Rod Mckenzie, new Director of Policy at the RHA, talks goals and priorities for his new role and describes six major issues facing commercial transport in the UK
Rod Mckenzie has been named as the new Director of Policy at the Road Haulage Association (RHA). The announcement comes following the retirement of Jack Semple from the position in July. Editor Joe Wyatt spoke to Rod to discuss his goals for the role and gain his insight into what he sees as the most pressing issues facing commercial transport and road haulage in the UK.
What does your role as Director of Policy entail?
The role is entirely new – the job title is still Director of Policy but I will be also in charge of public relations, marketing and communications. I will essentially oversee all the non-business elements of the RHA. It has been a fantastic challenge so far and I am really enjoying it.
What are your objectives for the RHA in your new role?
My overarching goal is to improve the image of road haulage as an industry in this country. In the past, I do not think the industry has been very good at communicating a public image to politicians, decision makers and the media, and my goal is to improve that.
Without road haulage, 98% of everything we consume in the UK would not reach its destination. The transport and logistics industry is critical to the UK economy and has never been more crucial as we face Brexit. It is crucial that everyone in Britain understands where their cornflakes in the morning come from, how their clothes arrive in shops and how their new sofa arrives at their door. That is all down to the road haulage industry. We must be more influential with decision makers in Whitehall, Westminster and across the UK with national and regional authorities.
What career path led you to this position?
I started off as a reporter and broadcaster in commercial radio. Then I worked for the BBC for around 20 years, first as a presenter and finally as an executive editor. Subsequently,
as an independent media and policy adviser, I worked with the RHA as they were dealing with the migrant crisis in Calais. After that, Richard Burnett, Chief Executive of the RHA, kindly asked me to stay on permanently. It was an opportunity that was too good to miss.
We have got to get Brexit right for us. And by for us, I mean a ‘frictionless’ borders situation that protects the free movement of goods between Europe and Britain without queues at channel ports and connecting motorway systems. Unfortunately, Brexit in its current form is looking like an avoidable own goal for the country.
2. The HGV driver shortage
The industry is 45,000 drivers short of what it needs. It is possible that, post-Brexit, there will be several economic factors that will dissuade European drivers from working here, and that shortage will become more severe. It is important that we secure some funding from central Government to make driver training initiatives like Road to Logistics work. It costs between £3000 to £5000 to train a driver – that is an outlay that many firms simply cannot afford with their tight margins. We need to get new people into the industry and, importantly, women into the industry. Road haulage is a very male dominated industry so it would be good to see greater gender diversity and indeed greater diversity more generally in road haulage.
3. Emissions and air quality
We know that the Euro 6 engine is the cleanest you can get. But we have trouble with some public figures (like Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London) who want to punish Euro 5 and below lorries for their emissions. I think we need a better transitionary arrangement to the point where everyone has a Euro 6 lorry – that is the goal. We know that scrappage may work for cars, but you can’t give someone £2000 from the scrappage scheme to buy a new truck because a new truck costs £80,000. I’m concerned that Euro 5 drivers will be punished and it will lead to a glut of unsellable Euro 5 lorries and the price of collapse will have a poor economic outcome for people who are trading in their Euro 5s.
4. Fuel duty
It has been frozen for a while but there is pressure in the budget and we have heard speculation that fuel duty will increase. This is something we are trying to dissuade the Government from doing because in a tight-margin industry like road haulage, raising the cost of fuel, our biggest outlay cost on a day-to-day basis, would be disastrous for business.
5. Cyclists and lorries
There has been a lot of bad publicity surrounding interactions between cyclists and lorries recently, particularly concerning cyclists undertaking lorries on left-hand turns. This is never a good idea and puts lives at risk. There is a need to educate all road users on these issues. I am worried that HGV drivers are the only ones that are blamed when we have all got a stake in road safety.
6. DVSA enforcement
The Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) does not have a great reputation in our industry. Many of our members see the DVSA as ineffective, poorly targeted and often insensitive. In crude terms, they pick on the good guys and let the bad guys go. That is a view that is held across the industry. I am worried as well about some of their bureaucratic measures. In my opinion, the Earned Recognition scheme is about the DVSA appearing to reduce their enforcement operations by adding bureaucracy to operators. Instead, what we want to do is to focus activity on non-compliant operators; the bad guys, if you like, not to put more bureaucracy on compliant operators.
For more information: www.rha.uk.net