Driver fuel use falls 3% in 2011

Cash-strapped consumers travelled fewer miles in 2011. The Retail Motor Industry Federation (RMI) reckons that Britain's collective 34m vehicles travelled an average 165 fewer miles than in 2010 than they did in 2011 due to the rising cost of fuel. RMI chairman Brian Madderson has written to the Chancellor pleading for fuel taxation to be reformed. But do the RMI numbers really add up?

Travel snipped

The Telegraph says RMI chairman Brian Madderson has written to George Osborne claiming that the current fuel duty remains a "deeply flawed" tax, hitting low income families and those who live in the countryside far harder.

The government has already resisted implementing a planned January 3p fuel duty hike; Madderson though is focusing his energy on last year's VAT rise, which saw petrol and diesel rise considerably when VAT increased from 17.5% to 20%.

He will meet Treasury Chief Secretary Danny Alexander to discuss the issue this month. But let's dig into the RMI figures briefly. The RMI claims that total fuel consumption by road users declined to 33.5bn litres a year, a 3% fall on 20120. The equivalent of 30 litres less per UK driver.

Deaf ears?

But that 3% fall does not take into account the increasing fuel efficiency of new cars. A modern diesel hatchback can now achieve 60 miles per gallon with ease (and some larger diesel saloons and estates too).

The gap too between petrol and diesel car fuel efficiency is also steadily narrowing year-on-year. The weather was also considerably worse in 2010, increasing general fuel consumption.

And increasing pressure to downsize to 'greener' engines for tax purposes on company cars will also have an impact. These may be arguments that George Osborne and Danny Alexander may deploy to keep petrol and diesel taxes high. Mr Madderson will try hard but his words will make little impact.

Roll on, then, the next fuel duty 4p-a-litre hike (currently scheduled for 1 August) and more road pricing plans. Tell us if you are planning to use your car less this year - or not.

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