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8 Jun 2011

For a nation whose supply chains are almost totally reliant on its road hauliers, we certainly treat those we depend on for our foods, other essentials and consumer goods with a disdain that is almost impressive!

Firstly, successive governments hobble the sector with ever mounting fuel costs and prohibitive duties, then we discover that our wonderful leaders have stood idly by while irresponsible local authorities wrought wholesale neglect on the road network.

In support of recommendations by the Audit Commission this week that councils must be more transparent in showing how and where road maintenance funds are spent, the Freight Transport Association (FTA) said that the industry has a “right to better roads”.

It certainly does, but if you think about it, we all do – and not merely as fellow motorists. New tyres and maintenance account for more than ten per cent of the running costs of a typical large truck and pitted, potholed and badly surfaced roads will increase the need for such attention.

And, you’ve guessed it; the costs of repairing vehicles damaged by poor roads will be carried by the consumer ultimately.

People seem to forget just how fundamental freight transport is to our quality of life.  Foodstuffs don’t grow on the shelves and white goods and furniture aren’t assembled at the point of sale; they have to be delivered – invariably, over distances of hundreds of miles.

As well as keeping the country fed, clothed and comfortable, commercial vehicle operators contribute massively to the economy via taxes, so is it too much to ask that our roads are fit-for-purpose?

Naturally, the huge cost of damage to trucks and vans by poorly maintained roads can’t be reclaimed from local authorities, meaning that the inflation that results as additional transport overheads are passed to the customer is bad for UK PLC.

According to the Audit Commission, local highways authorities maintain 98 per cent of the country’s roads. However, the level of spending differs widely between them and seems to bear no resemblance to road condition or size of network.

Fortunately, these days, the public is far more forthcoming when it comes to telling politicians and bureaucrats if they think they are being let down.

Hopefully, if this sorry state of affairs is brought to wider attention, people will give a resounding vote of no confidence to the anonymous bean counters at County Hall. Only when they know that we know that their penny pinching is costing all of us money and threatening the vital logistics chain, will it be nurtured, not neglected.
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