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The BBC's Roger Harrabin
"The report charts widespread damage by lorries"
 real 28k

Friday, 22 September, 2000, 11:55 GMT 12:55 UK
Lorry taxes 'pay for roads damage'
Truckers protesting in Edinburgh
Truckers are pushing for a cut in diesel duty
The Treasury makes no money from taxes levied on road hauliers because the duty pays for the damage they cause, according to a government report.

The study concluded that a large lorry can do 28,000 of damage every year.

We are clearly not paying yet the full environmental and social costs of trucking

Tony Juniper of Friends of the Earth
The same vehicle is estimated to generate 25,000 in fuel tax and vehicle excise duty.

The report was conducted by three sets of consultants, on behalf of the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions, to work out how much the government should be charging truckers.

But some analysts say the real costs could be even higher, as the study did not cover their involvement in accidents and congestion.

Costs of haulage

The Road Haulage Association said it did not dispute the report's findings but condemned the "implication" that "hauliers were not paying their way".

William Hague
William Hague: Plans to cut fuel tax
The Freight Transport Association (FTA), which represents the owners of the UK's biggest lorry fleets, said taxes paid by hauliers in the rest of Europe are lower than in the UK.

And the FTA insists that fuel duty cuts are still needed so UK firms can compete.

A spokesman for the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions said the purpose of the report was not to highlight the shortfall in contributions from hauliers but to help estimate the cost of road repairs.

The spokesman said: "This is one of the most advanced pieces of research on road-wear costs ever carried out in Europe.

"Part of that research included calculating the cost of damage generated by haulage vehicles."

Government task force

The FTA is part of a government task force, set up to deal with the fuel crisis, which is having its second meeting at the Cabinet Office on Friday.

The group, led by the Home Secretary Jack Straw, and including the Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott, is discussing how to prevent a repeat of last week's shortages.

The first meeting on Thursday, where the FTA demanded a cut in diesel duty, was described as "constructive".

The Conservative leader William Hague is also meeting party members in Southampton on Friday to discuss fuel duty policy.

His party has already promised to cut tax at the forecourts by three pence a litre.

Environmental costs

Tony Juniper, of Friends of the Earth, claimed the figures were an underestimate and failed to count the cost of congestion, accidents and climate change.

"The policy response to this should not be to say British road taxes should be reduced but that those on the Continent should be increased," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

"We are clearly not paying yet the full environmental and social costs of trucking."

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