British Aggregates Association defends cartel-busting concrete trucks
First publishedon www.AggBusiness.com
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 advent of volumetric concrete trucks, which are in effect self-contained mobile batching plants, has transformed the ready-mixed industry. They can match deliveries to the amount required and avoid returned material penalties. They can also perform multiple deliveries and keep construction teams working effectively with concrete on demand. In addition, they 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.
All of the major quarry and ready-mixed companies are now owned by the cement industry. The current call for additional regulation may, says the BAA, be more about competition concerns than health and safety. Volumetrics provide a rare point of entry into a market which is dominated by multi-nationals. However, the BAA says it appears that the recently developed ability of small operators to enter this market is resented in certain quarters.
The BAA does recognise the need for some additional regulation. It would be both equitable and sensible for volumetrics to undergo annual MOT inspections and for their drivers to hold HGV licences.
However, the imposition of the Road Transport Directive (RTD), with its restriction in working hours, would, says the BAA, be particularly difficult for them to cope with. The BAA says that for single 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: “The BAA warned the Department for Transport 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.
Not only have volumetrics increased customer choice and availability, but 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 cannot be reversed. What happened to owner drivers in the haulage sector provides a compelling reason to get this one right.”