RHA is repeating calls for an essential user fuel rebate ahead of an anticipated fuel duty cut in Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s Spring Statement today (23 March).

The trade body is asking government to consider a 15p per litre fuel rebate to coach operators and hauliers, citing “paper thin” margins and extreme operating costs despite a fuel duty freeze.

Britain has the highest fuel duty in Europe, with coach operators currently facing diesel fuel duty of 57.95p per litre. While RHA says a cut to fuel duty will help, it will “not solve everything”.

Says Paul Mummery, RHA Press Officer: “Operating costs are going up and with profit margins as thin as they are, after a couple of years a lot of firms have barely turned a wheel. It’s a chronic issue, which is why we’re calling for a fuel duty cut. There’s a lot of speculation that the chancellor is going to announce up to 5p per litre, which is welcome, but an essential user rebate is something we’ve also been long campaigning on.”

The campaign for a 15p per litre fuel rebate is not new: RHA has campaigned for such a rebate to keep Britain’s haulage industry competitive with Europe, with the model initially to put Britain in line with Germany. The trade body argues the rebate is “absolutely relevant” to coach operators as well.

Such calls have not previously gained traction with government, but have recently received the backing of major coach industry players such as FlixBus and in mid-March 40 cross-party MPs wrote to Chancellor Rishi Sunak advocating the rebate proposal.

“It’s a big ask but we have to ask for it,” says Mr Mummery. “There’s a lot of politics around whatever the decision that government takes will be. If the speculation is somewhat accurate we’ve probably got a better chance now than we had before.

“All eyes seem to be on the fuel duty cut rather than the rebate. We see them as two different things – we’re not saying either or, we are calling for a fuel duty cut because it would be good for us, but we still maintain the principal that firms should enjoy an essential user rebate.

“When we’re beyond where we are now and things have settled back down again, as far as we’re concerned the need for an essential user rebate will still be there.”

If no rebate is forthcoming RHA warns that “every firm has a tipping point”. While Mr Mummery acknowledges it would be irresponsible to speculate the consequences of no rebate, he points to the economic reality of rising costs and shrinking profits. “Which is why we will work as hard as we can to get the best deal we can. It’s a dire situation for everybody, and we have to be steadfast in our call to government.

“All eyes are on the Chancellor. Even if we get some for what we’re calling for, there’s still a lot of work to do as far as the other challenges are concerned.”