Fleets could face substantial charges and administration costs following confirmation that Manchester is set to become the second city in the UK to levy a congestion charge.
The Government announced last week that it was awarding Manchester £1.5 billion to help pay for the congestion charge scheme, as well as deliver public transport improvements.
To try to alleviate fears, Manchester City Council will conduct a public consultation before going ahead with the scheme that could see motorists charged £5 to enter and leave the city at peak times from 2013.
But major concerns about the scheme are already being voiced.
LeasePlan said the new congestion charge could “signal the beginning of a major headache for all UK firms running vehicle fleets”.
Manchester, unlike London, will rely on electronic tags and beacon technology, which will be supported by automatic numberplate recognition cameras.
“The danger is that business drivers will have to register separately for each scheme,” said David Brennan, managing director of LeasePlan.
“The lack of any central responsibility could hit companies hard, particularly those that have employees regularly travelling in or between the two cities.”
The problem could become worse as other cities develop their own congestion charges.
Birmingham, Bristol, Bath and Cambridge are expected to announce plans shortly.
“The endorsement of the Manchester scheme is the biggest step so far towards a fragmented and regionalised congestion charging approach in the UK – a nightmare scenario for companies that run fleets of vehicles,” warned Mr Brennan.
“As well as the added administration, many companies could see their fleet costs rocket as their drivers travel between different charging zones.”
Ian Middleton, managing director of Sandicliffe Motor Contracts, added: “The fleet market could find itself in a situation in years to come whereby a good proportion of company car drivers visiting cities across the UK could be running up some very significant bills.”
Several local companies have formed the Greater Manchester Momentum Group to oppose the charge.