Road Pricing by Fuel Duty Rebate.

I’ve long argued the roads are mis-priced. For much of a 24 hour period, roads are underused, and therefore probably overpriced. For 4 hours a day there’s gridlock in every town, and for most of the period 9:15am to 16:00, the roads are full, but flowing and therefore the price is about right. The Government’s main means of pricing the roads is Fuel Duty.

I’ve also opposed GPS-based road-pricing systems for privacy reasons. But I believe people should pay a market rate for services used, especially scarce ones like urban road space.

Given that most of the noise about fuel taxes are coming from Hauliers, whose vans lorries are responsible for much congestion, especially when unloading in town centres, there is an opportunity to make the roads run more efficiently by getting hauliers to move stuff at night.

Hauliers operating vehicles of more than 3.5 tonnes must already log driver’s hours. There’s no reason why the same tachograph systems couldn’t be used to log fuel used as well, in order to secure a rebate (say 50% for the sake of argument) on fuel used at night.

If successful, Why not extend this? Everyone, not just professional hauliers could have the option to drive at night or get to the office extra-early, and save money by doing so. The Government would not be intruding, but by demonstrating which bits of your driving were at “off peak hours” the Government should refund some of its overcharge as a rebate. Let’s see if people take it, and we can then see the true price of people’s driving preferences.

5 replies
  1. Westerlyman
    Westerlyman says:

    I operate a fleet of dustcarts but we are not permitted to collect waste during the night. I have no choice but to operate my vehicles already on very thin margins during peak hours.

    During school holidays the roads flow pretty well in most places so perhaps you could think another scheme that will encourage kids to take the bus, walk or perhaps stagger school times for different areas.

    There are always unintended consequences but I would suggest waste collection is essential so everybody else should travel at night especially caravans and bicycles.

  2. Mark
    Mark says:

    You're taking a somewhat blinkered view of what constitutes a "market".

    Central London (and all other large cities and many towns) simply wern't intended for traffic (and were clogged in the days of horses and carts). Its difficult to see what the solution is.

    I live in Hastings and that is clogged for much of the day. We could use your "market" solution of course. Or we could build a proper bypass (which has been talked about – usually at election times – for the last 40 years) and all the through traffic that doesn't want to be in Hastings won't be.

    A road network that could adequately handle the existing and projected traffic is not some fantasy or indulgence. It would not be a fundamental problem for a country like this.

    Westerlyman gives another example of why the "resource" is scarce. There is so much that could be done before we need to delve into powerpoint land for a "market" solution.

  3. Malcolm Bracken
    Malcolm Bracken says:

    Bypasses often make sense, by removing through traffic, but the rest of your comment can be summed up as "predict and provide" – that's a fallacy.

    Roads create traffic, they do not reduce congestion. Indeed by increasing capacity in some areas, they merely speed the flow to the pinch points which can't be widened.

  4. Malcolm Bracken
    Malcolm Bracken says:

    Westerlyman, presumably the reason you're not allowed to collect at night is noise?

    And you've hit the nail on the head of the other main cause of gridlock is the school run.

    In the Netherlands, kids cycle to school from age 8. But if you want the school run out of cars, you HAVE TO build decent infrastructure on which kids and grannies feel safe.

  5. Mark
    Mark says:

    You might not get "predict and provide" always right but its hardly a fallacy.

    Good roads obviously attract traffic, there would be no point in them otherwise. Of course there will be pinch points but with a decent road network we could have a damned sight fewer than we have now. I don't expect perfection, but I don't think a lot better is unreasonable or unachievable.


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