RHA MD Richard Smith talks to Commercial Motor about the RHA's exciting future
“We had evolved over the last five years to the point where it was decided to move from a forward-looking visionary CEO to a membership-up strategy with board sign off led by an MD,” explains Smith.
Richard also highlighted how the membership-led strategy plays out across our communications. He said: “We are starting to see in the last six months, certainly in our social media, that we are a membership-led organisation.”
The new strategy also means a more collaborative approach, working with policy makers – and Richard also highlighted our focus on regional and local government with devolved administrations gaining more power and budgetary responsibility.
Richard said: “A good example is that just before Christmas I met with Dr Nik Johnson, mayor of the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough combined authority, and on the back of that he is now funding 60 drivers to be trained through our newly established licence acquisition academy. They will be provided to local members in the Peterborough and Cambridge area who need drivers.
“Is that not what a trade association should do?”
Our three campaigns, including skills, environment and driver facilities were also discussed.
“We are talking to drivers about what it is like to drive in 2022,” Richard explained, “what are the challenges and what can we do.”
“We can have more influence over bringing people into the industry by improving the standard of what we do, working with our members to do that.”
Richard also went into detail about what the RHA membership can offer.
He said: “If I had a five-truck operation I would join the RHA because we provide day-to-day advice and support and become part of their business. Eighty-five per cent of our members have less than 15 trucks so we are voice of what I call the small majority, the SME.”
In terms of bringing in new blood into the sector, Richard talked about his passion for this specific issue. “That is something we are alive to and that I am very passionate about from my background at Samworth,” he continued. “One of the things that is very obvious from the shortage last year is that this is like a puppy – it isn’t just for Christmas.”
“One of the reasons we started the academy in England was to grow the turnover but the other is so we can walk a mile in those shoes.” He said.
In terms of our environment campaign, Richard discussed Manchester CAZ and our clean air zones. Our policy lead for environment, Chris Ashley, lobbied the Manchester mayor’s office hard to get the CAZ delayed.
“We are very confident that we will be able to influence what it looks like when it comes backs,” Richard said. “It was delayed because they realised the catastrophic impact it was about to have. An operator going into Manchester three times a day would have been bankrupt by the end of the week.”
We are calling for Euro-5 trucks to be allowed free access to CAZs as many smaller operators are struggling to upgrade to Euro-6.
He said: “Just going for Euro-6 is too restrictive and unfair. Look at the cost pressure everyone is under and now there is the risk of stranded assets with the impending arrival of electric vehicles. Who is going to buy a diesel coach now – and it will be exactly the same for the hauliers.”
He also spoke about net zero and it’s impact on the haulage sector.
“We support the need to head towards net zero but we need to see the road map to get there,” he said. “What is the alternative fuel? Because we are such a broad church we have members of all sizes and everyone wants to know where to invest. They need to tell us what it’s going to be.”
“It is possible we will get some easement on the deadlines but we shouldn’t rely on that.”
Our call for a 15ppl essential user fuel duty rebate was also mentioned.
Richard said: “The 5p cut took us back a week in terms of fuel prices, that was all,” he says. “The gesture was good but we need more which is why we are still pushing for the 15ppl essential user rebate.
“That is critical for this industry and we are going to really fight for that ahead of the autumn statement.”