RHA says no to cabotage extension

By Categories: NewsPublished On: Saturday 2 April 2022

The Road Haulage Association last month spoke out against the possibility of extending the relaxations on cabotage in the UK, which were introduced last year by the government in a bid to help resolve supply chain issues caused by the driver shortage.

The relaxations, which allowed unlimited cabotage movements of foreign HGVs for up to 14 days after arriving laden in the UK, were due to end on 30 April; however, the Department for Transport ran a two-week consultation in March on the possibility of a temporary extension.

The government sought feedback on whether the relaxed rules should continue, and evidence on the uptake of cabotage rights since their introduction in October, including by particular sectors – as well as any positive and negative impacts.

Feedback on the consultation was being analysed, according to the DfT website, as we closed for press.

In its consultation document, DfT said it had assessed uptake and impact via the use of mobile phone data, which enabled the department to assess the number of stops HGV drivers arriving at ports had made in Great Britain, as well as a survey of foreign hauliers taken at its information and advice sites.

As of February, the survey had found around eight per cent of respondents were both aware of the cabotage extension and had taken advantage of it. Of those who had utilised it, around 50 per cent said they had performed more than two cabotage movements on average per trip to the UK, over and above what was previously allowed.

DfT said the evidence suggested that the number of hauliers carrying out cabotage remained low – while the mobile phone data showed that: “the aggregated amount of cabotage movements per foreign haulier within the UK has only risen very slightly from 1.2 pre-relaxation to about 1.3 after the relaxation.”

However, in its consultation response, the RHA described the DfT’s assessment of the impact of the relaxation “very thin” and said it believed it had underestimated the effects, adding cabotage was “difficult to measure.” It said the unlimited 14-day rule was “grossly excessive”, and that it believed it “distorts the market significantly in some key sectors” and was “damaging to the interests of UK road haulage companies and their employees.”

RHA policy director Duncan Buchanan, said: “Continuing the cabotage relaxation benefits large companies wanting to use it make more money and to suppress freight rates for UK operators and pay rates for UK lorry drivers.

“This impacts some sectors badly. With UK operators banned from working in this way in other countries, it makes the entire proposal deeply unfair.

“The driver shortage is not over, it requires continuous effort by the sector and government working together to continue the improvement in availability we have seen since last spring and summer. Any justification for the cabotage relaxation has now passed, it should have ended before now.”