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Fleet News debates: Are toll charges the way ahead

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With the Government apparently warming to the idea of road tolls, how do you believe this new form of charging would affect the way fleets operate?

Do you think that introducing Road Tolls in the UK is a good move?

Dennis Dugen, fleet manager, WSP No. Vehicle users already pay sufficient in taxes (VED, fuel duty and benefit-in-kind for company car drivers) to expect the infrastructure to be maintained from this contribution to the Government coffers. Road tolls would be a step too far.

If road tolls take the place of the other taxes so that it makes the tax basis more directly related to usage then that may be more equitable, but as an extra tax on motorists it is overloading an already highly-taxed sector.

Paul Green, group transport manager, Selwood Group No. We already have a tax on road use in the form of fuel duty. However, I am in favour of foreign truck operators contributing to the road tax system.

A daily road user charge for HGVs is being introduced in the near future with HGV road tax offset for UK truck operators.

David Brennan, managing director, LeasePlan Road tolls would represent an unfair additional levy on UK business drivers.

Therefore, I believe their introduction would be counter-intuitive and potentially damaging.

With business vehicles representing around 10% of the vehicles on UK roads, any further taxation of this group of motorists could reduce their much-needed wider contribution to our fragile economic recovery.

What impact do you think road tolls will have on fleets in general?

Dennis Dugen It will increase the costs of doing business, which will reflect on the whole economy. It could also be argued that it would act as an incentive to reduce mileages, but this is already happening as fuel costs have focused all fleets’ attention on how they can operate more economically.

Paul Green It will cause huge administration problems for very little benefit. It will have a negative impact on commercial activity and will force drivers to use non-toll roads, thus creating higher risks in some areas.

David Brennan Further cost could mean drivers have to take longer routes or use less direct country roads to reach their destinations.

As well as adding to congestion, longer journeys will also result in higher emissions.

The Government will still have to pay for the upkeep of these B-roads, therefore the revenue generated by toll roads may not actually prove as substantial as expected.

What alternatives should be considered instead of road tolls?

Dennis Dugen It is time for the Government to review the tax taken from the motorist. We all appreciate that these are austere times and that the Government will have to collect higher taxes or reduce expenditure.

However, there is a need to ensure fairness across the whole taxation system. Fuel taxes and other taxes on the motorist are too high and expenditure on the roads too low.

Paul Green Simply get rid of the ‘standing charge’ that is road tax and develop an effective pay-on-use charge. The easiest and simplest method of doing this is by increasing fuel duty.

It’s not a popular opinion and I would certainly say that fuel duty needs to be reduced to an acceptable level before ‘road user duty’ is introduced.

There is absolutely no need to introduce technology to monitor road user charging or road tolls when fuel duty is a mechanism already in place.

Fuel duty does have the disadvantage of being unfair to the less fuel-efficient vehicles, but surely that’s an incentive to drive road users to more efficient and lower CO2 vehicles which would help meet objectives in lowering emissions too.

David Brennan The underused M6 toll has shown how ineffective a toll system would be, so the Government must consider other fundraising options.

The current level of fuel taxation essentially acts as a mileage charge, and the substantial revenue already taken from this should be ring-fenced for investment in vital road infrastructure across the length of the UK.

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