Road pricing

Fleet sector needs to have constructive discussions about road charging

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.

He said: “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.

“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.”

M6 Toll BoothPeter said that his own 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.”

A report co-authored by the accountancy firm KPMG and Insurance & Mobility Solutions (IMS) considered the UK’s current disjointed road pricing landscape and offered up solutions.

Various types of road pricing mechanisms currently exist in the UK –duties like the fuel duty, vehicle excise duty, and heavy goods vehicle levy to recoup infrastructure costs, tolling and road user charging schemes like on the M6 or Dartford-Thurrock Crossing, congestion charging schemes such as in London and Durham, and Clean Air Zones or Ultra Low Emission Zones like in London and Bath. These are operated and managed by a wide variety of authorities –central government, local governments, highways authorities and private operators –and use a range of identification technologies and back-office systems which require customers to maintain multiple accounts for the different schemes.

The UK can benefit from the US road pricing experience when developing its road pricing vision and policy

There are opportunities for the UK to draw from lessons of other road pricing schemes across the world. This paper focuses on the experiences of schemes and pilots in the US.

In this paper, they focused on the road pricing context in the UK.

  • First, they examined the current system of disparate road pricing schemes across the UK.
  • Then, they describe the three factors –declining fuel duty, growing congestion, and customers’ demand for integration and interoperability –that are likely to lead to both an increase in the number of road pricing schemes and a move towards a more coherent road pricing policy and system.
  • Finally, to inform the development of the UK’s road pricing vision and the future deployment of new road pricing schemes, they distil a few ‘critical success factors’ from US-based road pricing pilots and schemes –a phased and iterative approach, public consultations and collaborations, and opt-in pricing and information-sharing models focused on maximising consumer choice.

Download a copy of the report here.

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