Freight News, Road

UK truck levy discriminates, says Brussels

[ April 29, 2016   //   ]

The European Commission is threatening to take Britain to the European Court of Justice over its HGV road user levy, which it says discriminates against foreign operators. Under the scheme, introduced two years ago, all lorries are charged up to £10 a day to use the roads but UK operators get a discount from their vehicle excise duty and it is this aspect of the scheme that Brussels says is discriminatory.

The Road Haulage Association reacted angrily to the news. Chief executive Richard Burnett said: ‘This challenge is nonsense. The levy breaks neither the letter nor spirit of EU law. Brussels was fully briefed during its design and implementation – and continental hauliers continue to pay the levy without complaint.

“This is an important and successful measure that addresses an issue of real concern; to both the haulage industry and wider public. Foreign operators – now account for almost 90 percent of international trade – paid nothing at all to use our roads and the full burden of contributing towards road maintenance fell on UK-registered trucks. The levy changed that, within a framework designed by the EU itself.

“It is important to recognise that foreign and UK hauliers both pay the levy. Visiting hauliers pay around £40 million a year, still a modest sum and made up of a £10per day charge for occasional visitors or a cost saving option of £1,000 a year for frequent visitors.”

RHA added that Brussels appears to be challenging the long-established principle that member states may set taxes rates within EU tax rules.

Richard Burnett concluded: “Currently, the levy goes as far as EU law allows towards levelling the playing field and no further. The Commission should applaud the measure for making the haulage sector fairer, not attack it.  If it persists in its challenge I trust that the UK government will pursue a vigorous defence.”