Fuel cost drives hauliers out of work

RECORD-high diesel prices are putting Suffolk and Essex hauliers under increasing financial strain, with many fearing for their futures.

Anthony Bond

RECORD-high diesel prices are putting Suffolk and Essex hauliers under increasing financial strain, with many fearing for their futures.

The EADT understands at least one established Ipswich haulage firm closed down last Friday as a result of the rising costs - and the Road Haulage Association (RHA) has said it fears more may follow.

One local haulage company has seen its monthly fuel bill increase by £11,000 since November, while there have also been warnings that consumers may end up bearing the brunt of increased costs.

In April the average cost for a litre of diesel in East Anglia was 117.8p - up from 95.4p the same time last year. The current national average is 120.2p.

Dozens of hauliers protested against the record high prices on the streets of London yesterday - the same day that Shell announced profits of $7.8bn (£3.92bn) for the first three months of the year, up from $6.9bn a year ago.

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Paul Dawson, managing director of Felixstowe-based Deben Transport Ltd, said: “It is a very difficult time and there has been some huge slow down in business and some customers are between 20% to 30% down on imports.

“It is amazing that a lot of the boys are still here because the prices are just absolutely ridiculous and if you look in transport magazines there are companies packing up all the time because they cannot compete.”

Malcolm Stennett, managing director of Stennett's Transport based in Ingham, said his vehicles cost £1.60 to run per mile and last week fuel cost him 38% of every £1 which his business earned.

He said: “At the moment we cannot sustain 38% of fuel. We have got to either increase rates, which is not easy for the consumer, or we have got to try and tighten routing, but we already have every computer aid that is possible. We do not feel that we can operate for less and the consumer is going to have to pay.”

Steve Prince, managing director of Steve Prince Transport Limited, based in Braintree, said he had been trading for 14 years and it was the most difficult time he had known. In November his monthly fuel bill was £68,000 but that has now jumped to £79,000.

“Hauliers are going broke all the time and it is a concern for everybody in transport and there needs to be some sort of money back from the Government,” said Mr Prince.

The RHA said it was concerned that hauliers would go out of business if prices continued to rocket and wants the Government to abandon plans to raise fuel duty by 2p next October.

“I think a lot of the smaller hauliers will go out of business and the big guys will keep on crawling in business because they can make do with smaller margins,” said Peter Butler, spokesman for the RHA.

“There are hauliers in Suffolk seriously talking about it now. I was talking to one Suffolk haulier recently who was seriously considering hanging up his keys for good. There should be some sort of fuel regulation in place.”

The AA said there were a number of factors causing the high diesel prices. This included a fire at a Finnish refinery in April and the higher demand for diesel in Europe.

An AA spokesman said it was difficult to know if prices would drop.

“We would hope that the market will start to move back into more traditional swings and that probably towards the end of summer as we come to the end of the motoring season the price of both petrol and diesel will start to fall. But it is very difficult to predict what is going to happen because there always seems to be something new that pops up on the horizon to dash expectations.”

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