“This is a happy day for road hauliers”, said RHA Chief Executive Geoff Dunning. “We have been campaigning for years to see a system introduced which will lessen the financial advantage currently enjoyed by our European neighbours.”
Foreign truck drivers will have to pay £10 a day to use British roads by 2015, under the new legislation.
British truckers are used to paying special road charges of up to £13 a day on the continent, but their European counterparts pay nothing when they drive in the UK.
Announcing the plan, New Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said: "These proposals will deliver a vital shot in the arm to the UK haulage industry.
"It is simply not right that foreign lorries do not pay to use our roads, when our trucks invariably have to fork out when travelling to the continent."
It is estimated that 1.5m visits are made by foreign hauliers to the UK every year.
The new charge is expected to cost most drivers £1,000 a year. Dunning added: “This is not enough to give us a level playing field as regards the rest of Europe. But it is a good start and will help no end in beginning to prepare the ground.
“We are pleased that Mr McLoughlin has seen fit to bring forward this legislation so early in his tenure as Transport Minister; he is obviously very aware as to the important role played by UK hauliers in rebuilding the economy, increasing UK competitiveness and boosting growth.”
UK drivers will also have to pay the daily charge because of European laws, but it will be offset by a corresponding road tax cut.
A bill setting out the plan will be published next month, with ministers expecting the new system to be introduced within the next two years.