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New research: Britain’s lorries receiving £5bn annual subsidy

4 July 2014
New research [1] has revealed that lorries using Britain’s roads are subsidised to the tune of £5bn each year [2].

The research, carried out for Campaign for Better Transport, found HGVs pay less than 40 per cent [3] of the costs associated with their activities with the taxpayer picking up the rest of the bill. It highlights that HGVs do not pay for their impacts on congestion, road infrastructure, public health or the natural environment.

Philippa Edmunds, Freight on Rail Campaigner, Campaign for Better Transport said

“This research shows the scale of the subsidy that HGVs get. In practice that means a huge backlog of pot-holes on local roads, disappointing progress on lorry road safety and congestion problems at busy times. That nearly 30 per cent HGVs are driving round completely empty exemplifies why Government must urgently update the way it deals with freight.”

  • The report highlights a number of areas where the Government’s understanding of the costs and impacts of lorries is flawed or outdated. These include:
  • Road damage from the heaviest lorries is estimated to be 150,000 times higher than for a typical car –they are responsible for the major part of the £12 billion road maintenance backlog
  • The cost of road collisions involving HGVs are undervalued as HGVs are now five times more likely than cars to be involved in fatal accidents on local roads
  • Even without HGVs making any contribution to the capital cost of the road network, congestion costs created by HGVs are high and would be higher if the Government figures for the road space they require was to be updated
  • The impact on climate change is also undervalued, with the carbon charge based on outdated figures
  • There is a pressing need to review some impacts such as air pollution  where heavy lorries will continue to create dangerous particulates despite EU engine improvement

Philippa Edmunds said

"Government needs to treat the different modes equally to allow rail freight to compete on a level playing field; that way the economy and society can benefit from  safer less polluting freight distribution which reduces road congestion.”


For further information please contact Andrew Allen at Campaign for Better Transport, on 020 7566 6494 / 07984 773 468 or andrew.allen@bettertransport.org.uk


1. ‘Heavy Goods Vehicles – do they pay for the damage they cause’ (June 2014) was commissioned by Campaign for Better Transport.

The research was written by the Metropolitan Transport Research Unit (MTRU) and can be downloaded from the Campaign for Better Transport website (contact Keith Buchan, MTRU, 07788 724827 K.buchan@mtru.com).

2. See report Table 4.1 MSB values Page 14

Calculated by multiplying the number of articulated vehicle miles in 2012 (8.1 billion) produces a figure for the failure to meet external costs from this source alone of just over £4billion (£4.2billion at the current cost of carbon – see below).  This does not include large rigid vehicles (up to 32 tonnes gross vehicle weight), which have similar costs to articulated lorries. This would bring the figure to about £5bn.

3. See report Table 4.1 values Page 14

40% figure derived from weighted average total cost 83.9 – tax income 34.1 = marginal cost gap 49.8

4. Campaign for Better Transport is the UK's leading authority on sustainable transport. We champion transport solutions that improve people's lives and reduce environmental damage. Our campaigns push innovative, practical policies at local and national levels. Campaign for Better Transport Charitable Trust is a registered charity (1101929).

Read the report in full: Heavy Goods Vehicles - do they pay for the damage they cause?