Looking for Leadership: Is a London Freight Commissioner on the Way?

Perhaps even more than other sectors of the economy, the haulage industry is always under pressure to innovate. Intense competition means firms can fall behind quickly, while environmental concerns and frequently updated regulations create new incentives at every level, from managers and manufacturers to drivers.

It shouldn’t be surprising, then, that organisations within the sector are keen to take a more active role in helping implement policy – and to make public bodies sit up and take notice. Read on to learn more about calls for a new freight commissioner for London and how it could affect your business.

Policy Change

As of this year, the Mayor of London is rolling out an ambitious, wide-ranging transport strategy. This includes a new Ultra-Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ) in the city centre, infrastructure proposals and the Freight Action Plan.

According to Natalia Chapman, head of South of England and Urban Policy at the Freight Transport Agency (FTA), the haulage industry is ‘more than willing to support’ the strategy, but needs ‘political leadership and support to do so’. Freight transport, she notes, ‘underpins the capital’s entire economy’. So it stands to reason that politicians should work closely with the sector to enact transport policy.

Why a Freight Commissioner?

The FTA is joined by the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) and the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) in its calls for a new commissioner. They agree that the haulage industry is crucial to the capital’s economy, playing, in LCCI director of Policy and Public Affairs Sean McKee’s words, ‘a vital, but not always appreciated, role in our everyday lives’.

The stakes are clear, and the Mayor’s new transport strategy will of course have a major impact on the industry.

The FTA, LCCI and FSB are united in seeing the need for a dedicated official to help coordinate this strategy.

What will a Freight Commissioner Achieve?

The haulage industry’s main concern with London’s new policies is that, without a strong voice in government to connect with the transport sector and manage implementation, policies would be put into action in slightly different ways across the capital’s 33 boroughs.

Chapman was especially clear about this problem, noting that even slight differences in executing the new schemes could ‘make the regulatory environment even more complex than it currently is’.

These concerns were echoed by Sue Terpilowski OBE, London Policy Chair at the FSB, who spoke of a ‘clear and present need to develop a more holistic strategy for freight and deliveries’. LCCI’s Sean McKee used similar language, speaking of his hopes that a commissioner ‘would help deliver a long-term holistic strategy for freight’.

The Road Ahead

In addition to these short and medium-term benefits, appointing a commissioner would likely enable closer collaboration between London’s government and businesses in future.

Such collaboration could prove crucial to effective industry: both Terpilowski and McKee note the city’s ever growing population, with McKee citing estimates that the city will reach 10 million inhabitants by 2030.

With demand likely to keep increasing, a freight commissioner could play a crucial role in helping the haulage industry respond to regulatory and other pressures.

Norman Dulwich is a Correspondent for Haulage Exchange, the leading online trade network for the road transport industry. Connecting professionals across the UK and Europe through their website, Haulage Exchange provides a valuable service for the haulage industry, matching delivery work with available vehicles. It is now the fastest growing Freight Exchange in the UK.

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