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Interview with Geoff Dunning - chief executive, Road Haulage Association

Geoff Dunning has over 35 years of experience in trade organisations and has been the chief executive of RHA since 2009. He spoke to Emma Green, of Michael Page Executive Interim, about his career achievements and the issues his industry faces.

For those who don't know what the RHA does, can you tell us a bit more about the organisation?

The RHA is a trade association with over 7,000 members; these include very small operations like owner drivers right up to the very large, commercial organisations. We offer information, advice and guidance on the key matters that affect the haulage industry. We also offer a number of other, commercial services such as training (our CPC training programme exceeds the average pass rate), and audits that check company systems against best practice to ensure that firms comply with the many rules that apply to truck operations.
Finally, and arguably most importantly, we are an industry lobby group; we campaign for our whole industry, not just member businesses, on the issues that affect us.

So what are the key issues that you are currently campaigning for?

The single biggest issue that has been impacting the haulage industry over recent years is fuel prices and duty. The impact on cash flow of fuel duty for hauliers is huge and we have recently been campaigning at the House of Commons as part of National FairFuel Day to lobby MPs about record fuel prices.

What do you feel are the biggest successes you have seen as a result of your lobbying?

In the last 18 months we have played a key part in delaying fuel price rises and we feel there's even more that can be done to influence the government on issues like this. We also persuaded the Department for Transport (DfT) to give the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency, who enforce many of the rules, more funding for the issue of foreign truck standards. This is an important step for UK road safety, as many foreign organisations don't require their trucks to be up to the same high standard that applies to UK operators, yet they still operate on our roads.
More good news comes from our campaigning for the DfT to carry out a truck stop survey. It identifies that there is a severe lack of suitable truck stops in the UK, as trucks cannot park overnight in supermarket car parks or park & ride car parks due to restrictions and ground surface strength. Implementing plans for better rest areas will be a step towards a more efficient operation.

What future issues does the industry face?

One issue that's already starting to have an impact is the recruitment and retention of drivers; we've noticed a steady decline in the number of drivers and the number of people taking LGV driving tests.
Many haulage companies began as family-run businesses, we're now moving towards a generation that doesn't want to carry on with the business, so succession planning will become vital. This also means that bringing in outside talent will have to become a major focus for us.
Vehicle utilisation and efficiency will be an ongoing challenge; as trucks can't be made taller or wider, the only way of making them more efficient is to make them longer. We currently have a government authorised trial taking place and RHA offers a permit trading information board and contact point for companies wishing to trade or swap their longer semi-trailer permits.

What need is there for training in the industry?

There is always the need for continued training and development in order to aid the growth of the industry. For example, because roles such as transport planners have to constantly adapt and evolve, we need to take a reactive approach to training, rather than a proactive one. I think in the future the CPC qualification will be tailored to suit individual organisations and it's important that every level of staff receives training, from apprenticeships in traffic office upwards.

What has been your greatest career achievement?

I was one of the first people to take the managers CPC exam and since then there have been massive improvements of professionalism in the industry and it's now one of the safest in the world; I feel I've played a part in that.
Emma Green is an associate director with Michael Page Executive Interim, handling interim assignments in the logistics industry. For a discussion about the market or our services, please contact Emma.
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