Spring Budget – The Highlights for Transport Operators

Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak unveiled his spring budget yesterday, in what was an eagerly anticipated update on the UK’s finances following the economic shockwave caused by the Coronavirus pandemic.

There were some key updates for those involved in the transport industry…

  • Freeze on Fuel Duty – for the 11th year in a row, fuel duty was frozen. This represents good news for operators, ensuring no extra costs for fuel beyond market rates and current tax.
  • Extension to Furlough – whilst some sectors of the transport industry, have returned to more normal levels of activity, many others remain deeply impacted by the effect of lockdown and closure to events and hospitality. The furlough scheme will be extended to September, with employers asked to make contributions from the summer.
  • Launch of UK Infrastructure Bank – the UK’s first such institution, the infrastructure bank will be designed to channel billions of pounds into big projects and tackle climate change. How much of this money will go into road transport remains to be seen.
  • HGV Levy Suspension Extended – collection of the HGV levy had previous been suspended, but that has been extended through to August 2022, reducing financial costs for UK and foreign hauliers operating in the UK.
  • Vehicle Excise Duty (Road Tax) Freeze for HGVs – not mentioned within the budget, however the Government is freezing VED on heavy goods vehicles for 2021-22 to help support the haulage industry during the pandemic recovery

Reactions from trade bodies was mixed.

Commenting, RHA chief executive Richard Burnett said: “This has been a Budget that is good for business and good for people. The Chancellor’s announcement of a fuel duty freeze for the 11th year in succession comes as very good news for the hundreds of thousands of commercial vehicle operators who have been struggling as a result of the pandemic.

“As with every Budget, it contains much more detail than first meets the eye but overall, we consider it to be a Budget based on optimism and right now, that’s something that we all need.”

Commenting on the skills shortage within logistics, Alex Veitch, General Manager of Public Policy at Logistics UK, said: “Funding to train new entrants to the logistics sector is particularly welcome at a time when the industry is suffering significant skills gaps and the loss of EU workers, and a more flexible approach to apprenticeships will also assist the sector in recruiting the next generation of logistics employees.

“However, the industry needs new recruits now, and a more flexible method of providing direct support to those looking to retrain and reskill into vital operational roles like HGV drivers and transport managers would help that transition. The average cost for a 12-month apprenticeship training and license acquisition is £7,000 – Logistics UK would like to see more immediate government support, in the form of interest-free loans or grants, to be made available now to help switch those affected by the pandemic into the vacancies which are open now, and help with the economic recovery from COVID-19.”

The Government has published it’s “Build Back Better – Our Plan for Growth” document, which outlines the Government’s approach to recovery through three core pillars; Infrastructure, Skills and Innovation.