The Road Haulage Association (RHA) has called the government’s newly announced loan scheme for small businesses “a step in the right direction”, but warns that more must be done to help SME hauliers weather the Covid-19 storm, and avoid collapse and insolvency.
The new ‘bounce back’ loan scheme for small businesses recently unveiled by HM Treasury launches on Monday 4 May for applications.
It is 100 per cent government backed, following criticism that the earlier announced government loan programme was of limited use to many small firms, given banks’ unwillingness to shoulder a degree of the risk burden.
The chancellor Rishi Sunak said the new scheme, which will offer between £2,000 and £50,000 loans, would bolster the existing support packages made available by the government.
Loans will be interest-free for the first 12 months, and businesses can apply via an online form which the government says is “short and simple”. Cash will be made available within days, says the Treasury.
In a coronavirus email bulletin this week, RHA chief executive Richard Burnett said: “Whilst the announcement is a step in the right direction, the RHA is clear that our sector needs further financial support.
“We will keep up the pressure on the government to introduce measures such as grants, business rates holidays, vehicle excise duty refunds for SORN (statutory off road notification) vehicles and moving [to] a weekly furlough model.”
Burnett called on hauliers to help the RHA win support for their businesses.
“We have had assurances that government are desperate to help SMEs through this crisis,” he said.
“They recognise that they play a critical part – not only keeping Britain going, but helping it bounce back when business returns to ‘normal.
“Despite this ‘recognition’, we face continuous pushback. Rest assured, we are determined not to give up and we will continue to apply pressure and demonstrate just how bad this situation really is.”
Writing to the chancellor directly would help push home the point, he said, pointing hauliers to a dedicated website with a pre-written letter headed ‘Widescale Collapse of the UK’s Road Haulage Sector’, which urges Mr Sunak to support the RHA’s proposals.
Further measures called for in the template letter, in which the RHA reiterated estimates that nearly 50 per cent of lorries are now parked up, include a fuel duty rebate to help ensure critical supply chains are maintained.
Senders are being encouraged to add their own personal comments to the template, and the site will automatically forward copies of their letters to local MPs.
The RHA is also directing hauliers to a Department for Transport-requested survey, which can be filled in online, designed to provide feedback to government about the challenges the sector is facing during the coronavirus crisis.