"Tax" is not the most popular three-letter word in the English language, but it's an inevitable part of our working lives. Despite all of its negative connotations, it's a necessary evil that greases the wheels of our national economy. Without taxes that pay for our roads, infrastructure, defence and public health, we'd be in a pretty poor state in the UK.
Grass roots transport industry workers (read: HGV drivers) see firsthand how the government puts (or doesn't put) taxes to use every day. They utilise the huge network of roads and motorways across the country to deliver goods and perhaps pick up a return load for the trip home, so it's only fair that they should contribute to their upkeep. However, the Freight Transport Association (FTA) has recently released a report, which reveals that the tax revenue raised from HGV drivers alone is sufficient to be the sole source of funding for road maintenance in the UK.
Tax and the HGV Driver
While nobody can deny that lorry drivers rely on the maintenance of roads to facilitate their livelihoods and that they should naturally pay their fair share, the FTA report begs the question: are HGV drivers paying more than their fair share of taxes in the UK?
The report was prepared by the FTA and RepGraph in time for the national budget, concluding that "heavy good vehicles pay three times more tax than the estimated cost of damage to the infrastructure". The amount of tax paid by HGV drivers in the UK equates to a whopping 94% of the spending on road maintenance, which is clearly inequitable when compared to the amount of other road users. Even if lorry drivers were to pick up a lucrative return load on every trip they make, it seems unfair that they should be footing almost the entire bill for road upkeep.
Facts and Figures
To break it down into numbers, around £4.7 billion was spent in total on maintaining UK roads in the year covering 2015/2016. Taxes paid in relation to HGVs, which includes fuel duty, road levy and vehicle excise, was £4.4 billion. On balance (or imbalance), the estimated cost of damage to the infrastructure caused by HGVs was just £1.5 billion.
The total tax collected from motor vehicles across the UK was £33.5 billion, which in itself was in excess of seven times the actual budget for national road maintenance.
The figures form the basis of the FTA's argument that, as the most expensive in the whole of Europe, road freight taxes are excessive and the spending on infrastructure is too low. Christopher Snelling, the association's Head of National and Regional Policy, said that the government should consider a reduction of road freight taxes in order to stimulate the economy, and that any increase would have a negative impact on goods' prices and on the cost of doing business in the UK.
We're All in This Together
Everybody suffers when Britain's roads are not up to par, and maintenance is not just about filling in potholes – it's about long-standing road works, closures and traffic disruptions. All of that results in congestion, which inevitably has negative impacts on both the environment and the economy.
As the largest membership association in the logistics sector, the FTA acts as a voice for around half of our UK transport community. Their report for the budget shows that Britain's roads are still not supported well enough and, in highlighting the inequity of the tax paid by HGV drivers, they're calling for the government to provide more funds for Highways England to ensure that the quality of the nation’s roads are improved and "fit for purpose".
Norman Dulwich is a Correspondent for Haulage Exchange, the leading online trade network for the road transport industry. Connecting logistics professionals across the UK and Europe through their website, Haulage Exchange provides services for matching loads and return load jobs with available drivers. Over 4,800 transport exchange businesses are networked together through their website, trading jobs and capacity in a safe 'wholesale' environment.