With the impact of the pandemic still being felt throughout the road transport industry, many small and medium enterprises are struggling to survive. Direct government financial support for these companies is urgently needed to prevent bankruptcies and job losses, and to support broader economic recovery.
The outlook is bleak in many countries around the world. We spoke with IRU member FNTR, the National Federation of Road Transport, to find out more about the situation on the ground in France.
How has the pandemic affected goods road transport operators in France? Who is suffering the most?
Goods road transport operators in France are still suffering, although the sector as a whole is in a better position than at the start of the pandemic earlier in the year, when, for example, first quarter revenue was down by 27%. Even now, 5% of all trucks are still non-operational, and revenue for the sector was down by 12% in June.
The companies most severely impacted by the pandemic are those working with the automobile sector and those transporting hazardous materials. In June, 76% of trucks in the automobile sector and 70% of hazardous materials trucks were still non-operational. Removal companies did not work at all between March and May.
What is the impact on the workforce? How many people are losing their jobs?
Workers in the goods transport sector have not yet been seriously impacted, thanks to government furlough measures – financial support to companies to keep their staff employed. In June, 4% of employees were still on temporary furlough schemes.
Although 55% of business leaders believe their workforce will remain stable over the next three months, one third of companies anticipate cutting staff numbers. Only 11% predict that they will have difficulties recruiting staff. Nevertheless, there is a great deal of uncertainty about the future from within the sector’s workforce.
How is the French government supporting different modes of transport? They gave EUR 15 billion for rail and 7 billion alone for Air France, but nothing for road – what is FNTR’s take on this?
For rail, the same subsidies and central government support measures have been in place for many years, with no results. Road transport is, and will continue to be, the most used mode of transport in the country. To give you an idea of the numbers, in France, 89% of goods are currently transported by road. The government needs to also support road transport operators in this crisis, as it does the other modes.
Is your government doing enough for road transport? What are the top three measures you need now from the French government to support the industry?
The short answer is no. FNTR published its recovery plan on 4 May and we still have not heard anything from the government. The only measure considered by the government to help transport companies was the more regular reimbursement of a percentage of fuel tax (TICPE) receipts to help operators’ cash flow. The government has recently released a recovery plan, but there are no specific measures for road transport.
The top three measures we need from the government are:
- No further tax increases for the sector.
- Investment in the green economy.
- Support with training to facilitate recruitment into the industry.
What will be the repercussions of the government’s refusal to lower the fuel tax?
The refusal to reduce the fuel tax will have a negative impact on investment and, as a consequence, on the transition to a greener and more digital economy.