Drivers could be hit with new ‘tyre tax’ in crackdown on emissions


By Paul Homewood

The war on car drivers – part II


Drivers risk being forced to pay a “tyre tax” as Britain explores a crackdown on brake and tyre wear emissions.

Ministers have hired advisers to explore how to address harmful emissions that experts say are more harmful than diesel fumes.

The Department for Transport has asked consultancy Arup to “develop recommendations on how to better assess and control these emissions which will persist after a transition to zero tailpipe emission vehicles”, according to a Government filing.

Although the Whitehall officials this weekend insisted that Arup’s work was not designed to inform tax policy, it is being seen as one of the strongest signals yet that a tyre tax is coming down the road.

Andy Turbefield, head of quality at Halfords, said: “Putting a tax on road safety is not the right way to plug the fuel duty gap. Worn tyres and faulty brakes are two of the biggest causes of accidents.

“As it is, many motorists are delaying tyre replacement and basic maintenance because of the cost-of-living crisis. Using the tax system to penalise people for keeping their vehicles in a roadworthy condition is not a good policy.”

Tyre and brake wear pollution is expected to be the next battleground for clean air campaigners after drivers switch to electric vehicles.

Particles sent into the air – known as “particulate matter (PM) 2.5” – are more harmful than nox emissions that have been the target of low-emissions zones such as Sadiq Khan’s Ulez in London.

Although tyre technology has developed to reduce dangerous emissions, the Environment Department said last week that non-exhaust road emissions have “remained largely unchanged between 1996 and 2021”

Mr Turbefield added: “If taxing non-exhaust emission is to be considered, then there needs to be more research into emissions from road surface wear. It’s plausible that electric vehicles, which are much heavier than petrol vehicles, cause more damage to road surfaces and are therefore a bigger source of road surface emissions. Any review needs to take account of the big picture.”

In May Professor Alastair Lewis, chairman of the Department for Transport Science Advisory Council, said: “When everybody owns a low emissions vehicle, low emission zones become a toothless control lever to try to manage air pollution.

“A world where we [have] jam-packed roads full of electric cars [also] isn’t a particularly attractive one… Even if they are electric, [they] will generate lots of particles.”

“At some point in the future when most of those cars have disappeared, a different form of air pollution control” is likely to be needed, he added.

“We do have to project forward about how we’re going to manage vehicles in large cities like London in the future when we have a largely electrified fleet of vehicles.”

Halfords may have a vested interest, but Andy Turbefield is spot on. A tyre tax would jeopardise road safety with drivers delaying replacements. And, as he says, EVs are a bigger problem as they are heavier, so why does not London’s ULEZ penalise them as well?

Prof Lewis, of course, let the cat out of the bag. The long term objective is to get us all out of our cars and onto public transport.