Kilometre Tax for Heavy Vehicles, EU
The Eurovignette directive, adopted in 1999, among other parts, represented a first attempt to regulate kilometre taxation on trucks of more than 12 tons. It sets minimum levels for the annual vehicle tax, and maximum levels for the charges EU countries may exact for the use of their roads (Acid News, 2003).
The Eurovignette system initially applied only to trunk roads and for a certain time, no matter how long the distance travelled. The charge is still differentiated though according to the number of axles and the vehicle's environmental classification (Acid News, 2003). Initially the Commission's aim was to create a kilometre tax that was based on the external marginal costs - meaning the extra costs in the way of additional road wear, noise, exhaust fumes, and increased accident risk falling on society when a vehicle uses the road network (Acid News, 2003).
In April 2005, the 999/62/EC Eurovignette directive was amended to include a tax that can be imposed on all vehicles over 3 tonnes (current limit of 12 tonnes) and that it can be applied throughout the road network, not just on motorways. The level of tax can be set by the country and can be adjusted depending on the size, weight and environmental performance of the vehicle. A recommendation that revenues received be spent on the transport network is not binding.
The kilometre tax has been criticised by the European Federation for Transport and the Environment (T&E) for not directing countries to consider the indirect costs of environmental and health damage in the tax. The direct cost of road transport system is only included (Acid News, 2005).
Table: Kilometre Taxes in the EU, an overview
>3.5 tonnes on all roads
40 tonne vehicles (euro-III) is 0.55euro/km
Payment of social and environmental costs
>12 tonnes on motorways only
40 tonne vehicles (euro-III) is 0.12 euro/km
Road transport only
>3.5 tonnes on motorways only
40 tonne vehicles (euro-III) is 0.22 euro/km
Road transport only
Authorities will be able to set tolls at up to double for the dirtiest vehicles and charges can be increased by up to 25% in mountainous and transborder regions, such as the Brenner corridor in Austria (ENDS, 2005).
Use of Revenues
An agreement between transport ministers specified that tolls can only recover costs of infrastructure. It does not oblige member states to recycle revenues back into transport infrastructure (ENDS, 2005). The decision not to earmark the revenues was not popular with several of the member states on the periphery of the EU. Malta, Estonia and Portugal opposed the proposal on concerns that higher transport costs would raise prices. Belgium also voted against, while Greece and Finland abstained.
In April 2005, the EU Ministers of Transport finally succeeded in agreeing on a revision to the Eurovignette directive (1999/62/EC). One important change is that the tax can be imposed on all vehicles over 3.5 tonnes (the current limit is 12 tonnes) and that it can be applied throughout the road network, not just on motorways. The level of the tax may be set country by country and can be adjusted depending on the size, weight and environmental performance of the vehicle.
The result has been that the Czech government has begun the process that will lead to a motorway toll, with the aim to have the system in place by mid-2006.
Slovakia and Hungary also have plans to introduce distance-based schemes.
The next major scheme could be in Great Britain, where the plans are for a distance-based charge that would apply to all roads and cover social and environmental costs. It is expected to be ready in January 2008. Over a 10-15 year period the British government wants to move away from the current form of vehicle taxation towards a national road pricing system for all vehicles, not just lorries (T&E, 2005).
In Switzerland, in the first two years road transport reduced by 5% per annum, compared with a 5-6% increase in the year before. The overall lorry fleet has been cleaner with a drop of about 6-8% in CO2 and NOx emissions expected by 2007 (compared with pre-taxation). The amount of freight transported through the Swiss Alps by rail grew faster last year than the amount carried by road. Only negligible effects on consumer prices have been registered. Rail Transport grew by more than road transport in 2004, up 10% (road up 5%). Almost no modal shift has taken place since the introduction. This may change when the first of the New Alpine Rail Axis (NEAT) tunnels opens up in 2007 or 2008. The prices for using Swiss roads went up on January 1 2005 by 45% for the most polluting lorries. Another increase is expected when the first NEAT tunnel opens.
In Germany, so far little assessment has taken place of the performance of the kilometre tax, but the Czech Republic report that lorries crossing over the border from Germany increased from 13,500 in April 2004 to 70,000 in April 2005. France has also reported increased traffic, this maybe due to drivers avoiding German roads.
In Austria, though the charge has been a success in bringing in revenue - expected to be 740 million euro a year - it has done nothing to reduce traffic levels, in fact on transit stretches they have gone up. There have been reports of heavy goods traffic using non-motorway roads to avoid the charge.
Acid News, 2005, Issue No.2 June 2005,14.
Acid News, 2004, Issue No. 4 /2004.
Acid news, 2003, Issue No. 3/ 2003. Available at:
ENDS, 2005. Ministerial breakthrough on Eurovignette revision. ISSUE 1865 - Friday 22 April 2005
T&E, 2005, T&E Bulletin Special Feature February 2005 and T&E Bulletin, April 2005. Available at: http://www.acidrain.org/pages/publications/acidnews/2005/AN2-05.asp#km_taxes