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Ian Kerr MBE imageI am sure that every hardworking motorcycle courier, both present and past, would consider they have played an important role in assisting commerce and industry in the UK. Every envelope or parcel, delivered with speed and accuracy has enabled somebody somewhere to be able to complete a deal at home or abroad, or close a sale and the courier has been an important part of that chain.

So you will be pleased to know that a new 83-page report called “The Economic Benefits of the UK Motorcycle Industry 2014” shows just how important the motorcycle and those employed both directly and indirectly with the industry, are to the UK economy and how much they contribute to the GDP.

Although only recently published it was actually completed in January this year by ICF Consulting Services on behalf of the Motorcycle Industry Association (MCIA), the trade body who represent the industry as a whole.

The report was commissioned as an update to a similar one published in 2010, which again opened a few eyes to how important two wheels are and how they are more than just leisure ‘toys’!

The motorcycle industry contributes literally billions of pounds to the UK economy each year and pays over a £billion in tax!

For those who like facts, there are estimated to be now about 1.5 million motorcycles and 1.2 million motorcyclists in the UK, which equates to 2.3 per cent of the adult population.

The report brings together information like this and some of the key data on the economic contribution made by the the powered two wheeled industry and identifies long term trends such as increased motorcycle use.

The document outlines how the motorcycle industry has ‘demonstrated resilience’ despite the difficult economic conditions prevailing worldwide.

Undoubtedly, motorcycle retail and distribution was hit just as other retail sectors were during the economic downturn.

Yet, while UK sales declined during this period, surprisingly exports actually increased slightly.

According to the report, £5.3 billion is generated through net annual sales, with an added value of £2 billion, while exports total around £450 million each year – up 12 per cent in real terms since 2008 – the last time it was evaluated for the previous report.

Looking at employment, the study shows that the motorcycle industry directly employs 58,500 people in 5,700 businesses.

In addition, there are another 16,400 jobs created through motorcycle businesses purchasing goods and services from other UK sectors. Of the former, around 3000 people are directly employed in the manufacture of motorcycles, components, clothing, accessories and fuel.

As you might expect, given their success and increasing share of the market, the report highlights Hinckley based manufacturer Triumph, which has played a major part in contributing to these figures.

And it also mentions the input of a number of smaller, high value, high performance manufacturers including Norton, CCM and Métisse.

But, where the transcript becomes really interesting is when it uses comparisons with other sectors.

For instance, the £2 billion ‘added value’ generated by the motorcycle industry is considerably more than the sums generated from the likes of the retailers of automotive fuels, lubricants and cooling products (£1.2billion), call centres (£1.4billion), the performing arts (£1.5billion) and public relations and communications activities (£1.3billion).

Other comparators show that the number of jobs supported by the industry is more than taxi driving (36,000), pharmaceutical manufacturers (50,000), agriculture, forestry and fishing activities (46,000) and the manufacture of textiles (47,000).

The information contained within the report has been largely based upon existing publications and data, supported by an online survey of motorcycle businesses.

And as part of its wider remit the study lists the social benefits from the use of motorcycles, which include saving the NHS several million pounds a year through voluntary ‘blood biker’ services, couriering life-saving products and the ‘Wheels to Work’ scheme, which helps address transport poverty in rural areas.

Some of the other key economic benefits of the industry include tax contributions of more than £1 billion per year, average wages of £20,400 across the whole industry, £22,800 in the support services and £26,100 in manufacturing sectors.

The comprehensive report breaks down the industry into five sectors, manufacturing, distribution and retail, repair, servicing and maintenance, sports and leisure and support services, which include finance and insurance.

Looking sideways, it also assesses the impact of tourism expenditure and estimates the number of jobs supported as a result, which are probably higher than most people realise.

In fact, motorcycle-related tourism spend in the UK (excluding purchases relating to the motorcycle sports and leisure sub-sector) is £562 million.

Overseas motorcycling tourists spend a staggering £28 million on UK trips!

Motorcycle-related tourism expenditure supports 13,200 jobs in the UK holiday industy, of which approximately 650 are supported by the money spent by overseas ‘motorcycling’ visitors.

Reading through the various sections it is easy to see how the benefits go beyond the significant scale of the industry and the jobs it provides, and the case studies in this report provide specific examples of UK strengths, successes and resilience to the economic downturn.

It concludes that much of the motorcycle industry is internationally recognised for delivering high quality, high value activities, which are exported around the world, and many businesses have been growing during the recent period of global economic decline.

There are also many examples and considerable evidence of UK manufacturers in the UK motorcycle industry investing heavily in resarch and development (R&D) and innovating to drive the future of the industry, not just in the UK, but globally.

Much of the current R&D and innovation activity links closely with government objectives to ‘develop clean technologies and reduce carbon emissions’

It is also geared towards; improving the safety of motorcyclists and other road users, further development of advanced engineering capabilities and expertise in the UK and supporting social inclusion in rural areas through the provision of low cost transport solutions’.

Following publication of the report, Steve Kenward, CEO of the Motorcycle Industry Association urged transport policy decision makers to read it, saying; “There are now nearly twice as many motorcycles licensed (and license exempt) for the road than there were 20 years ago and the general trajectory for motorcycle use is upwards.

Around a third of all new registrations are for smaller motorcycles, likely to be used for commuting, and we see this as an increasing trend with motorcycles helping to tackle congestion as part of a low carbon future”.

In truth, as good as it is The Economic Benefits of the UK Motorcycle Industry 2014 report hasn’t really told those in ‘the know’ anything that they didn’t already suspect – but it served to reinforce it.

The bottom line is that motorcycling is actually good for everyone.

That is why so many like-minded individuals and groups are pushing for it to be at the heart of transport-policy decision making.

And they will continue to do so until common sense eventually prevails.

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PHC Magazine

PHC Magazine