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Amid skyrocketing fuel costs, SME hauliers are calling on governments or industry to enforce a fixed surcharge rate on customers.
Director of UK-based Reformation Logistics Tim Matthews noted that since the end of February the cost of fuel had risen by close to 35%, as western countries blocksales of Russian energy in response to its invasion of Ukraine.
“Fuel, obviously, is a major expense for us and at the end of February we were paying a lot at £1.20 a litre, this week it increased to £1.53,” Mr Matthews told The Loadstar.
“That means our costs for March will climb 35% on February and, while most lines set a fuel charge, they always base it on the previous month’s rates. But with the Ukraine crisis, we have had an unprecedented cost spike, so we need to find £18,000 extra a month.”
Mr Matthews said March was always an important month for SME hauliers because there were usually dropped earnings, caused by incremental weather in January and February.
Although he feels confident Reformation can hold out against fuel spikes, having last month landed Kalmar as a new client, some are less optimistic, with one SME having lost £30,000 because of storm Eunice.
“March really is an important month for the SMEs, and I am not sure government is aware of this, so we really need its help on this,” said Mr Matthews.
“Fuel is going through the roof for all SME firms, but there are some where, without better surcharge rates, there are growing concerns over their ability to keep going.”
Mr Matthews is calling on the UK government to intervene and impose a nationwide fuel surcharge of 0.5p per 1p increase in fuel for all customers.
He said that this would help ease some of the strain on smaller hauliers which may not have built up substantial enough ‘war chest’ to contend with unexpected industry-wide changes. Failing that, he suggested, the industry could act as one under the guidance of one of the major logistics associations.
“Worrying me and others in the industry is the silence of the bigger firms. They’re not speaking to us, which is making us wonder if they have managed to get a better deal from the shipping lines than we have,” added Mr Matthews.
“Everyone needs to be united on this with a standardised national fuel surcharge. A surcharge is needed and a lot of customers understand this, but unfortunately many still have their heads in the sand, thinking hauliers are after a payday.”
He claimed the UK’s lack of action had been unfavourably compared with that of the EU, which announced this week it would provide subsidies to mitigate the impact of rising costs.
But, despite this, France’s Fédération Nationale des Transporteurs Routiers, the Nordic Logistics Association and Germany’s Bundesverband Güterkraftverkehr Logistik und Entsorgung said many in Europe’s haulage sector would continue to struggle.
Mr Matthews said part of the problem in the UK may be tied to the Treasury “creaming in all that tax revenue” – 51.8% of UK petrol and 49.6% of diesel prices.
“There is supposed to be discussion next week on a 15% rebate on fuel for hauliers in the UK, but if they’re talking about it next week, who knows when they can actually implement it? For some it could be too late,” added Mr Matthews.