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The RHA is calling on the government to support the haulage industry after 6,500 responses within 36 hours to a survey of hauliers showed that 46% of the UK truck fleet - around 240,000 vehicles - is now parked up with no work.

Chief executive Richard Burnett said that the government needs to take “urgent action” to prevent large numbers of operators going out of business as the existing package of bank loans and furlough payments is not addressing hauliers’ needs.

“We are trying to work with government to find a way for operators to drop fixed costs such as lease and hire purchase payments, VED and insurance,” Burnett told MT. “Those that have furloughed staff won’t see any of that money until May or June.

“Hauliers are also seeing rising levels of debtors so with no money coming in a lot of businesses are close to collapse.”

With the banks “over-run” with requests for loans, Burnett added that hauliers reported they were “struggling to get appointments” with their bankers and even when they did get a meeting many were being refused loans because of high existing debts and low profitability.

“Many operators are being told they are unsustainable so they will not be given loans,” said Burnett. “They have so much debt already the banks are not interested.”

Even those operators working flat out carrying food and other essential goods are losing money.

“Backloads have disappeared so hauliers working for supermarkets and food manufacturers are running at a loss,” Burnett said. “We have told the supermarkets they have to start paying round trip rates or change the operating model to keep the supply chain going.”

In response to the suggestion that operators could be given payment holidays on vehicle leasing and contract hire agreements, a British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association (BVRLA) spokesman said: "We are in regular contact with Richard and other colleagues in the haulage and distribution sector. The whole logistics sector is doing a fantastic job in keeping vital supply chains moving, under the most difficult of operating conditions.

"We know that there has been a seen a significant surge in requests for forbearance on their lease payments and BVRLA members are doing their very best to support their customers, by providing payment holidays, extending contracts and reducing monthly fees.

"The BVRLA is working with its colleagues at the Finance and Leasing Association to help the government to improve the effectiveness of its various financial support mechanisms. We want to make it easier for non-bank owned finance companies to access these schemes, and we want them to be able to use them to support existing as well as new lending."

Another concern is that the UK imports almost half its food and as countries like Italy and Spain remain in lockdown supplies are starting to fall. The ferry companies are also calling for government aid to prevent them going out of business as running services for freight only is losing money.

As China comes out of its lock down containers carrying non-food products will start arriving once again in UK ports which will cause problems of a different kind.

“Containers are starting to come in but with no market the docks are full,” said Burnett. “Container hauliers are parking up their fleets so they won’t be around to move them into storage elsewhere.”