HAULIERS hit by record fuel prices and taxes converged on Westminster in their lorries on Tuesday, to demand an immediate rebate to save them from bankruptcy.
There were over 100 lorries involved in the protest at Park Lane – and they went on to deliver a coffin to parliament in protest at prices that are ‘killing’ the small hauliers.
‘I’ve been going for seven to eight months,’ Richard Hawkins, from Hawkins Bulk Haulage in Somerset, told News Line.
‘Since I’ve started, the fuel price has gone up 25p a litre and we’re paying over £1 for it, plus VAT.
‘I started this off to support my family and a lot of other boys are doing the same.
‘The fuel price is affecting everything, right across the board.
‘I think the government is despicable.’
Stuart Tomlins and Derek Millington, owner drivers from Shropshire, told News Line: ‘It’s essential there’s a cut in price now to stay in business.
‘It’s not just hauliers, it’s the knock-on effect to the general public as well.
‘Everything goes on transport and everything in the shops is going up.’
‘I work in a quarry,’ said one. ‘We don’t get rate increases as the fuel goes up, so we’ve come here to make our mark today.
‘I think they overplay the green issue to get more tax.
‘We’ve had to invest in engines to meet EU emission regulations.
‘We have to spend money keeping our vehicles up to spec and good road worthiness.
‘We come from a rural area. You don’t see a bus where we come from.’
Melvin Bright, from Lincolnshire, said the hauliers ‘have had enough of fuel increasing and increasing.
‘It’s got to the situation where we can’t carry on any more.
‘We’re in a low wage area and the fuel keeps going up and up and all the costs keep going up and up and that keeps coming out of our wages. Our wages are going down and down.
‘All we’re trying to do is earn a living and we just can’t compete.
‘At George Adams, all their lorry drivers are getting made redundant.’
Vic Wells, also from Lincolnshire, said: ‘It’s a hard job. We work long hours. We work 14 hours a day some days, nine hours off and then back on the wheel again to meet deadlines.
‘We mainly deliver potatoes and onions to pack houses like Morrisons and other places.
‘Potato farmers have had a bad year this year and onion growers have had an even worse time.
‘Moulton Bulb, who pack for Asda, have had to dump thousands of tons.
‘Lorry drivers are being made redundant.’
Simon Gough, from AE Gough and Sons in mid-Wales, said: ‘You just can’t pass these increases on any more and at the end of the day it will mean more people out of work.
‘I’m fearful we will be forced to make redundancies and our business has been going since 1926.
‘Predominantly our work is animal feed.
‘We can’t possibly pass our prices on to our customers, they’re in the same boat as we are.
‘Our feeling is that the government just don’t take any notice of us at all.
‘Nobody wants to park lorries up here today. Nobody wants to be in this position, but we have no choice. We are fighting for our existence.
‘I think good on the striking workers at Grangemouth.
‘I think definitely the government favours big business over smaller businesses and workers.
‘Bigger firms in haulage have a fuel escalator in place, whilst it’s very difficult for the smaller hauliers.
Gerry Jones, from Gerry Jones Transport Ltd, Newport, said: ‘For every litre of fuel we use, the government gets 50p a litre.
‘What we are looking for as an industry is to get an essential user rebate.
‘We can’t afford to increase our prices because our customers can’t afford to pay any more.’
At a rally in Marble Arch, Peter Knight, from Trans-Action 2007, said the support from hauliers for the campaign ‘has been absolutely phenomenal’.
He added: ‘Up to two years ago we were doing reasonably well.’
Demanding an ‘essential user rebate’ for hauliers, he said the combination of world oil prices and government fuel duties had made the price of diesel untenable.
He said hauliers were being raided for a whole host of charges and taxes, and added: ‘I ask the question plainly and simply to government: if you continue to push UK hauliers out of business, where on earth are you going to get the money from!’
He concluded: ‘We’re here today to make a statement and say to this government that this time we’ve had enough.’
Roger King told the rally: ‘This event takes place on the same day Shell and BP announce record profits for the first quarter of this year.
‘What a contrast with their customers, you, the hauliers, who are struggling to make ends meet.
‘They are making money by doing virtually nothing, because the value of the product coming out of the ground is virtually three times what it was two years ago.
‘If the government doesn’t do something, there won’t be a UK haulage sector.
‘Hauliers are finding it almost impossible to continue in business unless they get the same special help.’
He said public transport receives subsidies and added: ‘If you get a rebate for moving people, why can’t you get a rebate for moving the daily bread of the nation.’
He demanded the government immediately cancel the 2p increase in fuel duty planned for October, adding: ‘The government must make it clear it is no longer going to keep taxing and taxing and taxing us.’
He said that at the very least for every $2 increase in the price of a barrel of oil, there should be a penny cut in fuel duty to hauliers, to help stabilise prices for the industry.
Thirdly, he said, the industry needed a ‘massive cash injection’.
‘Fuel prices have increased by 20 per cent over the last few weeks.
‘You have to beg, borrow and steal until your customer pays you.
‘What a contrast to the airlines – if only we could have what they have. We’re the most taxed sector.’
Peter Seymour, from Maidstone, said: ‘I am still amazed by how little the general public know about our industry.
‘The situation is now critical. We are essential and should have that essential user rebate.’
Calling for a ‘massive petition’ of MPs, he said: ‘You’re going to have to force this issue right up to the top of the agenda.
‘The government has a fiscal tool to use to keep our prices stable: that is fuel duty.’
Alex Ovenden pointed out that, despite North Sea oil, UK fuel prices were higher than in other countries like Belgium and France.
‘We’re having to pay £1 a litre without VAT. Why is this the most expensive place to buy fuel – it’s because the government chooses to charge 50p a litre fuel duty.’
He demanded an immediate 25p a litre cut in fuel duty.
‘It would stop inflation in its tracks and encourage foreign trucks to buy their fuel here on a daily basis. That would fill the Treasury’s coffers.’
Sharon Knight paraphrased Martin Luther King, saying: ‘TransAction has a dream: we dream of a rebate!’
She continued: ‘Since the protests of 2000, the British haulier has become pessimistic about his future.’
She said hauliers could no longer pass on the cost of fuel to their customers.
‘Oil is $120 a barrel – a 1p rise in fuel prices affects our family business by £10,000 a year.’
But she added: ‘We’re determined to make a difference.’
Calling for the immediate withdrawal of the 2p increase in fuel duty, she continued: ‘We need the government to change its policy and fast.
‘We need to stand strong and fight. We are the voice of the independent operator.’
She said that ‘organised labour does have a role to play’, before concluding: ‘The government is being called to account right here and now: stability can only be achieved through long-term planning.’