Road tolls are back on the Government’s agenda.
The fleet sector needs to start having a constructive discussion about the likelihood of road charging being introduced in the future and the kind of scheme it would like to see, says FleetCheck.
Peter Golding, managing director at the fleet software specialist, said that the rapid growth in electric vehicles expected over the next few years – and the subsequent decline in revenue for fuel, road and company car taxation – made an initiative of this type almost inevitable and it has been reported by The Times in March that selected motorways would be targetted in the first instance.
The UK Government has also been criticised for missing climate targets and wants congestion charging introduced in major urban areas to discourage private vehicles, so transport could face two pronged attacks from environmental and revenue standpoints.
Cardiff proposed tolling of vehicles entering the city centre two years ago but met with strong condemnation from people living in the poorer valleys who have to come into the city to work and where public transport is inadequate and costly.
“It went under the radar a little but one of the things that Boris Johnson mentioned to the Commons Liaison Committee the day before his resignation was the probable inevitability of some kind of road charging scheme.
“Now, exactly how much influence he has now is very much open to question but his comments did provide a window into Government thinking. The topic is clearly a live one – especially at a time when the public finances are under pressure – and it is probable that different models are under discussion.
“Our view is that it very much makes sense for the fleet sector to begin to give formal thought to the subject. The declining tax take resulting from electrification means that Treasury revenue will be falling every year. It is inevitable that some kind of new scheme fills the gap.”
Peter added that his opinion was that any road charging scheme needed to be, above all, fair and easy to use – especially when it came to payment processing.
“Our main concern is that the technology adopted proves too complex and, as a result, is difficult both to introduce and to use. There is a strong argument, we believe, for a graduated approach over time with simple systems being introduced in the first instance, such as tolls on some major motorways.
“However, what really needs to happen is for the views of all the fleet industry’s major players to be heard. This is something that is almost certainly coming and we should be doing everything to ensure that whatever solution is adopted meets our needs, as one of the major interested parties.
“It would be responsible to start constructive discussions now. There is some good work being done in this area already – such as by the AFP’s Future Roads committee – and it would be positive for as many fleets as possible to make their views known.”