Hauliers high fuel cost protests

LORRY drivers from Essex united with truckers from across the country protesting at rising fuel prices with a demonstration in the heart of the capital.

Annie Davidson

LORRY drivers from Essex united with truckers from across the country protesting at rising fuel prices with a demonstration in the heart of the capital.

The angry hauliers travelled to London yesterday where they parked on a specially closed section of the A40 before some were escorted through the centre of the city by police in a protest convoy.

Others lobbied parliament to call on the Government to re-think its policy on diesel duty in the light of the 40% increase in fuel prices during the last year.

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The Freight Transport Association (FTA) said that with the price of oil rising to a new record high, it was essential that the Government immediately announced that it would scrap the proposed 2p per litre increase in diesel duty planned for October - together with similar increases planned for 2009 and 2010.

The protestors included Kevin Read from Hamblion Transport Limited in Hawkins Road, Colchester, who met with MPs Bob Russell and Bernard Jenkin at the House of Commons.

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Stuart Mitchell, of Hamblion Transport, said the increase in fuel prices during recent months was “astronomical” and was threatening the future of smaller firms.

Mr Mitchell said Hamblion Transport had 40 staff and 37 lorries and struggled with the rising costs as well as the competition from Europe's hauliers.

“The fuel duty we pay is two times as much as anyone in Europe and that is really not helping us,” he said. “Some of the European truck drivers have double size petrol tanks now and they come over and take some of the work we should be doing, then go home and fill up with some more cheap fuel.

“If it carries on going with oil prices they way they are we are looking at £2 (per litre) at the pumps by the end of the year which is not something we want to happen.”

He added: “Our industry employs 30 or 40% of the UK and if they send us all out of business then the economy will be a lot more affected than it already has been.”

North Essex MP Mr Jenkin, former shadow transport secretary, said he believed a special 'brit-disc' should be introduced to charge foreign lorry drivers working in the UK who currently do not have to pay road tax.

“The Government is trying to blame this on world oil prices but it is the difference between our taxes and other country's taxes which are creating more troubles for the haulage industry,” he added.

“The problems facing the haulage industry are very serious.”

Colchester MP Mr Russell said: “We are trying as a country to balance the competing and conflicting demands of climate change and global warming and rising fuel costs.

“It is a question of striking a balance. We have got to think of tomorrow while living for today.”

For the first time in these protests, the freight company drivers were joined by members of the Road Haulage Association (RHA).

Andy Boyle, RHA national chairman, said yesterday: “I am absolutely delighted that so many sections of the UK transport industry have united in such a positive way.

“If ever there was positive proof that ours is an industry in crisis, then this surely must be it.

“The harsh reality is that the price of fuel is now forcing many hauliers out of business.

“For many, today will represent a last-ditch attempt at making their voice heard.

“It is therefore absolutely vital that Government not only listens to us but takes urgent action.

“For those present today, whether they be hauliers or members of parliament, doing nothing is no longer an option.”

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