Eveleigh Moore-Dutton is the former parliamentary candidate for Crewe and Nantwich, a former candidate for the European Parliament and is the Executive Member for Transport and Highways on Cheshire County Council. She is also a director of a small earthmoving company.
Almost everything you wear, eat, sit on, sleep in or walk on comes off the back of a truck. Almost every day you will travel on roads that are being pounded to ruin by foreign based heavy vehicles that contribute almost nothing to the cost of maintaining or repairing the damage they do to our roads, verges and footways. Councils are desperately hard pressed to find the money to keep our highways and pavements in a safe and tolerable condition let alone funding the by-passes and relief roads that are frequently demanded. Truckers are highly skilled people who often work anti-social hours far from home. They are also increasingly, more likely than not to be non-British or, at least, based on the Continent. The British based truckers are, frankly, an endangered species and the British trucking firms are being driven out of business or forced to relocate outside this island. The Haulage industry in Britain is flourishing but it is not British hauliers who are benefiting – it is their European rivals who are profiting at their expense. Readers may well why this is happening and whether it is the doing of our usual suspect, that dastardly EU.
The answer is that they are being taxed out of business by our own government. The taxes are many but it is chiefly the heavy goods version of the Road Fund Tax and Fuel Taxes that are the culprits. If you think the road fund tax on your family runabout is high and about to get much higher have a look at what the (British registered) hauliers are paying when next you see one. It will make your head spin – especially if you compare it with the far lower amount paid by their Continental rivals.
On fuel taxes, the Freight Transport Association estimates that the British based truck is paying an extra £10,000 to £15,000 each year more than their foreign competitors. It is not uncommon for trucks to fill their tanks before landing in Britain deliver a load to the far side of Britain, collect a return load, possibly even doing some local drops in between these and travel back across the length of our roads, cross to the far side of the Channel before needing to refuel. Duty paid to the Exchequer – Nil. Wear and tear to our roads and bridges – cost to be borne by the British hauliers, motorists and taxpayers.
Now what is the solution that will create a more level playing field without giving the Chancellor an excuse to introduce additional taxes? In 2001 Gordon Brown recognised the unfairness of the current system and promised to put things right by introducing the lorry user charge. I understand that this was abandoned and since then the Broon has been silent on the issue. We need a solution that requires a contribution from ALL freight hauliers that is more proportionate to the use made of our highway infrastructure; it needs to reduce the costs to our own hauliers without discriminating against other EU businesses. It can’t be a solution that increases the taxes on the fuel they use because that is already too high and not paid by the continental hauliers. The answer must be simple, easily policed and not require tens of millions to be spent on consultants or take years to introduce. With the treasury already in dire straits as a result of Gordon Brown’s “brilliance” it cannot be a net tax cut.
Surely it can’t be that difficult to require every freight vehicle to pay for a tax “disc” on landing at a British port for which a certain amount is paid for every day which that vehicle will be on British Roads. This money should be hypothecated and the proceeds should be used towards reducing the road tax paid by British based hauliers and improving our own roads. Surely such a scheme would be Conservative, business friendly and fairer?