RHA chairman Moreton Cullimore (pictured) has written to Transport Secretary Grant Shapps this week to inform him that Richard Burnett has resigned as chief executive in the hope the association can resume direct communications with the minister.

Relations between the RHA and Shapps soured in October this year after claims were made in the Mail on Sunday by “a senior government source” that the RHA triggered the petrol pump crisis by leaking remarks made by a BP executive at a private government meeting.

The source threatened to “deal with the RHA” after the crisis was over, according to the newspaper report.

Claims that the RHA had triggered the petrol pump crisis were vehemently denied by Burnett at the time and slammed as a “disgraceful” attempt to divert attention away from the government’s handling of the HGV driver shortage.

Speaking to MT, Cullimore said he had written to Shapps on 13 December, when Burnett’s resignation was announced, to try to re-establish direct communication which had ended during the dispute.

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He said: “RHA were still invited to all the weekly DfT meetings. We were never frozen out as the tabloid papers claimed but we do not have direct contact into the senior government minister.”

He added: “We are looking to re-establish communication channels with Grant Shapps and I have sent a direct communication to him that our personnel has changed and our communication channels are moving forward now in terms of Richard Burnett leaving and Richard Smith, our managing director, now being the point of contact.”

Smith has been promoted to MD from his former role as RHA operations and commercial director. He will report to Cullimore and will lead RHA until the board decides on its leadership strategy, Cullimore said.

He added: “Richard Burnett did a very good job taking us where we are now and we are very grateful. Now is the time to take stock. We may look at recruiting a new CEO or there may be an internal restructuring where we will do something entirely different - but that will be for the board to decide.

“Ultimately there is a new RHA under a new brand with a change of leadership and we are trying to re-establish things so we can go forward for the next ten years.”

Asked to comment on reports from industry sources that Richard Burnett had resigned after failing to find appropriate support from the RHA board following the dispute with Shapps, Cullimore said: “It was a decision taken by Richard to resign.”