The 2015 Budget which was presented by Chancellor George Osborne this afternoon contains some positive news for truckers, commercial vehicle operators and motorists in general.
There are a number of policies designed to appeal to hauliers, including another fuel duty freeze and support to tackle the industries qualified driver shortages.
More broadly, the Budget was encouraging because it spelled out a strong and confident economic message to consumers and businesses in the UK – and this can only be good for those involved in the road haulage industry.
Budget highlights for hauliers
- Fuel duty frozen for another year
- Cheaper petrol in remote areas
- Changes to driver training
- Road improvements
The policy that will gain the most attention amongst hauliers will be the freezing of fuel duty for another year. The Chancellor plans on scrapping the proposed 0.54p-per-litre duty escalator due in September. He said: “I want to make sure that the falling oil price is passed on.”
This is most welcome news for truck operators who, according to Whitehall estimates, will save an estimated £21,000 per lorry annually.
In addition to the fuel duty freeze, the Chancellor also outlined plans to make fuel 5 pence per litre cheaper in rural areas. While this might not affect truck drivers as much as other road users it is still a commitment to motoring.
The Chancellor also signalled an intention to get tough on petrol stations, making it clear that the Government would be watching the pump price closely to ensure that any falls in the price of oil were being passed onto consumers.
According to the Budget documentation – Highways England will launch a delivery plan setting out further detail on the roads investment programme between 2015 and 2020. Earmarked roads include the A1, M62, M1, A556, Mersey Gateway Bridge and of course a tunnel under Stonehenge.
In a show of support for road hauliers, the government intends to review the speed with which HGV driving tests and medical assessments currently take place. It is hoped that this will help address the shortage of qualified HGV drivers.
In addition, the Budget document states that the government will ‘work with road haulage firms on an industry-led solution to the driver shortage, including looking at the right level of access to, and funding support for, training.’
Strong budget for business
In addition to all of these specific policies, the Budget has attempted to send a positive message to businesses and consumers.
There were no overly brash ‘giveaways’ and a more mature sounding Chancellor has not tried to outright ‘buy’ voters as many had feared.
The result is that businesses and customers deterred from spending. They will continue buying products that, as always, will need transporting across the country.
Not far enough?
There were elements of disappointment for hauliers, but for the most part they were relatively minor.
The Chancellor did pledge to reduce the Severn Bridge toll for cars and vans from 2018, but this pledge did not extend to trucks and other large commercial vehicles.
Additionally, many hauliers were hoping that the Chancellor would reaffirm his commitment to levelling the playing field and charging foreign drivers to use British roads – but this was not mentioned.