As Head of Public Affairs for the UK’s largest trade body dedicated to the road freight industry, Chris Seaton is busy lobbying the Government on a whole range of important transport issues. Find out what’s top of his and the RHA’s agenda in this profile piece where he describes the important work of the industry, and the RHA policy team.
I joined the RHA in 2004 and unfortunately like many today who leave school, college and university, at that point I had no appreciation of the vital role this industry plays in our everyday lives.
The road transport sector is the 5th largest industry in the UK and together, with its associated warehousing operations, it employs over 2.5 million people and contributes £72 billion to the economy.
I have worked in various roles since joining the business including business development, project management, communications and within the Chief Executive’s office with various responsibilities. Like the rest of the industry the association offers a diverse range of career opportunities. In fact we’re one of the most diverse sectors, so from management, warehousing, driving, technicians, HR and IT, the list is endless and there really is something for everyone.
I write this during National Lorry Week, an RHA initiative that has, in the past 3 years since its inception, worked very successfully to get that message across to students and the general public as well as promoting the essential role of the lorry. After all 90% of everything comes on the back of one.
When our Chief Executive Richard Burnett joined in 2015, the association went through a period of essential change. Richard brought with him over 30 years of experience working within the industry, working his way up through the ranks to lead some of the biggest operators in the sector from loss to profit.
Richard made his ambitions for the association very clear at the outset – one of which was to deliver far more value for our fee paying members and since then it’s been exciting, being part of an organisation that has worked tirelessly towards achieving that.
The questions our members ask themselves when their renewal notice lands on the doormat will differ from one to another. However one common question will be “do we get value from this”. As we know, the haulage industry operates on low profit margins and there simply isn’t the money for anything that doesn’t deliver value.
Membership is growing and member retention is the strongest it’s been in the association’s history – members are very obviously now answering “yes” to that all important question.
As well as delivering the right commercial services at competitive prices and making sure we have a structure that can effectively service our member’s needs, one of the fundamental purposes of a trade body is to represent it’s respective industry with Government, regulators, enforcement bodies and authorities.
Now working as Head of Public Affairs and Regional Policy this representation work is where I and others from the policy team now focus our efforts. The industry is facing an unprecedented level of challenge.
The skills shortage and namely the chronic driver shortage is estimated to be 45,000. A lack of driver facilities and a deteriorating and congested road network. Fuel duty which represents over a third of hauliers’ operating costs and which has the highest level of duty in Europe undermining our competitiveness. Emissions and air quality – a priority for the Government but their expectations of the industry are currently unrealistic. Of course there is also Brexit; the RHA and its members are clear about the outcomes needed when the UK finally exits from the EU. This list is by no means exhaustive and there are many more issues we are actively engaging with decision makers on to get the best possible deal for the industry that is the lifeblood of our nation.
I would be delighted to hear from operators about your concerns and issues. Specific information and evidence is so important when trying to influence decision makers. Please feel free to write to me – firstname.lastname@example.org