Transport for London (TfL) has failed to set up direct debit payments in time for 830 of the 1,280 fleets registered for advance payment schemes. Because of the problems, fleets cannot electronically register vehicles to enter the zone and will not be able to until March 9.
Officials at TfL say the system breakdown should not mean any more work for fleets, but that claim has been denied by delivery firm DHL, which has 300 vehicles affected, 100 of which are powered by liquefied petroleum gas. It has labelled the situation an 'administrative nightmare'.
DHL's general services manager Paul Bellamy said: 'We're almost at the point of calling a meeting with Transport for London because it is incredibly frustrating. It means mountains of extra work trying to sort the problem out – what has been registered and what hasn't for example. On top of that we have been trying to register LPG vehicles that receive a 100% discount but the process is long and unwieldy. It is not as though we've left this to the last minute, we've been trying to do this for weeks.'
The advance payment scheme is designed to reduce administration costs for fleets by allowing them to register vehicles in bulk over the internet and, for an optional fee, ask TfL to check which registered vehicles enter the charging zone during the day. TfL has pledged that any fleets that receive a fine through the post for non-registered vehicles entering the zone will not have to pay the charge.
A TfL spokesman added that the organisation had contacted fleets affected by the problem. It has implemented emergency contingency rules for the thousands of vehicles involved.
During this interim period fleets will pay according to their own estimate of the number of vehicles that enter the congestion charging zone.
TfL will check the numbers at a later date. Companies affected will pay £5 a day per vehicle over the period, instead of a higher fleet rate of £5.50 charged for van fleets that ask for all administrative work to be dealt with by TfL.
The crisis comes as commercial vehicle fleet services provider Lex Transfleet estimates the charging scheme could cost companies delivering in London every day more than £1,000 per driver shift per annum.