Fabian Demicoli

Revision of the Eurovignette Directive

 In 2006 the European Parliament and the Council requested the Commission to draw up a report on a generally applicable, transparent and comprehensible model for assessing the external costs of transport, such as pollution and congestion, to serve as the basis for calculating infrastructure charges.  The Commission was asked to propose a strategy for stepwise implementation of the model for all transport modes, accompanied if appropriate by a proposal for revising Directive 1999/62/EC on the charging of heavy good vehicles for the use of infrastructure.

 

The new proposal only applies to vehicles weighing more than 3.5 tonnes and not to the other modes of transport. Due to the subsidiarity principle the revised Directive does not cover passenger cars.  According to the Commission the objectives of the revised Directive are to encourage Member States to implement differentiated charging to improve the efficiency and environmental performance of road freight transport. It seeks to amend Directive 1999/62/EC to establish a framework which enables Member States to calculate and vary tolls on the basis of costs of traffic based pollution and of congestion in a way compatible with the internal market.

According to the Commission the existing road levies have not proved effective enough to internalise external costs of road freight transport; tolls could be made more effective, but the current Directive blocks it. Directive 1999/62/EC recognises the "user pays" principle by allowing Member States to levy distance-based charges (tolls) to recover the cost of construction, maintenance and operation of infrastructure and it authorises time-based charges below a maximum rate.

The proposed Directive enables Member States to integrate in tolls levied on heavy goods vehicles an amount which reflects the cost of air pollution and noise pollution caused by traffic. During peak periods, it also allows tolls to be calculated on the basis of the cost of congestion imposed upon other vehicles. The amounts will vary with the travelled distance, location and time of use of roads to better reflect these external costs. The proceeds will have to be used by Member States for making transport more sustainable through projects such as research and development on cleaner and more energy efficient vehicles, mitigating the effect of road transport pollution or providing alternative infrastructure capacity for users.

Member States which opt for it must respect common charging principles together with mechanisms for notifying and reporting tolling schemes to the Commission. Member States must designate independent authorities to set the chargeable costs by using a common method which can be easily monitored and adapted to scientific progress. This will ensure that charging schemes are transparent, proportional to the objective pursued and do not discriminate against the nationality of hauliers.

The charge must be collected through electronic systems which does not create hindrance to the free flow of traffic and local nuisance at tollbooths, and which can be extended to other part of the network at a later stage without significant additional investments. A transition period for the current systems with barriers is planned. To avoid undue charging of users, other conditions must be met when a charge based on the costs of congestion and pollution is combined with a charge to recover the cost of infrastructure.

The proposal extends the scope of the current Directive beyond the trans-European network to avoid inconsistent pricing schemes between major corridors and other interurban roads. It makes more practicable the provisions in the current Directive on the mark-up levied in mountainous areas to co-finance EU labelled priority projects. It does not prevent Member States from applying on urban roads regulatory charges specifically designed to reduce traffic congestion or combat environmental impacts in built up areas.

Consequences for freight transport of the revision

The main consequence for freight transport is that it will become more expensive and with the risk of achieving no improvements because alternatives to road do not exist. Currently the Directive leaves it up to the Member States to internalise the external costs but the Commission plans to make it obligatory in the future.

The exact cost the road transport needs to pay depends all on how much and when you drive as well as the type of road you use. The price of transporting goods by road is expected to increase by a few eurocents per kilometre. This will have negative impacts on the transport costs for companies especially for long distance transport.

Strategy to internalise external costs focusing on making transport prices better reflect their real cost to society so that environmental damage and congestion can be reduced while boosting the efficiency of transport and ultimately the economy as a whole.

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