Foreign lorry charge needs safeguards

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Government plans to charge foreign lorries for using UK roads must not result in extra costs or administrative burdens to UK business, the Freight Transport Association has warned.

Chief economist Simon Chapman said: “Ensuring that foreign lorries pay to use our roads is the right thing to do, after all many UK hauliers spend thousands every year on using roads in Europe via different road user charging schemes.

But he highlighted the need for safeguards. “The proposal recognises that for this system to work it needs to be both revenue neutral and not administratively burdensome for UK hauliers. The proposal to ask for payment from UK hauliers at Vehicle Excise Duty renewal time is sensible. But as ever the devil is in the detail and FTA will be making sure that the final proposal works for, and not against, the industry.”

The British Industrial Freight Association was also cautious in its welcome for the proposal.

Director general Peter Quantrill said: “On first view, this looks like a positive development. However, it is a very complicated issue and we need to look into the details.”

He pointed out that some BIFA members that operate European trailer services sub-contract the transport to foreign haulage companies.

“It is not immediately clear how this plan might affect them. It seems conceivable that some of our members could see increased operating costs should this plan come to fruition and we will be seeking their input.”

CILT chief executive Steve Agg said: “Although the current plan appears to be targeted at a revenue neutral outcome for UK lorries, CILT sees this as an essential first step towards a fairer system of taxation for the logistics industry which will have long term positive benefits for UK business and consumers.

Last year CILT published its report entitled Vision 2035 which considered the development of transport over the next 25 years. In the report CILT said: ‘More use should be made of pricing mechanisms to achieve transport policy objectives. In particular road user charging should be used to expose the external as well as internal costs of vehicle use.”

* The issues involved in road user charging will be debated at the 9th Road User Charging Conference, which takes place in Brussels on 12th & 13th March.

The conference will look at the progress of road pricing, practical challenges and the potential of road user charging as the basis for sustainable transport growth. A key element of the conference is a series of case studies looking at how charging systems are being applied.

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