Thousands of trucks dodging Dart Charge

It is possible that some 19,100 HGVs have escaped paying for Dartford Crossing journeys since the implementation of the new Dart Charge system last November.

The results of an Freedom of Information request to Highways England revealed that 0.6% of crossings cannot be detected “due to poor image or where the vehicle cannot be identified”, while 0.1% of crossings cannot be charged because of damaged or obscured registration plates.

With 2.7 million HGV crossings between 30 November 2014 and 8 June 2015, approximately 16,400 are likely to have avoided detection because of poor imaging.

A further 2,700 could have avoided being charged due to damaged or obscured plates.

The FoI data also revealed that during the same period, crossing charges for 456 foreign-registered vehicles were disregarded “on the basis that [their registration plates] are illegible”.

Dart Charge originally came under scrutiny in May, when Commercialmotor.com revealed that some hauliers had been made to pay penalty charge notices (PCNs) they were technically exempt from.

Snap Account, a third-party payment company with more than 10,000 HGVs on its Dartford Crossing books, was one of the affected parties.

Jonny Billing, field sales representative at Snap, said: “Dart Charge says the mistakes it’s making are isolated cases. But 19,000 HGV crossings [in six months] show this is not isolated. This is on a huge scale. It’s crazy. The public deserve much better than this. Fleet operators already have enough to worry about.”

Dart Charge director Nigel Gray said: “Dart Charge is successfully speeding up journeys at the Dartford Crossing and, as these figures show, the vehicle detection rate of the system is a fraction away from 100%.

“More than 20 million vehicles are now registered to Dart Charge accounts; more than 85,000 of these are part of a fleet. Each of them is eligible to save up to a third on every crossing they make.”

The system went live on 30 November last year, following the removal of toll booths from the M25 crossing to reduce congestion.

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