Wednesday 19 March 2014

UK HGV levy to start on 1 April

Private company Northgate Public services has been contracted to develop and manage the payment system for the UK's "HGV levy" as it is officially called. 

It is, in fact, a truck vignette, similar to the Eurovignette (used in the Benelux countries, Sweden and Denmark), and the separate truck vignettes operating in a handful of other countries (Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary, Lithuania).  Truck operators will need to prepay for access to all of the roads in the UK with the vignette, based on time.

To be fair Northgate is not responsible for the entire system, but rather the payment system for foreign users.  UK registered lorry owners will continue to pay the equivalent levy - but this time in parallel with the annual Vehicle Excise Duty payment - with the DVLA.  I know the European Commission has been less than impressed by this, but as long as vehicles are treated in a non-discriminatory matter then it shouldn't be an issue (although it does appear than, on compliance costs, UK trucks have an advantage).

A leaflet (PDF) about the system is published here, and there is a schedule of charges which vary by time (one day, one week, one month or one year), but more importantly by weight.  The aim being to have some reflection of the marginal costs heavier vehicles impose on the highway network.   It reminds me somewhat of the weight related schedule of charges for New Zealand's Road User Charge system, which given it charges by distance and weight is obviously a more efficient reflection of recovery of such costs. 

Newsletters have already been published with some useful information for users.  The first newsletter summarises rates and the process to prepare to pay the levy.

The second newsletter describes how to set up an account, and pre-registration for fleets of more than 50 vehicles.

There is also a basic leaflet describing payment options (credit cards, fuel cards, even Paypal).

A leaflet with a list of locations to pay in person in the UK and in Ireland, France, Belgium and the Netherlands, and on ferries of multiple companies.

For those for whom English isn't a first language, there is a multilingual leaflet in French, Polish, Romanian, Czech, Hungarian, Bulgarian, German, Spanish and Italian  - which indicates in itself how important drivers from eastern Europe are to heavy freight movement in the UK (and the confidence that Dutch and Danish drivers know English anyway).  

Finally, a more detailed FAQ type leaflet is here.  

Some interesting points I picked up were:

Both driver and operator are jointly liable to pay the levy.

Only the rigid vehicle needs to be registered with the levy, not the number plate of any trailers, but the levy paid must include the combined weight of the entire vehicle including the trailer (and if there will be multiple trailers, it needs to cover the maximum weight whilst the vehicle is using UK roads).

It is a fully electronic system, there is no paper/sticker vignette (Hungary and Romania are like this).

On enforcement, when a vehicle is identified as having not paid "HGVs will be stopped and the driver issued with a £300 fixed penalty which will be taken at the roadside".   The leaflet claims the vehicle will be immobilised and impounded until the penalty is paid, and costs of impounding the vehicle will be added onto the bill.   Of course the HGV levy has to be paid as well as the penalty!

The system ought to function reliably and efficiently, given it is proven technology and a simple charge.  It is a small step forward in more efficient road charging in the UK, but only because the UK trucking industry is supportive of a charge that finally means foreign truck operators have to pay directly to use UK roads.

The Government's website also has a payment platform.

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