Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Road Haulage Body Calls for Proper Enforcement on Foreign Drivers Evading Dartford Tolls

Over 80 Million Pounds in Fines Outstanding
Shipping News Feature
UK – A report by Highways England has revealed that since the tolls booths were removed at the Dartford Crossing east of London and replaced with an automatic system based on number plate recognition in 2014, over one million non-UK drivers have managed to avoid paying the Dart Charge.

The news has come as little surprise to the Road Haulage Association (RHA), who represent the interests of the UK road freight industry and who’s member pay £6 per crossing for a heavy goods vehicle. Speaking to BBC Kent, RHA policy director Duncan Buchanan said:

“This issue was identified from the moment the Freeflow system was introduced, and it is still a problem. Foreign drivers should pay: it’s as simple as that. It is very concerning that there are still hauliers making the crossing for free.”

Highways England says that it pursues outstanding charges and that fines totalling more than £81 million have been passed on to a European debt recovery agency since the Dart Charge began in 2014. Highways England also say that foreign drivers not paying their charge make up less than 1% of total crossings.

However, this has been met with short shrift by the RHA who argue that the dodged fines make up an enormous loss. Buchanan added:

“We need enforcement to ensure that the appropriate Dart Charge is collected from all crossing users and the RHA considers it to be totally unfair that there are still many who are making the crossing free of charge. It is a great concern that we just don’t know just how many crossing users are dodging the charge.”

Between November 30, 2014 (when the Dart Charge become operational) and March 31, 2015, a total of 48,585 unpaid crossings were sent to the European debt recovery agents. From April 1, 2015 to March 31, 2016, 565,712 unpaid crossings were identified. Between April 1, 2016 and March 31, 2017, Highways England identified 430,711 unpaid crossings. For the first quarter of 2017 (from April to June) 115,643 unpaid crossing have been identified.

The figure of £81 million in fines represents penalties collected at the base levy rate of £70 for an unpaid crossing to be paid within 28 days. With all of the charges in the report exceeding the 28 day mark, the rate should increase to £108 plus the original crossing charge. If calculated at that rate, the actual figure of outstanding fines now increases to over £135 million.