The RHA is calling on Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak to delay the red diesel ban by one year, warning that failure to do so will result in a £1.4bn hit to small hauliers and businesses.

The association is arguing for a 12 month delay from 1 April this year followed by a phased introduction. RHA said it is appealing to the Chancellor because of the “crippling cost pressures” hauliers are experiencing as they battle with the aftershocks from both Brexit and the Covid-19 pandemic.

The call comes as concern mounts in the logistics industry at the timing of the ban, which is part of new air quality laws. The ban will see HMRC remove the rebate for red diesel for most sectors from 1 April this year.

Refrigerated systems manufacturer Hultsteins has already warned that the move could add thousands of pounds of extra cost, per year, per fridge, for all diesel fridge operators. The Cold Chain Federation recently said its members could see costs doubling under the ban.

Rod McKenzie, RHA executive director of policy and public affairs, said: “UK hauliers have done a heroic job in keeping the economy running during the Covid crisis. Punishing them with a red diesel hike tax is damaging to their business and we urgently call on the government to reconsider this move.”

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RHA said the government had chosen an inopportune moment to ban red diesel when its members are struggling with shortages of drivers, vehicles and parts and increased wage, fuel, and energy costs.It pointed to the near 17% rise over the past year in the cost of operating a 44-tonne truck and an 18% increase in driver wages.

The association added: “Small hauliers operating on thin margins simply cannot cope with the added pressure of the loss of the red-diesel rebated fuel in April which would add over 1% in running costs for a lorry.

“Despite severe financial challenges, hauliers across the country have remained focused on delivering a resilient supply chain. Government must now support them as they grapple with rising energy prices and high inflation. They are the lifeblood of the UK economy and vital to the success and future growth of British industry.”