Foreign hauliers will be charged to use UK roads for the first time from today (April 1, 2014) Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin has announced.
UK truck drivers working in Europe currently pay tolls and levies when delivering goods abroad. But foreign trucks operating in the UK have not been required to make a similar payment.
The HGV Road User Levy - which is being brought in nearly a year ahead of schedule - introduces a charge that ensures British hauliers are better able to compete with their foreign counterparts.
The levy has long been called for by the UK haulage industry and creates a fairer system by removing some of the inequality UK hauliers feel when paying to use many roads abroad.
McLoughlin said: "The HGV Levy will provide a massive boost for the UK haulage industry. It will create a level playing field across Europe, giving UK firms a much better opportunity to win business.
"This is yet another example of how we are taking positive action to back British business and build a stronger, more competitive economy."
The levy is a key part of the Coalition's promise of a fairer deal for UK hauliers. Duty on standard diesel is now lower than it was in October 2010 and there has been no increase in HGV Vehicle Excise Duty (VED) during this Parliament.
The Government is also investing £3.3bn in major road schemes which will provide over 500 miles of additional lane capacity to the strategic road network and £10.7bn to add at least 400 miles of capacity on the busiest motorways.
The levy affects all HGVs of 12 tonnes or more that drive on UK roads, irrespective of country of registration and is structured in a series of bands which reflect vehicle type, weight and number of axles.
UK operators will pay the levy at the same time as VED in one transaction for administrative ease. At the same time as introducing the levy, the Government is reducing VED, such that more than nine out of ten UK vehicles will pay no more than now.
Foreign operators must pay the levy before using UK roads. Discounts are available for longer periods with charges varying between £1.70 and £10 per day or £85 to £1,000 per year.
“This levy will help redress the unfair competition that UK hauliers have faced from their European counterparts, but it is vital that the new regime is robustly enforced across the UK,” said BVRLA Legal and Policy Director, Jay Parmar.
“The Government responded to our calls for tougher penalties for non-payers, but we feel that increasing the fine from £100 to £300 will not be enough of a deterrent to stop some hauliers chancing their arm.
“We would also like to see the Driver & Vehicle Services Agency (DVSA), Driver & Vehicle Agency (DVA) and police being given more resources to enforce the new levy.
“As well as enforcement cameras, we need extra officers on the roadside to collect penalties from foreign hauliers.”
Karen Dee, FTA director of policy, added: “FTA has consistently supported the introduction of the HGV Road User Levy.
“Until now operators of foreign HGVs have paid nothing in UK taxes. They pay vehicle tax in their own country, and buy low-taxed diesel before entering the UK, and in so doing save up to £200 on a full tank of fuel.
“The levy won’t fully redress this imbalance in costs, but it does create a fairer arrangement for UK operators.”
Dee continued: “Road charges and tolls are part and parcel of operating a truck on the continent. It is only right that foreign HGVs using UK roads should do the same.
“FTA believes that the benefits of the HGV levy for UK operators will go beyond the charge that foreign carriers must pay from 1 April.
“The associated extension and upgrading of the DVSA and DVA roadside enforcement cameras network offers the potential for more effective enforcement of foreign HGV safety standards.”