Over 150 transport professionals, media and other opinion formers attended the first Commercial Vehicle Forum, organised by the CV Show Partnership and held last week in central London. It was no surprise that key challenges facing the industry took centre stage.
One of the key issues is that the road transport industry is seriously undervalued by the public and government. This was highlighted by Rob Flello MP, chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Freight Transport, in his opening speech.
“The industry is crucial to the UK economy, contributing £100 billion of added value, employing two million people and moving 140 billion tonne kilometres every year. The UK would come to a standstill in minutes without road freight,” said Mr Flello. “The industry must sell itself to the public to emphasise its critical importance not just to the UK’s economy, but to their everyday lives.”
Other issues which were debated at the Forum included:
- The wafer thin profit margins which most road transport operations earn. A typical 44-tonne truck will cover 150,000 miles per year and deliver £150,000 of revenue, but typically earns just 1% profit.
- The need for enhanced safety training for both drivers and technicians was stressed but other road users had an important part to play in raising standards.
- With fuel accounting for 45% of operating costs, minimising consumption remains a key driver for the industry. It was agreed that longer trucks, able to operate on less congested routes, were the best way of enhancing both.
- Environmental efficiency is critical too but further improvements will have to be driven by legislation.
- The severe difficulties being encountered in recruiting drivers and maintenance staff was a recurrent theme. With young drivers, the problem is the difficulty of obtaining insurance cover. With technicians, it is perception, even though modern trucks have technology levels on a par with the most advanced passenger car.
Chaired by broadcast business journalist Simon Jack, the Forum resulted in a lively open debate involving the invited audience. A varied panel of speakers, including the MDs of two top truck makers, operators running both large and small fleets, safety experts and a distinguished academic, found plenty to talk about.
The Forum looked at sustainability, safety and skills, with the focus on how the road transport sector can continue to survive and thrive in the UK.
A spokesman for the three organisers said, “This inaugural event has been a tremendous success and demonstrates that road transport professionals and those observing the industry value a new platform to air key issues. We now have a firm base on which to build an event which will benefit the future of the UK logistics industry.”