The government has set out plans for a scheme to charge foreign lorries up to £10 a day to use UK roads.
The idea is that all vehicles will pay the charge, but for UK registered vehicles there will be a reduction in vehicle excise duty to compensate.
Roads minister Mike Penning said: “Each year there are around 1.5 million trips to the UK by foreign registered lorries – but none of them pays to use our roads, leaving UK businesses and taxpayers to foot the bill.”
The government is now consulting on the plan which involves a time-based charge of up to around £10 a day for lorries of 12 tonnes or over using any road in the UK. The DfT said the precise level of charges will depend on exchange rate and inflation at the time of implementation – likely to be 2015, subject to the legislative programme.
By law, the scheme cannot discriminate between UK-registered vehicles and vehicles from elsewhere in the EU. The most likely compensation measure will be a reduction in Vehicle Excise Duty for UK-registered vehicles.
For 94 per cent of UK-registered HGVs over 12 tonnes, hauliers would not pay any more than now. Four per cent would pay no more than £50 a year more and a further 2 per cent would pay slightly over £50, but the maximum extra cost would be £79. Even these small increases could be avoided by most vehicles if they were replated to carry a slightly reduced weight.
Under the plans, UK hauliers would pay an annual (or six month) charge for each HGV at the same time and in the same transaction as they pay its Vehicle Excise Duty. Foreign hauliers could pay daily, weekly, monthly or annual charges.
“I want UK hauliers to get involved and respond to this consultation to make sure that the final scheme works for them – helping level the playing field with foreign hauliers, boosting their market share and increasing employment and promoting growth in the UK,” said Penning.
The Road Haulage Association has welcome the plan. “This scheme is good news for UK transport operators and should be welcomed also by motorists, many of whom have complained that foreign hauliers pay nothing for using our roads,” said head of communications, Kate Gibbs.
“The RHA has been working with government officials to get the best scheme possible under EU rules and we believe this is what the new proposals represent. We are urging ministers to press forward with this project as a priority, both in terms of Parliamentary time and commercial dealings, so that the original deadline of spring 2014 start-up can be met.”
However, it has come in for criticism from rail campaigners. Stephen Joseph, who heads the Campaign for Better Transport, said: “The government’s scheme is far too minimal and may even lose money. The government should instead have gone for a distance-based charging scheme, as most European countries are now doing. This would charge foreign lorries properly for using UK roads, and would raise revenue that could be used to fund a more efficient and greener UK freight industry. We will be pressing the government to consider alternatives to their plan during the consultation.”
The consultation will run until 18 April 2012.