Autumn statement: the road haulage bosss view
Bob Swain owns the Swain Group road haulage company based in Rochester, Kent. He welcomed the cancellation of the 3p rise in fuel duty planned for January 2012, but said there was little else in the statement that was of obvious benefit to his company.
“I’m the fourth generation of Swain to run the company, which was founded in 1918. We come from humble beginnings, using a horse and cart, now we employ 400 people and have more than 200 vehicles covering 12m miles a year. Our fuel spend is in excess of ?7m, which is 35% of our total.
“Fuel is our biggest single cost so any movement in the fuel price has a huge effect on the business. This means the 3p January fuel duty cancellation is good news for us. It will be a big help. I will even accept the 3p August 2012 rise now he’s got rid of the January one – it’s fair enough. In 2007 we paid around 75p a litre for wholesale diesel, rising to 90p a litre in 2008. It dipped to 80p in 2009 but went up to 100p a litre in 2010 and around 115p a litre in 2011. It’s very difficult to absorb, so writing off the 3p rise will help.
“But the government’s road infrastructure programme just means more inconvenience for us while they are building, and there’s little in it for us from a business point of view. When they improve and build roads these days there’s a bit of earth to move around, which is good for the tippers, and lots of concrete to be done on site, which is great for ballast and cement companies. But most stuff is done locally and doesn’t create much work for us unless there’s a bridge involved and then there might be some steel that needs transported to the site.
“We do need to get our infrastructure right so I welcome the investment in it generally, but by the time these new roads are built they’ll already be out of date. If Osborne wants to raise money to pay for it by adding tolls, we won’t be using the new roads anyway. We already avoid the M6 because the toll costs drivers ?10 a time – our customers won’t pay extra just because we want to use a toll road and we can’t afford to absorb it ourselves.”