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Fleets to be given little time to prepare for new Dartford Crossing charges, says ACFO

That’s the warning from ACFO, which says it’s concerned at the lack of information being provided to businesses by the Agency as to how the new scheme will work and how fleets can set up an online account, resulting in possible charges for fleets. The organisation is also warning that the new system will result in a significant increase in administration for fleet managers.

The new regime, which sees the introduction of a remote charging system and the removal of the present barrier payment system and booths, is known as DART Charge. Simultaneous with the launch of the new scheme is an increase in Dartford Crossing charges.

Originally scheduled for launch in October, the Highways Agency now says the new scheme will be introduced in ‘late November’.

ACFO said it is also concerned that the introduction of DART Charge could be viewed as the start of a “creeping privatisation” of the UK’s road network.

ACFO chairman John Pryor said: ‘Even at the start of this month businesses have no idea of the start-date for the new system. Fleet managers have been left in the dark and therefore are unable to set up the appropriate in-house systems.

‘DART Charge is not only a concern for fleets operating close to the Dartford Crossing. We have had fleets based in Scotland asking questions about how the system will work because they have not been able to gather information from the Highways Agency.’

He added: ‘From a user’s viewpoint introduction of the new payment system has been badly thought through. It will be an administration nightmare for fleets.

‘There is little or no administration requirement for fleets currently. They either have a DART-Tag account or drivers pay the appropriate charge at the toll booth and reclaim it through their expenses; it is very simple.’

ACFO highlighted that the introduction of DART Charge will mean that having initially set up an account fleet managers will have to:

  • Ensure accounts were topped up to avoid non-payment penalties being slapped on vehicles
  • Keep vehicle account information up to date to ensure new vehicles were added and defleeted vehicles removed
  • Establish a mechanism for ensuring employers did not pay charges related to private journeys such as daily commutes, holidays and shopping expeditions

‘Unlike the London Congestion Charge, the Severn Crossing or the M6 Toll there is no obvious alternative to the Dartford Crossing for drivers,’ said Pryor.

‘I don’t think that most businesses will want to foot the cost of private journeys so employers have to establish an employee reimbursement system.’

He also highlighted that unlike Transport for London’s congestion charge where non-payment fines were levied on a daily basis irrespective of how many times a vehicle entered the zone, Dartford Crossing fines were levied on a per trip basis.

‘If a driver makes four journeys using the Dartford Crossing in a single day – and is perhaps in a new vehicle – it would result in four £70 fines if the fleet manager has not updated their company’s account with the new registration details,’ explained Pryor.

He also highlighted that fleets and drivers could be confused by the Agency using the identical “C” charging logo as that for the London Congestion Charge.

‘They are two entirely different charging systems operated by organisations independent of each other. However, the fact that the identical “C” logo is being used to signal a charge could make fleets and drivers think that because they are already registered for the London Congestion Charge they do not need to register again in respect of the Dartford Crossing charge,’ he concluded.

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Natalie Middleton

Natalie has worked as a fleet journalist for 16 years, previously as assistant editor on the former Company Car magazine before joining Fleet World in 2006. Prior to this, she worked on a range of B2B titles, including Insurance Age and Insurance Day. As Business Editor, Natalie ensures the group websites and newsletters are updated with the latest news.