Fleet News

Pay-as-you-drive to hit fleets hard

A MAJOR pay-as-you-go transport plan unveiled by the Government could significantly push up motoring and administration costs for fleets – but it could be two decades away.

Transport Secretary Alistair Darling said replacing car and fuel tax with road charging is essential if Britain is to avoid gridlock.

It could mean charges of up to £1.34 for busiest routes and 2p a mile in remote rural areas.

The scheme would work through satellite tracking systems monitoring black boxes fitted in all vehicles and Darling is confident the technology will be in place within the next 10 to 15 years.

While the Association of Car Fleet Operators (ACFO) broadly welcomes Government moves to beat congestion, it stresses that the fleet industry must not become an easy target and bear the brunt of the huge infrastructure costs involved in setting up the system.

Director Stewart Whyte said: ‘While the Government says congestion charging will be revenue neutral there are bound to be winners and losers in any new system. ACFO fears that fleets will almost certainly be worse off as a result of both the tax change and the undoubted rise in administration costs.

‘Dealing with the revised expenses claims from drivers will have a massive impact on the administration costs of all companies who rely on staff to drive, particularly in respect of employees who currently claim business mileage.’

And the association’s chairman Tony Leigh has voiced concerns that road charging will simply serve to ‘raise revenues to top up the Chancellor’s coffers’

He is also concerned that it will transfer traffic from motorways to roads ‘less able to cope’

He added: ‘Why use the M11 at, say, £1 per mile when you could opt for the A10 at 10 pence per mile? What does that do for congestion and pollution?’

The plans have been criticised by the Association of British Drivers. Spokesman Nigel Humphries said: ‘Satellite road pricing will be hugely expensive to install and its effect on people’s behaviour has not been properly thought through.

‘It won’t work, it will be a huge white elephant and hiding within it is a dark Trojan horse for civil liberties, as it means that drivers will be tagged and tracked like criminals’

But the RAC Foundation said the scheme could work if motorists only pay the same to use the country’s roads as they do now.

Executive director Edmund King said: ‘We do need a package of measures to get us out of our present transport mess. Earlier studies show Government that they have some options on pricing, and if safeguards are guaranteed they could win the support of the public, but motorists do not want to pay more to use the roads. Governments ignore this at their peril.’

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