Fleet News

New analysis: Fleet managers speak out against road pricing

WITH more than a million people signing up to the anti-road pricing petition on the Downing Street website and the national newspapers reflecting the anger of a nation, we spoke to fleet managers about the issues, their concerns and solutions.

It seems the government has a long way to go to convince the fleet industry that road pricing can work. In fact, such was the vociferous opposition to it that it seems the battle has been lost before it has barely begun.

'I STRONGLY disagree with road charging. Because of the nature of our business it will have a major impact on costs. Being a food retail business we have stores all across the country and the additional transportation costs will have a major effect on the business for our commercial fleet as well as our car fleet.

I can see the point of reducing congestion but until the government has improved and reduced the cost of public transport to make it more attractive to the majority of the public, then the only effect of this is to increase the costs to companies, which will raise the price of goods in stores.

To the public it is a lose-lose situation. They will have to pay to use the roads and pay higher prices in the shops for their goods. When will we see the end to all these stealth taxes? It’s not as if we see a vast improvement to the state of the roads.'

LINDA O’HARA
Fleet manager, Musgrave Budgens Londis

'ANYTHING which is done on mileage driven to increase the Treasury coffers needs to guaranteed to be fair across the board. Fuel is the only way this can happen. Then we would pay by mileage and also to a large degree by emissions, as the high emission vehicles are the largest gas guzzlers.

How will road pricing work where the biggest black hole in administration is?

This is in the people who buy second-hand cars – often older and so higher polluting – and do not register in their names and addresses as they know the DVLA would chase them for the road fund licence. It gives even more reason for them to continue along this avenue.

Road pricing will also lead to more borrowing of cars for journeys and more creative private mileage sheets.

We are also being told that the revenue raised from this would go to improve public transport. How many times have we heard this? Wasn’t this the aim of the London congestion charge? Do we have any tangible proof that this happened?'

ANN DUKANOVIC
Fleet manager, Kaba Door Systems

'ANY additional cost will hurt business, some more than others. If every driver is charged per mile, then it’s just another easy way for the government to raise more money no matter what it says about the scheme being revenue neutral. And surely it already does this with the tax on fuel at the pump.

I am sure the administration costs of setting up a separate scheme would be yet another burden to the taxpayer. Even if they introduce more tolls this will only move traffic onto rural routes. Before making motoring more costly they need to put cheap and reliable alternatives in place to encourage drivers out of their cars, not tax them out.'

MANDY BENNETT
Facilities & admin supervisor Hannover Services (UK)

'I AM against road pricing. We pay enough in road fund licence (RFL) and should not have to pay any more. If road pricing is introduced then cut the RFL.

Tolls and road pricing only work in specific instances and aren’t suited to everywhere. Here in Shropshire, there is a proposal to introduce road pricing for entry to the town of Shrewsbury.

Listening to local comments, most people and businesses are against the proposal. People will steer clear of the town centre. The local shops will be hit and people are worried that the town centre will die. Shrewsbury is a vibrant country town and it will develop into an area of empty shop fronts.'

MIKE WATKINS
Fleet co-ordinator, JDM Accord Fleet Office

'AS well as owner and operator of the rail infrastructure, we operate a large fleet of road vehicles.

This makes us conscious of the fact that a solution has to be found to reduce road congestion and associated delays. Road pricing may well be part of that mix. It can only be effective if the government provides, as part of the proposal, realistic alternatives to the use of the motor car for our everyday needs.'

CHUCK IVES
Head of fleet, Network Rail

'IF the idea of road pricing is to reduce congestion at peak times I don’t see how it will work. The vast majority of us will still drive to work and home again at peak times, because we have to.

As for costs, I manage a fleet of 114 vehicles used mainly by home-based engineers and by the end of this tax year we will have clocked up more than 1.5 million miles. Any additional costs to run the fleet would be unwelcome.

The government needs to look at the whole transport infrastructure and drag it into the 21st century: we need fast, reliable, well-funded public transport to get commuters out of their cars and a road network fit for purpose, but the government needs to start making progress before they hit us all in the wallet.'

EMMANUEL LEWIS
Fleet manager, Vista Retail Support

'I THINK this whole issue is a storm in a teacup. The practicalities of having every vehicle in the UK fitted with a black box, then allowing for visitors with their cars or European transporters, and then on top of all that, having to track every vehicle every time it moves, charge for it, and police all of that, are so enormous that I do not believe it will ever happen.

This is purely a scare tactic designed by the government to frighten people into thinking about driving less and is not a real solution to the problem of congestion on our roads.

Real solutions would be initiatives to encourage freight back onto the rail system and to encourage employers to embrace virtual working. The vast majority of office jobs could – and in my opinion should – be done remotely from home. But ideas like these don’t make good headlines.'

LYNN FORTIN
UK fleet administrator, Thermo Fisher Scientific

'I CANNOT see how road pricing will ease congestion. In theory, it may make people decide to use public transport instead, but I believe that, in reality, it will simply mean that roads that are not subject to pricing will become rat runs.

They will subsequently have to take traffic they were not designed for, such as heavy lorries through small towns and villages as businesses try to avoid the extra costs of their drivers’ journeys.

Governments are quick to tax motorists to discourage them from using their cars but are slow at providing an efficient, cost-effective alternative in the form of good public transport.

London’s congestion charge is an example that road pricing does work, but there is a relatively good public transport system in London (and some other cities too). That is not the case for most of the country and it cannot be considered as representative. Also, there are many people who use their car for their work and it would not be practical for them to use public transport.

People like the safety and security, flexibility and convenience they get in their cars and even if we did have the best public transport system in the world, people would still jump in the car, regardless of cost.

I also have worries about how the pricing will be done – the thought of every journey I make being tracked by satellite is scary.'

SHIRLEY COLMAN
Fleet co-ordinator, Marvecs UK

'I AM against road pricing because the majority of the working population have no choice about when they travel to and from work, as traditional nine-to-five working hours prevent any flexibility.

This may change with the government’s proposals on flexible working time, but I believe that while schools, shops and offices all start at 9am, we will always have congestion – you only have to look at the improvement in morning traffic flow during the school holidays.

I believe road pricing will not achieve its stated aim and will turn out to be yet another tax on the motorist, ultimately impacting on fleet costs.'

SUSAN WELLER
Facilities manager, Fortis Commercial Finance

'I REGARD road pricing as another revenue-raising method for government. I simply cannot agree to extra revenue being raised when possibly none will find its way to improving our road infrastructure or traffic congestion problems.

With the number of company vehicles in use in the UK road pricing is bound to reflect in the way companies structure their pricing and costs. Road pricing will have a serious negative impact on company financial bottom lines.

Where will the cost be absorbed? Obviously the customer will be expected to pay more. Therefore road pricing will not only impact on companies but also the consumer.'

ROFFEY EDWARDS
Fleet manager, Exor Corporation

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