Trucks on the Road: The UK Freight Transport Explosion

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Freight transport plays an important role in the UK economy, providing the distribution of goods necessary to a healthy quality of life and contributing thousands of jobs.

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Background on Freight Transportation:

Freight transport plays an important role in the UK economy, providing the distribution of goods necessary to a healthy quality of life and contributing thousands of jobs. Nearly 80 per cent of commercial transport in the UK is via heavy goods vehicles (HGVs), defined as vehicles weighing more than 3.5 gross tonnes.

This article focuses on HGV transportation, however high speed rail could be the future, click here to read more.

Recent Statistics On the Rise of Freight Transportation

The amount of goods in terms of overall tonnage transported by heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) is on the rise. There was an 11 per cent increase from 2009-2010 alone, for a total of 139 billion tonne kilometres transported in that year period.

In addition to an overall increase in goods traffic, the average haul lengths for HGVs has also been increasing. Average trip length increased 17 per cent from 1990 to 2010, and is now calculated at 93 kilometres. The consolidation of manufacturing and warehousing facilities within the country plays an important part in the increase in haul lengths.

Maximum gross weight of HGVs has risen twice in the recent past, from 38 tonnes to 41 tonnes in 1999 and again from 41 tonnes to 44 tonnes in 2001. These regulation changes have increased the carrying capacity of an average HGV. This change has allowed the average load weight of an HGV haul to be increased by 15.3 per cent.

A series of studies in 2010 analysing transport efficiency, led by J. Allen and M. Brown, looked at measures of road freight transport intensity.

This series examined increases in the past decades in the measure of vehicle kilometres travelled per tonne, length of haul and increases in vehicle carrying capacity, and the lading factor, or extent to which carrying capacity is efficiently utilized. New statistics covering 2012-2014 are expected to be available next summer.

Current Issues Affecting the Trucking Industry


According to Richard Burnett, Chief Executive of the Road Haulage Association (RHA), driver shortage is becoming a serious issue. Recent changes in EU regulations have forced experienced drivers to seek additional training hours, and some have decided to retire rather face the stricter requirements.

Burnett projects a 45,000-driver shortage, with 35,000 drivers planning to retire within the year and only 17,000 new drivers taking their place. In his Autumn Statement to Parliament, Mr Burnett called for a plan to fund vocational licenses for new drivers to ease the shortage.


The HGV Road User Levy Act 2013, designed to raise fees to contribute to maintenance of the UK road network, took effect in April 2014. Fee amounts are based on a vehicle’s weight, configuration of axles, and the duration of the levy. For UK-registered vehicles, the tax is charged at the same time as the Vehicle Exercise Duty (VED). However, a reduction in VED taxation should mean that most HGV’s will not pay significantly more than before.

For the first time, this levy act also imposes fees on non-UK registered vehicles that drive on UK roads. UK drivers pay such tolls when driving in other parts of Europe, so this fee is designed to make sure that foreign operators do not have an advantage over UK hauliers.

To read more about these changes, click here.


The government has plans to invest £3.3 billion in UK roads over the next few years in order to provide more than 500 miles of additional capacity on strategic parts of the transportation network. Another £10.7 billion is designated for adding at least 400 miles of vehicle capacity to the countries’ busiest roads.

This investment for the future is the largest single investment in roads since the 1970s. The long-term goal is to triple spending on the UK road network by 2020. In addition to adding new capacity, another £10 billion will be spent to repair local roads and resurface the national road network.

With road statistics predicting future increases in freight traffic at a steadily increasing rate, increased spending is important to easing road congestion and maintaining the health of the transportation network. These plans will help keep the UK road network vital into the foreseeable future.

If you are interested in improving the efficiency of your business contact Marpak, by calling 0113 277 5518 or contact us online

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