Germany moves ahead on road pricing for trucks

Nationwide electronic charging "definitely" for 2002; could form model for EU-wide system

Germany has taken an important step towards introducing nationwide road pricing for heavy goods vehicles by issue a tender for a satellite-based system. The transport ministry, which issued the tender last week, says road pricing will "definitely" be in place by the end of 2002, which would make Germany only the third European country to take this step after Swiss and Austrian schemes, which are expected to start up in 2001 and mid-2002 respectively.

If the distance-based charging scheme comes to fruition, Germany will leave the existing Eurovignette system (ENDS Daily 2 December 1998) under which eight European countries require haulage firms to pay a flat fee ranging from euros 1,550 for the heaviest and most polluting vehicles to euros 750 for the cleanest, lightest trucks.

In 1998, the European Commission signalled its backing for Eurovignette to be replaced in the medium term by an EU-wide system of road charges for commercial vehicles (ENDS Daily 22 July 1998). Last September, an advisory group suggested further details of how to achieve this. A Commission spokesperson told ENDS Daily today that the policy methods were now clear and that the EU executive would make produce a report on implementation by summer 2001.

Under Eurovignette an average German truck pays about euros 0.01 per kilometre, but a transport ministry spokesperson told ENDS Daily that the new charges would certainly work out higher. Transport minister Reinhard Klimmt is keen that the revenue be ring-fenced to be spent on roads.

The Green party welcomed the development, saying that it would help to switch traffic onto other modes and reduce emissions. But the German road haulage association contradicted these claims, saying the plan would merely create an "illusion in the minds of citizens that there was more room for passenger vehicles".

Furthermore, the group said, Euro III emissions limits entering into force this year would cut emissions by 70% from 1990 levels by the time road pricing came into effect. Euro IV limits due to take effect in 2005 would clamp down even further, making diesel particulate pollution "a thing of the past," it added.

Follow Up:
German transport ministry, tel: +49 30 20080; German Green Party, tel: +49 30 227 55518; BGL +49 69 79190.

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