Tuesday, 13 November 2007 12:00 AM
The Road Haulage Association questions the idea of taking trucks onto the roads of Britain to protest against high fuel prices as pointless, potentially counter-productive and potentially illegal.
While accepting that some form of protests from frustrated hauliers is possible, the RHA says that it is not the course favoured by most of its members - even though they are increasingly frustrated by the government's fuel duty policy.
The RHA makes the following points:
It calls for an end to fuel duty increases that are fuelling inflation and making a volatile fuel market worse.
It calls for a solution to the unfair fuel duty difference between the UK and the rest of the EU. Britain's diesel tax is more than twice that of the rest of the EU and for a typical artic doing 100,000 miles a year, that means an extra £15,000 in fuel duty. Even a low-mileage artic is paying £8,000 a year more than European rivals.
The RHA's weekly fuel price survey shows fuel prices have risen for 12 consecutive weeks, . The Association warned the Treasury during the summer and again in September against an inflationary increase in fuel duty under such circumstances. Despite this, the Chancellor went ahead with 2 pence per litre increase on October 1.
The Treasury asserts that fuel duty is slightly less in real terms now than it was in 1999. That may be true. But the cost of diesel has risen by more than 50% and the government charges VAT on that cost, as well as on fuel duty. For every 5p increase in the price, the government takes almost 1p in VAT.
The price of diesel is only around 37p - before taxes.
The number of foreign trucks in the country, with cheap diesel, is rising and now stands, the RHA calculates, at around 15,000 artics.
"We do not believe that protest action is the constructive way forwards and such an approach would not be supported by the large majority of our members," said RHA Chief Executive Roger King.
"Nonetheless, the increasing duty burden is clearly unfair and we look we look to the government to recognise that fact and to act accordingly."