March 17, 2020 / 3:03 PM / in 18 days

UPDATE 2-British truckers plead for bailout as coronavirus constricts trade

* Industry asks for financial aid, tax breaks

* Some truckers hit by cancellation of events

* Fears that trade will slow (Adds reaction)

By Kate Holton

LONDON, March 17 (Reuters) - Britain’s truckers have warned the government they will go bust and struggle to supply supermarkets and industry if they are not given financial support, as the spread of coronavirus constricts trade.

Britain’s Road Haulage Association told the government its businesses need immediate cash-flow injections, deferment of taxes and environmental charges, and a holiday from the payments they owe truck-leasing companies and banks.

While some truckers have been racing in recent weeks to keep supermarkets and hospitals fully stocked, others have been parked up after the events and conferences they support were cancelled.

The arrival of goods on containers from China has also slowed after the outbreak emerged there, and trade from Europe is likely to be hampered by the closure of borders.

“Any future lockdowns of towns, cities or countries will only worsen the situation at a time when the government is committed to ensuring the supply chain into supermarkets and other key destinations is stepped up,” Rod McKenzie, the trade group’s managing director of policy, told Reuters.

More than 400,000 lorries operate in Britain, either driving from Europe or receiving goods at the major ports like Dover to deliver them around the country for food retailers, manufacturers and “just in time” factories that need thousands of parts a day.

McKenzie said the industry had petitioned Transport Minister Grant Shapps to make him aware of its precarious situation.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government has said it is aware of the need to support companies through the unprecedented shutdown and Shapps has been meeting different sectors of the transport industry since the crisis began.

Earlier, the government advised against all non-essential travel around the world but said it would work with the freight industry to maintain deliveries and cut out disruption.

Chris Goodfellow, managing director of logistics company Locker Freight, told Reuters he was seeing strong demand from clients that produce medical goods but otherwise it was quieter than usual.

“Turning wheels are earning wheels,” he told Reuters. “As soon as those trucks stop earning, that’s it.”

Editing by Guy Faulconbridge and Stephen Addison

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