The government must freeze fuel duty, delay the new rules affecting red diesel use and introduce an essential user rebate for HGV operators in response to soaring costs, according to the RHA.

The business group said the war in Ukraine was forcing fuel costs ever higher and the effect threatened to be devastating for haulage operators.

RHA executive director for policy and public affairs Rod McKenzie said: “Ours is a low margin industry - the average haulage business makes an annual profit of 3%.

“Put another way, the weekly profit of a truck may be £80 but the increase in the price of fuel can equate to between £77 - £87 per week per truck, thereby completely wiping out any potential profit.”

The warning came as the RAC said fuel prices had hit an all-time high and were down to the increasing wholesale fuel prices caused by the oil price jumping by $10 in February.

It said the invasion of Ukraine was primarily to blame for oil prices rising higher, but even before the conflict oil output was lagging behind worldwide demand, which was building as the pandemic waned.

McKenzie added: “Of course, hauliers can put up prices.

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“That will add to the general escalating pressures on inflation for everyone.

“That’s bad for our businesses, some of whose existence is now threatened - and indeed for all of us in the UK, as prices rise.

“But the government can, and we think should, do something about it.”

The RHA said fuel duty needed to be frozen for two years and forthcoming red diesel rule changes delayed by 12 months.

However, campaign group Fair Fuel UK went further, calling for the government to cut fuel duty, “as a matter of top economic priority”.

The group said: “The vast VAT windfall now filling the exchequer’s coffers from the record prices at the pumps is more than enough extra tax revenue to warrant a decrease in fuel duty.”