Published: 00:01, 01 April 2014
Foreign lorry drivers are to be charged to use the UK's roads for the first time from today.
Until now, our truckers who work in Europe have been forced to pay tolls and levies when delivering goods abroad - but foreign drivers haven't had to do the same here.
Now, all foreign truckers entering the UK through Kent ports will be asked to pay the HGV Road User Levy.
Transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin said during a visit to Kent yesterday: "The HGV Levy will provide a massive boost for the UK haulage industry.
"It will create a level playing field across Europe, giving UK firms a much better opportunity to win business.
"This is yet another example of how we are taking positive action to back British business and build a stronger, more competitive economy."
But despite Kent being one of the busiest areas of the country for foreign HGV traffic, the government says the county will not necessarily benefit from the income raised.
It will be passed to the Treasury - a move that will disappoint political leaders in Kent, who argue the county suffers more congestion on its roads because of the Port of Dover and the Channel Tunnel.
Nevertheless, the initiative has been broadly welcomed as it will, for the first time, put British hauliers on a level-playing field with their counterparts in Europe and elsewhere.
Mr McLoughin said: “The HGV Levy will provide a massive boost for the UK haulage industry. It will create a level playing field across Europe, giving UK firms a much better opportunity to win business.
"This is yet another example of how we are taking positive action to back British business and build a stronger, more competitive economy.”
Speaking two years ago, Kent County Council leader Paul Carter said some of the money should come to the county:
“A significant amount of money can now be raised, but if we can’t get a cast-iron guarantee that money will be given back to the councils that pay to fix the damage caused by foreign trucks, then it achieves nothing.”
"This is yet another example of how we are taking positive action to back British business and build a stronger, more competitive economy” - Patrick McLoughlin
Government statistics indicate that 87% of foreign HGVs enter the UK through the county, via either the Port of Dover or the Channel Tunnel.
The Department for Transport estimates that about £20m a year will be generated through the scheme - a relatively modest sum. Lorry drivers will be able to pay the levy in advance and the charge will work out at about £10 a day.
The levy affects all HGVs of 12 tonnes or more that drive on UK roads, irrespective of where they are registered.
UK operators will pay the levy at the same time as Vehicle Excise Duty.
But, as the levy is introduced, the government is reducing the duty, meaning more than nine out of 10 UK vehicles will pay no more than now.
Foreign operators must pay the levy before using UK roads.
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