Questions remain over Chris Grayling’s claim that potential changes to the HGV levy to a pay-per-mile basis would create a ‘level playing field’ between British and international hauliers.
The current levy applies to HGVs of 12 tonnes or more and varies according to the vehicle’s weight, axle configuration and levy duration. When it was introduced in 2014, Vehicle Excise Duty was cut, which meant that most UK based hauliers did not pay more overall.
In November, the DfT launched a consultation on reforming the levy, which is used to pay for wear and tear on the road network, to create a system that is fairer to industry, incentivises more efficient use of our roads and better meets our environmental ambitions.
Possible changes include ‘a charge based on the amount of distance travelled by HGVs and by the emissions class of vehicle… or a differentiated time-based charge’.
Road Haulage Association chief executive Richard Burnett said: ‘Although it’s good news that more money is being spent on roads, it’s not right to target only lorries with a new tax.
‘This has to be revenue neutral for lorry firms. If we fail to do this, it will make us less competitive than our European counterparts.’
Speaking on BBC radio last month, Mr Grayling said possible changes to put the levy were about creating a ‘level playing field’.
He said: ‘Our hauliers often complain that a continental trucker comes in with a tank full of lower duty diesel, spends several days working in the country, goes away again and pays nothing towards the use of the roads.
‘We already have a system in place that provides some limited contribution, but we’re now consulting the industry and saying, if we were to move away from different types of tax on hauliers and move to a pay per use basis so that everybody, British and international, contributes to the roads, do you think that’s a good idea?’
Mr Grayling denied that the plan was the beginning of a charging system that would eventually apply to cars.
According to the consultation document, in its first year of operation the levy raised a total £192.5m, with £46.5m from foreign-registered vehicles and £146m from UK-registered vehicles. It states: ‘Our intention is not to raise more money from hauliers.’
Highways asked the DfT to explain how changes to the levy could create a more level playing field between UK and foreign operators, as Mr Grayling had suggested.
A spokesperson said: ‘The Government has no plans to roll out road pricing. The UK has one of the most successful freight sectors in the world, contributing £11.9bn to the economy in 2015.
‘We are consulting on the HGV levy to help hauliers make more efficient use of our roads and improve environmental performance, including air quality and carbon emissions.
‘HGVs cause greater wear and tear to road surfaces than many other vehicle types, and are responsible for a significant proportion of transport emissions which is why we are reviewing the levy.’