Transport secretary Chris Grayling has praised the road transport industry, promised clarity over Brexit for the sector and acknowledged the shortage of truck parking in the UK.

Speaking at the RHA's 70th anniversary annual lunch in London last week, Grayling declared that no sector is more important than road haulage and logistics when it comes to keeping the economy running.

"We are grateful for all you do. Getting the right deal for haulage in Brexit is important. I know you need clarity and we are working hard to ensure a sensible solution - we have just published the trailer registration and permits bill.

"Trailer registration will address issue of unaccompanied trailers and in other countries trailer registration is essential," he said.

Grayling also touched the the issue of truck parking, stating that Highways England is looking for possible sites right now.

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"We will give our formal response shortly. There are advanced plans for the M20 to find a long term solution - we are moving as fast as we can. There are concerns over clean air zones (CAZ) and local authorities should explore different options before charging. Apprenticeship levy is a cost to business and we will help you to get it back where we can," he said.

Speaking at the event, RHA national chairman Andrew Howard complained about drivers being refused access to toilets. He said: "One of my drivers was refused access - this is unacceptable in the 21st century." For more on this subject see our sister site Commercial Motor's legal guide.

He added: "CAZs are an opportunity to attack our industry. They [those behind the schemes] do not see what the industry does for the economy."

Richard Burnett, chief executive of the RHA, added that London's clean air strategy was unrealistic and was being copied by other cities.

He asked what the government is doing to address the shortage of 50,000 drivers and reduce our reliance on 60,000 drivers and 120,000 warehouse staff from overseas. Burnett also said that £84m had been paid in the apprenticeship levy and only £7.5m had been drawn down.

"It is not working. But we are close to a solution to make Road to Logistics work and provide a framework to make the levy work and address the skills shortage," Burnett said.

Image: PA.