100 lorries.
‘There is a lot of discontent because we were not allowed to park closer. The police don’t want us to use Hyde Park because of emergency services, but that is just an excuse.’
Sharon Carrol, speaking for Trans-Action, who organised the protest put it to Gordon Brown: ‘We need to change your policy and change it fast.
‘The implications of doing nothing are alarming. Today is only the beginning.’
She said: ‘We need an essential users rebate, similar to the bus service operators.
‘The fuel rises are unsustainable. We pay the highest duty in Europe, and we have higher standards of road safety in Europe.
‘The number of foreign lorries on the roads is up 54%. A 2+3 is illegal at 44 tonne weight in the UK, and a serious threat to road safety.
‘No amount of business acumen will get us through this, we can’t make it by increasing productivity. There is nothing else to cut except jobs.
‘We have to change government policy, and change it fast’.
The Freight Transport Association (FTA) wants Gordon Brown to reduce fuel duty for hauliers.
Its spokesman said: ‘We think it absurd that a car user is being charged the same rate of duty as a haulier running a 44-tonne truck.
‘One is central to the industrial process and economy of the country and should be treated as such.
‘The FTA wants to see a reduction in duty and suggest the government create a new “blue diesel” that would have a lower rate of tax but would only be available to those who could demonstrate it was for commercial purposes.
‘Or, they want an Essential User Rebate to be introduced similar to reclaiming VAT.
‘Or, Operators could use a secure credit card to pay for diesel that would automatically deduct the duty reduction on the statement.’
Jose Girvain a lorry driver said: ‘Drivers are under such pressure. I’m due a wage rise but don’t dare ask for it. No pay rises and no overtime.
‘Most big lorries get 6-8 miles per gallon, that’s £1 per mile. If you get a puncture you are down on funds.
‘We are so sick of this government. I think Brown is not taking the escalating cost of road haulage seriously.
‘Increasing fuel taxes is not helping the environment. That is just a cover. The money is being spent elsewhere, making my fob redundant. I’ve got family to sustain.
‘This is just the start of a big fuel revolt. We should take a week off and see what happens then.’
Andy Lewis said: ‘This government wants to listen.
‘But if they will not listen or be sensible we may have to be more militant, like the French. They blockaded all the ports.
‘They should stop fighting the war in Iraq, and bring the money home.
‘We have become sick of this government ripping us off.
‘Brown has skint this country and he thinks he can bale himself out by taxing us.
‘Let him go and get it off Tony Blair, he’s got millions tucked away.’
Lewis’ mate said: ‘There must be a couple hundred lorries on the A40. The police have got helicopters flying overhead and have shut the whole fly-over down.
‘If they want to get stroppy we’ll bring in all these big trucks. It’s the last and final chance.’
‘Brown is under cash pressure by other services.
‘Pot fulls of money for banks, and other vested interests and taking it off hauliers. We can’t keep passing it on to customers.’
George Soforanu said: ‘I am an ordinary man with three boys to raise. It used to cost me £40 a week to get to work and it now costs £60. The mortgage rates are so high it is difficult to live in a normal society.
‘Brown is killing our industry, killing the country. This is a money grabbing government. We are being taxed out of everything, fleecing the people for his own political reasons.’
Another fuel protester said: ‘We are an oil producing country. We have the cheapest fuel in the world but pay the dearest at the pumps. All our oil is sold back to OPEC who turn it into petrol. Then the big companies like shell and BP sell it back as fuel, so the big companies are not passing the savings back to users.
‘If we don’t do something about it we’ll be ruined.’
Peter Carrol, from Trans-Action addressed the crowd saying: ‘The A40 is a testament to the complete meltdown in this industry which is being replaced by HM Charity.’
Referring to the Brown government Carrol said: ‘Poor is the parasite that kills its host.’
‘Rising costs are not just affecting me, it’s affecting you, you and you.
‘If anyone doubts that Trans-Action is not equipped to see this through to satisfaction, they are wrong.
‘This is phase II. I plead with Gordon Brown to sit down with ministers and come up with a rebate to the industry now. This is Red letter day.
‘The industry is on its knees. United we stand.
‘If Gordon Brown sits back, the next time we will come to London and show how easy it is – like the French fishermen.
‘I have had a haulier business for 40 years and I will not stand by and let anybody destroy our industry.
‘You watch where the trucks go next.’