The Road Haulage Association (RHA) has strongly criticised the European Commission's decision to challenge the legality of the HGV road user levy, introduced two years ago.
Richard Burnett, chief executive of the RHA, said: "This challenge is nonsense. The levy breaks neither the letter nor spirit of EU law. Brussels was fully briefed during its design and implementation - and continental hauliers continue to pay the levy without complaint.
“This is an important and successful measure that addresses an issue of real concern; to both the haulage industry and wider public.
"Foreign operators - now accounting for almost 90% of international trade - paid nothing at all to use our roads and the full burden of contributing towards road maintenance fell on UK-registered trucks. The levy changed that, within a framework designed by the EU itself.
"It is important to recognise that foreign and UK hauliers both pay the levy. Visiting hauliers pay around £40 million a year, still a modest sum and made up of a £10 per day charge for occasional visitors or a cost saving option of £1,000 a year for frequent visitors.”
When the levy was brought in two years ago, UK hauliers had their vehicle excise duty rate reduced by roughly the corresponding amount.
Burnett added: “Currently, the levy goes as far as EU law allows towards levelling the playing field and no further.
"The Commission should applaud the measure for making the haulage sector fairer, not attack it. If it persists in its challenge I trust that the UK Government will pursue a vigorous defence.”