Fleet News

Dart Charge improves service after consultation with fleets

Highways England will introduce improvements to Dart Charge following consultation with fleet trade association ACFO.

Dart Charge account holders will benefit from improvements to the crossing’s web portal allowing them to search for a vehicle by registration number and sort a fleet list alphabetically.

Problems with payment mismatching for pay-on-use drivers (where the payments made have not been applied to the correct crossings) should also be resolved in the update.

Debbie Floyde, ACFO board director, said: “At a meeting in December, Dart Charge was able to demonstrate the enhancements made to its website and the improvements include many of the suggestions made by our members.

“We have also had feedback that the turnaround time on PCNs (penalty charge notices) has been significantly reduced.”

Sarah Green, head of Dart Charge services, confirmed that the changes will be implemented shortly. She said: “We are working on a range of updates and will be providing more details in due course.”

The updates should be well received by fleet operators who, in a recent Fleet News poll, highlighted that more than 60% have not seen a reduction in the number of PCNs received from Dart Charge in the past six months.

The tunnel and bridge river crossing, part of the M25 motorway, introduced cashless payments in November 2014 in a bid to reduce congestion at toll booths.

But drivers who forget to pay the crossing fee (£2.50 for passenger cars) within 24 hours will face a fine of £70 (£35 if paid within 14 days or £108 after 28 days).

In 2015, £1.5 million-worth of PCNs were issued by Dart Charge.

Outsourcing provider All Fleet Services says it has already processed more than 50,000 Dart Charge PCNs for fleets since the cashless payment system was introduced. To help fleets pay fines more efficiently the company has recently launched a new service: Fleet Fine Online.

But to avoid PCNs altogether, fleets can set up a Dart Charge account. Crossings for any vehicles added to the account will automatically be charged to the operator. Account holders also benefit from a discounted toll rate of £1.67.

In the Fleet News survey, only 25% of fleets said they used the account service. One respondent said they set up an account purely as an insurance policy to avoid fines.

Congestion at the crossing is also an issue for fleets despite Highways England reporting that journey times have improved since the payment barriers were removed. Tailbacks are still a common sight especially when approaching anti-clockwise. Highways England told ACFO this is due to lorries and HGVs being in the incorrect lanes when approaching the tunnels and having to be re-routed.

Daily rental companies have reported issues too, claiming customers were unable to speak with Dart Charge representatives to resolve fines as they were not the registered keeper of the vehicle.

Floyde said: “I feel that the daily rental companies should look to register all of their vehicles and add the minimal crossing charge to rentals which would eradicate all PCNs in this sector.

“I appreciate that there would have to be some amendments to administration, as they would be profiteering if they were to charge the crossing fee to all rentals irrespective of whether the renters have used the crossing.”

Users of the crossing can pay the toll in advance, or until midnight the day after travelling, by phone or online. Any unused crossings will remain in credit against the vehicle for a year.

If a driver forgets to pay then the registered keeper will receive a PCN. If it is the first PCN for that vehicle the keeper will receive a warning notice and be able to pay the PCN at the crossing value. The standard fine will apply to unpaid crossings in that vehicle thereafter.

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