European Freight Trucks to Pay Pollution and Congestion Charges

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

EUROPE – Following on from our report today on the row brewing over the EU’s plans to charge the aviation industry for its carbon emissions comes the news that the European Parliament has voted overwhelmingly to change the laws on how much European haulage operators pay for travel on the continent’s road network.

Revising the existing “Eurovignette” rules, which allows member states to charge for the use of infrastructure, the new directive will allow EU states to charge hauliers for air and noise pollution costs in addition to motorway tolls. Revenue from these charges is to be used to improve the performance of transport systems - with at least 15% to be spent on the trans-European transport (TEN-T) networks - and cut pollution.

The decision means that new charging systems based on a ‘distance driven’ basis can be implemented upon all vehicles over 3.5 tonnes, though some countries may be able to grant exemptions to vehicles less than 12 tonne gross if the European Commission accepts the reasons why.

Though it remains to be seen how much the new charges will work out to the E.C.’s statement on the decision calculates that on average, 3 to 4 euro cents per vehicle/km may be added to charges for using transport infrastructure.

The charges will also be subject to equipment types, with more modern trucks exempt from charges until the 1st of January, 2018, if their engines comply to the EURO VI standard. Conversely older trucks may find themselves penalised with heavier charges, particularly in “sensitive and mountainous regions”.

In addition, to manage traffic flow more effectively, charges may be varied by up to 175% in congested areas, with the highest charges applying during rush hours, and lower rates at all other times. The E.C. states that they will make available a list of charges and the times of application so that hauliers can calculate their costs and plan routes economically.

European Commissioner for Transport Siim Kallas said:

"These new EU rules will send the right price signals to operators so they will invest more in efficient logistics, less polluting vehicles and more sustainable transport at large. They also give member states new tools to fight congestion with possibilities to vary charges at different times of the day to get heavy lorries off the roads at peak periods.

"This is a very important step in the right direction towards creating a fair financial environment where prices across different transport modes reflect the real costs to society and the taxpayer."

Reaction to the announcement has been muted from freight associations, with the U.K’s Road Haulage Association’s (RHA) Peter Cullum telling the Handy Shipping Guide that until actual figures for costing of any scheme have been worked out thoroughly it was difficult to draw any conclusions, but that the implementation of any new charges might well significantly add to costs for British hauliers who operate on mainland Europe.