Fleet News

£1bn – hidden cost of road charge plan

THE introduction of national congestion charges in major cities across the UK – as suggested in the Government’s road pricing feasibility study – could cost the fleet industry £1 billion in fines and administration fees, experts claim.

Fleet and leasing companies are now calling on the Government to ensure that as such schemes become more widespread, one ‘clear charging system’ is used across the UK instead of cities adopting different charging schemes using varying technological systems.

Local authorities have been told that extra funding is available to set up congestion charging schemes in the Government’s ‘The Future of Transport: Network for 2030’, which spells out how it sees the transport infrastructure developing over the next three decades and also includes proposals for other road charging measures such as toll roads.

Commenting on the prospect of national congestion charging schemes, Kim Noble, head of service delivery for Interleasing, said: ‘We have already had to employ a person to deal with London Congestion Charging fines and if the whole country starts taking up congestion charging, we might have to employ a whole department.

Contract hire and leasing companies may well spend so much time on fines administration that we might as well be fine collection agencies instead.

‘If the fining scheme from London is to be replicated elsewhere, it is important that there is one clear system. It would be an administrative nightmare if different authorities introduced their own systems, each with different rules.’

Fleets are being urged to make every effort to educate drivers about how to use the charging schemes or face the prospect of even bigger bills.

Debbie Morgan, Lex Vehicle Leasing’s general manager of service delivery, said: ‘We are seeing a postbag of about 60 congestion charge penalty notices each day, with some drivers being caught three or four times in the same week.

‘Some drivers are genuinely unlucky in that they have to travel to an address in London that is 100 yards inside the charge zone and haven’t realised what they have done. However, most drivers we talk to claim either not to know anything about how the charging works or believe they won’t get caught.’

Noble added: ‘Part of the issue is education as it would appear that a lot of the problem is educating drivers how to register for the charge. Many, it would appear, prefer to risk fines than spend five minutes online to pay the congestion charge before they travel.’

Driver complacency is also blamed for a host of other fines being sent to companies, including those for failing to comply with car parking regulations and travelling illegally along bus lanes.

ALD Automotive staff handled 1,580 fines on behalf of customers in the first six months of the year. London congestion charge penalties caused the biggest problem.

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