Lorry road charges could push up haulage prices

26 January 2012

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26 January 2012 | Angeline Albert

Purchasers could face higher costs to import goods from Europe if UK government proposals to introduce road charges for hauliers are adopted.

Most EU countries charge lorries for using roads, meaning British vehicles pay to drive in Europe. Currently foreign heavy goods vehicles can use UK roads for free, but the Department for Transport has proposed a lorry road-user charging scheme for the UK to help British haulage companies compete. The scheme would begin in 2015.

Proposals announced yesterday recommended a charge of £10 a day will be imposed for lorries of 12 tonnes or more using any UK road. It will apply to all such vehicles, but British hauliers could receive a reduction in vehicle excise duty as compensation.

The move could mean buyers urge suppliers to use UK haulage firms to keep costs down. “Levelling the market across Europe is a good thing to stop UK hauliers being disadvantaged. However, this will increase the costs for businesses importing goods from Europe and may lead to wider use of UK haulage companies,” Rob Douglas, purchasing director at Dixons Retail told SM.

“If the government implements this scheme, Dixons will be looking to talk to suppliers to see that any increase in costs for importing from overseas are offset by using UK haulage firms.”

He added he hoped the proposals didn’t result in a tax burden for UK hauliers who could end up paying more than they get back from government.

Trade associations were also positive about the proposals. A spokesman for the Freight Transport Association told SM: “If businesses decided to use UK haulage companies to avoid higher costs from foreign firms, British hauliers have the capacity to manage the extra demand. In the past, we’ve seen redundancies and financial trouble in our sector because foreign hauliers have undercut us.”

The Road Haulage Association (RHA) described the proposals as “good news for UK transport operators”. RHA spokeswoman Kate Gibbs said: “The RHA has been working with government officials to get the best scheme possible under EU rules and we believe this is what the new proposals represent.”

The DfT is consulting on whether the scheme should be implemented and how. The consultation runs until 18 April.

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