AM Online

Opinion: "Taxing the motorist too far"

"Perhaps the fact that transport secretary, Douglas Alexander, is new into the job is the reason why he is endorsing his predecessor’s ideas on road pricing. But it is disappointing that the devastating effect that the proposed road pricing scheme could have on the UK business community as a whole and the rental industry in particular is still not being acknowledged.

"Business vehicles represent a high proportion of the traffic on Britain’s roads today, particularly at peak times. Plus, cars that are used for business will almost certainly cover more miles than privately owned vehicles. This proposal is, therefore, tantamount to asking UK business to subsidise the national road network.

"Owning and running a vehicle in the UK is already costly, added to which, we pay significantly more fuel and road tax than the rest of Europe. If this money had been invested properly in the current road infrastructure, there would be no ‘need’ for a national road charging scheme which, in itself, will be expensive, and a logistical and bureaucratic nightmare to implement.

"The road charge would completely change the charging matrix used by rental companies which are wholly focused on helping people and business mobility. Indeed, I firmly believe that the vehicle rental industry places a crucial role in giving businesses and individuals’ access to vehicles without adding to the overall UK vehicle parc. There has also been more investment in car club schemes for consumers and pool car fleets for businesses. Is this not the better solution moving forward to cut congestion?

Vehicle rental providers represent a good proportion of the vehicles on Britain’s road. The rental industry as a whole has in excess of 283,420 vehicles, with National’s fleet alone comprising 45,000 vehicles.

"How would the rental industry implement this new scheme? For a start we have thousands of customers who use our vehicles. Plus, we only keep our cars on average for six-months. It will be a logistical nightmare, ensuring every vehicle is fitted with a tracking device and that the customer pays for the miles they have driven.

"The consequences for UK business could be dire as organisations are forced to review their operational policies and procedures. Potentially this could lead to reduced business remits, reigned in operational scope, job cuts, higher costs and reduced profits. We are on very dangerous ground if the Government forces the country to radically change the way it does business.

"Beating congestion is vital. But it needs to be done in a way that protects UK business. It would make more sense if the UK adopted other European country’s solutions, where drivers pay tax according to fuel usage and ensure that these taxes are then fully reinvested back into the road and transport system. This system would encourage people to use less fuel and invest in more efficient vehicles, thereby reducing both traffic congestion and emissions. It will be very interesting to see how Alexander takes this scheme forward against so much opposition."

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