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Pay-Per-Mile: The Best Route to Road Maintenance?

With both emissions and road damage becoming a growing problem, the UK Government is keen to implement measures that can tackle these problems head on. To do so, Parliament has proposed that a mileage and emissions fee is introduced, so that the raised money can fund the repair of road damage caused by HGV vehicles. The Department for Transport, on the other hand, claims that there are currently not any solid plans to introduce the scheme, although it has been confirmed that talks are in place to update the 2014 HGV Levy, which applies to vehicles of 12 tonnes or more. With road upkeep and repair costs of approximately £120 million incurred each year, we consider whether a pay-per mile scheme is the best route to road maintenance, or whether additional or alternative plans should be explored.

In a bid to receive ‘contributions’ towards road upkeep, the HGV levy is effective on all heavy goods vehicles operating on UK roads, with international lorries being required to pay relevant fees prior to entering the country – including Northern Ireland. Currently, costs range from as little as £1.70 daily, to an £830 annual rate, variant on bands. Due to the size and weight of heavy goods vehicles, there is evidence to suggest that the substantial number of vehicles travelling on Britain’s roads each day causes a significant amount of wear. Interestingly, the new scheme proposed calculates costs based not only on the potential road damage, but also on the level of emissions that individual HGVs omit.

However, in light of the recent news which found one in 13 lorries to be cheating emissions, we ask whether introducing a pay-per-mile scheme and changing the current levy should be the first port of call in receiving contributions from motorists. In the research conducted, of the 3,735 lorries assessed, 293 of them were found to be incorrectly publishing levels which were within the legal levels, when in reality, the levels were significantly higher and breached legal restrictions. To provide an equal and fair charging system for all HGV drivers, we believe the Government needs to address a greater problem first: the cheating of emissions. It is imperative to consider that with the new fee proposals in place, motorists and businesses may be further motivated to cheat emissions in an effort to avoid the payments. With this research suggesting that emissions are largely being cheated to keep the vehicle on the road for longer, as high emission levels require the vehicle to be repaired. Pivotal to this point is a concern that affects us all as individual road users: safety. It is crucial that we all maintain a vehicle that operates in accordance with our laws, as it allows for everyone to equally and safely use our roads.

Additionally, the proposal of a pay-per-mile scheme invokes a mild irritation within us as a company and within many other HGV drivers alike due to the boom in online shopping, meaning that the population demands more lorries on the road. The scheme, as discussed above, details how the levy and the potential new scheme would fund road damage caused by the significant number of HGVs on UK roads, however, whilst the number of heavy goods vehicles in operation has increased, so has the demand for HGV services. The demand is no longer excessive during seasonal periods, but rather constant, as there are now expectations from consumers for goods to be delivered next day, or in many instances, on the same day. As the industry attempts to meet the demands of online orders, even with an extreme shortage of drivers, further developments in fees are less than ideal when considering other areas of importance, such as attracting new young drivers to the industry.

So whilst we question the priority of some HGV issues in comparison to others, it is of course important to note why a pay-per-mile scheme is in discussion amongst industry leaders. Whilst international drivers are expected to pay a fee prior to entering the country, there is a critical view that the current system exempts international drivers from contributing to road upkeep. As a company who operates both in the UK and further afield, we at Barnes most strongly believe that all must pay their way. A HGV is a HGV, no matter where its company’s origins – it would seem that an element of fairness should be introduced with new laws, with all paying a rate to contribute to the roads they use.

What are your thoughts on the new proposals? Let us know on Twitter!

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