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Leading hauliers have told MT they have been forced to increase rates to customers amid a range of growing industry challenges.

Pressures on already tight margins have been worsened by the Covid-19 pandemic, driver shortages, increasing fuel prices and a hike in the cost of moving goods and services internationally.

Cullimore MD, Moreton Cullimore, said hauliers are therefore faced with "no option but to increase rates", which would inevitably have an effect on inflation.

“The transport industry cannot be squeezed any further while both its suppliers and end customers all enjoy thicker margins," he added. "This is emphasised even further with the significant HGV driver shortage and climbing fuel prices.

“Those in the central, southern and south eastern region are struggling with the volumes and just don’t have enough drivers.

"I’m hearing about companies that only put prices up once a year distributing a second increase for July when they’ve already increased in April."

Meachers chairman Bob Terris admitted the company has recently hiked its rates: “We are quoting higher prices for new business as we anticipate that costs are rising and that these will rise further in the coming months,” he said.

“Our annual pay review was on 1 June and this has been implemented at a considerably higher amount than prior years.

“We have regular reviews on rates with all existing customers with annual increases at various dates through the year."

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Jayne Masters, sales director at Miniclipper Logistics, said some hauliers are putting up to a 4% surcharge on their tariffs to accommodate increased costs.

“But we we had not planned to do this unless the situation becomes untenable,” she added. “We raise our prices only once a year by RPI.”

Aztek Logistics MD Stuart Charter said the delivery specialist had made some short-term adjustments to reflect increased costs such as its wage bills.

However, mid to long term, he said Aztek is working with the wider industry to find solutions to the “perfect storm of crises” that the sector now finds itself in.

“This is an industry-wide issue and bodies such as Logistics UK, the RHA and the APN are actively lobbying the government," he explained. "They put the brakes on bringing in European drivers and explicitly require us to source from within the UK at exactly the same time that there is a chronic shortage of HGV testing capability.

“The rise in wages, fuel costs and driver shortages will inevitably result in rate increases that will have to be passed on to consumers, who ultimately vote with their feet when it comes to election time."

However, Clive Brooks, MD at ABE Ledbury, said that while he could see extra costs heading his way, the company had not yet been greatly affected and increases have been in line with normal annual reviews.

“The cost of fuel is still a lot less than it was two years ago, although it is getting closer to past levels," he said. “Excessive wage inflation is a concern as the industry fights over too few drivers. We are certainly seeing above-inflation increases quoted on new equipment and it will be interesting to see whether that will normalise when, or if, the impact of Brexit and Covid-19 has settled down.”