Association issues robust defence of what it says are ‘cartel-busting’ concrete trucks
THE British Aggregates Association (BAA) has come out strongly in support of volumetric concrete mixer trucks. It has also labelled those calling for additional regulation as being ‘anti-competitive’. The Association’s stance follows a recent warning by the Batched on Site Association (BSA) that proposed new government legislation could lead to more than 3,000 job losses.
The BAA says the advent of volumetric concrete trucks, which are in effect self-contained mobile batching plants, has transformed the ready-mixed concrete industry, as they can match deliveries to the amount required and avoid returned-material penalties; perform multiple deliveries and keep construction teams working effectively with concrete on demand; and provide a valuable service to the DIY market, especially at weekends when the large suppliers are often closed.
Because volumetrics are classed as plant rather than trucks, they are subject to less regulation than conventional trucks. This allows them to operate to their ‘design’ weight rather than an arbitrarily set limit. However, they are heavier than drum mixers and cutting their carrying capacity would make them uneconomic, say their proponents.
The BAA believes that with all of the major quarry and ready-mixed concrete companies now owned by the cement industry, the current call for additional regulation may be more about competition concerns than health and safety. It says volumetrics provide a rare point of entry into a market dominated by multinationals, but it would appear that the recently developed ability of small operators to enter this market is resented in certain quarters.
The Association does recognize the need for some additional regulation and says it would be both equitable and sensible for volumetrics to undergo annual MOT inspections, and for their drivers to hold HGV licences.
However, it warns that the imposition of the Road Transport Directive (RTD), with its restriction on working hours, would be particularly difficult to cope with, and that for single volumetric mixer owner drivers it would be catastrophic, as it would be impossible for them to finance, operate and maintain their vehicles on a 48-hour week.
BAA director Robert Durward said: ‘We warned the Department for Transport (DfT) in 2005 that the imposition of the RTD would mean the end of the road for owner drivers. We even met with DfT officials in London in an attempt to get this point across.
‘Unfortunately, no-one listened and, as a result, owner drivers have been all but wiped out. An unintended consequence perhaps, but one that was flagged up well in advance. The loss of this valuable entry point into road haulage has fundamentally changed the nature of the haulage industry, reduced competition and driven up prices.'
He continued: ‘Not only have volumetrics increased customer choice and availability, they have opened up a hitherto restricted market to some much-needed competition. A degree of additional regulation would be appropriate but it must be sensitively applied. The grey areas must be eliminated not just for the industry, but for those who police it as well.
‘Every sector has its rogue operators but enforcement, not regulation, should be the first port of call. Under-regulation can be revisited if necessary; however, over-regulation often cannot as the damage done can’t be reversed. What happened to owner drivers in the haulage sector provides a compelling reason to get this one right.’