Friday, February 4, 2011

Continental Hauliers Face Road Pricing Scheme

Ministers to Examine Road Tolls
Shipping News Feature

UK – The talk this week in the world of freight haulage centres around the excise duty levels on diesel and a possible fuel stabilisation scheme. Now running a close second comes the debate on the use of the country’s roads by foreign trucks, none of whom pay toward the upkeep of the infrastructure they depend on.

On Tuesday the Road Haulage Association (RHA) attended a seminar to discuss the possible introduction of a method of charging alien vehicles without affecting native hauliers. The RHA have long stated that the introduction of a Eurovignette scheme, whilst not exactly welcome, would be an improvement to the current situation where British commercial vehicles, subject to large road fund licence fees, often find themselves paying a range of charges as they travel across the continent whilst incoming trucks can work in the UK delivering and collecting freight without making a contribution of any kind.

A vignette (literally ‘label’) on a commercial vehicle indicates the requisite charge has been paid to the transport authorities, similar to a tax disc but which is normally semi permanently fixed to prevent fraud, peel it off and its ruined. The Eurovignette scheme operates in several European states and vignettes are also used throughout various other countries. The national press today have stated that a decision will be made in the summer and have written at length about the possibility of all vehicles, including those in the UK, having to subscribe, with a subsequent reduction of road tax.

The fee per day, according to one daily newspaper, will be set at £9 per day and introduced in April 2014. Frankly this is no more than speculation, if the Government is truly set on a course which the RHA would subscribe to i.e. charging only overseas registered vehicles, the fact that Great Britain is an island nation surely provides the simplest of all solutions. A charge for alien trucks levied as they arrive on the import leg, chargeable in whatever way is most suitable, by the day, the trip or annually seems to be the best way to proceed.

With any vehicle entering the UK having to pass Customs checks which now include possible cargo screening, the sale of vignettes could be controlled there, even perhaps on ferries or at the entrance to the Channel Tunnel, the possibilities are boundless for a fair, profitable scheme acceptable to all parties (except possibly inward bound continental drivers).