Government fails on foreign lorries

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Theo De Pencier

The government has failed to come up with any meaningful response to the problem of poorly regulated foreign vehicles, according to the Freight Transport Association.

The Department for Transport’s latest progress report into the feasibility of future enforcement and tax concludes with four possible options for recording of data designed to assist UK enforcement authorities.  The work of the Freight Data Feasibility Study is continuing and Part Two is expected to be finalised later this year.
This latest report suggests that none of the four leading options provides value for money arguing that “the quantifiable, congestion, environmental and other social benefits…… appear relatively limited”.
FTA chief executive Theo de Pencier said: “To suggest that none of the schemes proposed would result in safety benefits is frustrating and surprising and fails to recognise the Governments own statistics published just last month in Road Casualties Great Britain 2006.  These statistics show that last year injury and fatal accidents involving heavy goods vehicles totalled 11,336 of which 1,072 involved foreign registered vehicles.  As such although foreign vehicles represent some four per cent of lorries on UK roads they are actually involved in over 12 per cent of the accidents. FTA calculates that the annual cost of casualty accidents linked to foreign lorries is £100 million.
“I very much hope that when the conclusion of this study is published later this year we will see something rather more positive than we have seen today.”
de Pencier also criticised the government’s decision to go ahead with the 2p increase in fuel duty. “It seems increasingly clear that the vignette option will make no real impact on levelling the competitive playing field which has been so distorted by the increasing operation of foreign vehicles in the UK working on cheap continental fuel together with other cost savings.  This conclusion makes the increase in fuel duty even more exasperating for the domestic transport market and once again points to the need for a fundamental change in the way goods vehicles are taxed.’
The FTA said that the Chancellors spending statement did, at least, provide long term commitment to funding transport infrastructure at a rate of two and one quarter per cent above inflation until 2018.  “However, that rate is no more than the current commitment and the Chancellor said that the Crossrail project would also be funded from this same source thus reducing availability for other essential projects.  The statement also referred to the recommendations of Sir Rod Eddington in respect of future investment in roads.  FTA is disappointed that there is apparently little prospect of substantial investment in the short term future and, consequently, freight’s day to day operation seems doomed to continue to experience further congestion on an increasingly worn out roads network.”

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