Britain’s economic backbone could be broken with thousands of jobs put at risk if politicians continue to ‘demonise’ diesel, car makers have warned.
Policies at national and local level which seek to drive diesel vehicles off the road will backfire because more than nine out of 10 of the five million commercial vehicles on which the nation depends for deliveries and transport run on diesel, they said.
The boss of Ford in Britain joined with motor industry trade body, the SMMT, today to urge politicians to take a more ‘reasoned’ view of the diesel issue because there is currently ‘no viable alternative’.
Diesel dependence: Car makers have warned minister that Britain’s economy is reliant on diesel commercial and public service vehicles (such as rubbish trucks) and there is ‘no viable alternative’ to the fuel type at the moment
Ministers and local councils were advised to drop their anti-diesel invective and understand the central role the much-maligned fuel plays in keeping Britain moving.
Ford of Britain chairman and managing director Andy Barratt told This is Money and MailOnline: ‘Diesel is the most efficient fuel to use for long distance deliveries on motorways. Almost all commercial vehicles rely on it.
‘There won’t be a viable large scale alternative for many years to come.’
Ford’s Dagenham factory in Essex builds 800,000 diesel engines a year, employing 3,500 of the firm’s total 14,000 workforce.
‘A lot of jobs are riding on diesel, ‘ he said.
Speaking at the Commercial Vehicle Show, in Birmingham, where Ford was showing a new green plug-in electric hybrid Transit van, of which 20 will be trialled in London, Mr Barratt stressed diesel was central to the nation’s prosperity.
He said: ‘There’s no viable alternative. Diesel is vital for bigger vans carrying big loads.
‘If you have electric vans, a lot of load space is taken up with batteries. So you need more vans and that creates more congestion.’
Mr Barratt joined the motor industry representatives who released a report blasting the ongoing diesel onslaught as counterproductive, saying the latest low emission Euro 6 models are cleaner and more fuel efficient, while delivering lower levels of CO2 emissions than petrol equivalents.
‘There’s very clear confusion,’ the Ford boss told us.
‘So people with older vans are keeping them rather than buying the newer cleaner diesels with Euro 6 engines’.
Ford of Britain chairman and managing director Andy Barratt was talking to This is Money and MailOnline at the Commercial Vehicle Show, in Birmingham, where the car maker was showcasing the Transit hybrid (left) and new Fiesta Van (right)
Car makers warn that a continued demonisation of diesel could break the back of the economy
The research found the 16% of Britons have a van deliver their post every day while 14% have had shopping brought to their front door by a commercial vehicle in the last 24 hours
The dependence of Britons on commercial vehicles and their drivers was revealed in new research showing nearly nine in 10 consumers would be worse off without them.
Some 88 per cent of the 2,007 British consumers responding to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders’ poll said reduced or restricted services from vans and lorries would ‘significantly affect their quality of life’ in a negative manner.
Utility and delivery vans and trucks together move three times more goods than water and rail combined – contributing some £27.5 billion to the UK economy, the report estimated.
If you have electric vans, a lot of load space is taken up with batteries. So you need more vans and that creates more congestion
Andy Barratt, Ford of Britain chairman
Indeed, nearly half (46 per cent) acknowledge they have benefited from such services in some way in the last 24 hours – from rubbish collection, to online shopping, supermarket deliveries, sending and receiving post, booking a taxi, or sending flowers to a loved one.
Rod McKenzie, policy director of the Road Haulage Association, whose 8,000 members have 250,000 trucks attacked by what he called ‘punitive taxes and charges’, said: ’The demonisation of diesel has to end. It will cost the country dear if it does not.
‘Some 98 per cent of deliveries in the UK are by truck. And 80 per cent are smaller and medium sized businesses – the backbone of the British economy.’
He said many firms operating on tight margins of as little as £60 per week could not afford to buy a brand new Euro 6 diesel truck so faced £100 a day charges to go into London’s Ultra low emissions zone.
‘These punitive taxes and charges are crippling business. We need support and a scrappage scheme to help people upgrade their trucks,’ he added.
The significant role played by Britain’s five million goods and service vehicles in driving society and Britain’s economy was highlighted by motor industry chiefs on the opening day of the UK’s biggest commercial vehicle show.
Around 21,000 people are expected to attend the Commercial Vehicle Show at the National Exhibition Centre, in Birmingham, which runs from 24 April for four days with 460 companies exhibiting.
Britons using commercial vehicles?
- 96% of commercial vehicles registered in the UK are powered by diesel engines
- 16% of us receiving post to our door on a daily basis
- 14% of Britons have online shopping delivered every day from companies such as Amazon and eBay
- 79% said they benefit from the services from commercial vehicles at least once a week
- 57% have their rubbish collected by a diesel-powered vehicle once a week
- 8% said they’d had groceries delivered to their home within the last week
- 9% have ordered or received flowers by van within the last two months
- 13% have had a visit from a builder, plumber other other white van trades person within the last six months
The report noted: ‘Commercial vehicles play an essential part in our daily lives – and in driving our economy.
‘From the 1.8 million sole traders who depend on their vans for their livelihood to the 17,228 ambulances that carry some five million people to Accident and Emergency each year, Britain’s commercial vehicles are responsible for keeping the country running.’
Commercial vehicles were described in the report as a ‘Cinderella service’ whose role in society is often overlooked.
Yet 84 per cent of respondents recognised the importance of them, it says.
Less frequent rubbish collection was seen as having the most significant impact, with nearly seven in 10 (67 per cent) stating this would negatively affect them.
Nearly four in 10 (38 per cent) said that less frequent bus services would impact their life, and almost a third (32 per cent) said the same about the idea of increased time to receive online deliveries.
With the boom in online shopping, the report noted: ‘The UK is now the EU’s biggest online retail sector, with consumers here buying some £67.3 billion worth of goods and services online in 2017.
‘Online sales are forecast to have made up 17.6 per cent of all retail sales last year.
‘Commercial vehicles transport some 1.9 billion tonnes of goods across the UK every year – including medicines, clothing and groceries.’
In a poll of 2,007 British consumers, 8% said they have their groceries delivered to their door by a commercial vehicle once a week
The SMMT said continued demonisation of diesel could have an impact on delivery vehicles, taxis, buses, HGVs and the emergency services
SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes added: ‘There are five million commercial vehicles on Britain’s roads and they play a vital role in powering our essential services.
‘Britain’s commercial vehicles are the backbone of our economy.
‘Manufacturers invest heavily in technology. The latest commercial vehicles on our roads today are the cleanest, safest and most advanced in history.
‘For the sector to grow and continue to drive investment and jobs, government must maintain the right economic conditions, and help promote fleet renewal through the right policies and incentives.’
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