Friday, 13 July 2012

France's Ecotaxe - national truck tolling, distance based

More information has been published about the French nationwide heavy vehicle road user charge system now under development, thanks to the "Ecomouv" consortium producing a website in multiple languages.  

 Given interest in vehicle mileage taxation in the United States and heavy vehicle distance based charging in Australia, it will be notable for both France and Germany to be blanketed by such charges on major highways across their territories.

It's worth noting this tax is in addition to existing taxes in France, including diesel tax up to* EUR0.4284 per litre (US$0.525).

Ecomouv is a subsidiary of Italian toll road operator Autostrade, which is partnered with mobile phone network operator SFR, state owned railway operator SNCF, IT services company Steria, and French electronics company Thales.

Some key useful facts:
- The distance based tax will apply to all goods vehicles weighing over 3.5 tonnes, both French registered and foreign vehicles;
- The stated purpose is to encourage more environmentally friendly goods transport, in part by having pricing that differentiates by emission class and to discourage empty running;
- The Ecotaxe will also normalise demand between tolled motorways and untolled routes, promoting more optimal use of the entire national road network;
- The taxed network comprises 10,000 km of national highways and motorways that are not concessioned routes (many of those are tolled and will not be subject to this tax as well), and 5,000 km of secondary roads (largely to prevent "rat running" by truck drivers seeking to evade the tax);
- A 25% discount will apply for trips within three "peripheral regions", largely to promote regional development;
The system as described appears to be a "light client" form of GPS enabled distance measurement, whereby information about distance travelled on charged routes is calculated on board the vehicle, but then transmitted through mobile telecommunications networks to a back office system to calculate the tax liability;
- Exempt vehicles include all buses, some public vehicles (e.g. military) and vehicles used to transport agricultural goods;
- Options to pay include a prepay account, or a postpay account (the latter requiring a credit check);
- Enforcement is carried out using a network of gantries to take images of vehicles and their number plates if any are identified as not having a functioning on board unit;
- Mobile enforcement units will also roam the network to remotely check vehicles at random;
-  Revenue is estimated to be 1.24 billion Euro per annum (US$1.5 billion), of which 760 million (US$930 million) is to go to AFITF - "L’agence de financement des infrastructures de transport de France", a public body that is responsible for central government expenditure on railways, roads, inland waterways and ports. 160 million (US$196 million) to regional and local government.  
 - 250 million Euro (US$306 million) per annum consists of operating costs.
- The remainder will be to recover the 600 million Euro (US$735 million) capital costs over the period of the concession, which is 11.5 years.
-  About 550,000 French and 250,000 foreign trucks are expected to be users of the tolled network.
-  It is expected the tax will increase the cost per tonne of transporting freight in France by 2.9%.

A zoomable map of the taxed network is available here.

It is due to be operational as of mid 2013.

Actual tax charges are NOT published yet, but the range appears to be from (Euro) 0.025c/km (US$0.03) to 0.20c/km (US$0.25) according to a French presentation from the MEDDTL (government body responsible) with weight and emissions class being the key determinants.


The French Ecotax is essentially a way to make money from trucks using the government owned highway network, which are currently priced off of the private and publicly owned tolled motorways.  It is to generate new revenue, particularly from foreign lorries that enter France from Spain, Italy and Germany, some of which are avoiding the heavy vehicle distance charging systems in Germany and Switzerland as well as the French toll motorways.  It essentially "plugs the gap" in charging trucks to use France's highways.

The cost of collection, including the recovery of the cost of capital is 25.8% of the total revenue.  This is high, and this figure will do little to encourage take up of such systems elsewhere.  Given that technology has moved on substantially since the Swiss LSVA was introduced in 2001 and the Germany LKW-Maut in 2005, I'm surprised that costs are being claimed as so high.  A technologically robust path has been adopted, as it replicates much of what is done in Germany.  However, I'd be surprised if those costs are realistic after about 4-5 years of operation.  Costs may be closer to 50% of revenue in the first year and 30% in the second, but in the long run it should be closer to 10% (as users become familiar with the system and the initial installation, publicity and enforcement efforts are better matched to ongoing renewal rather than one off inauguration).

I have figures for other systems, and will endeavour to publish those in due course in order to get a better comparison of  relative costs.

Other ways of looking at the costs:
Average capital and operating costs of 355 Euro per truck per annum
EUR0.03 per km in capital and operating costs

*  Diesel tax in France is determined by regional governments which may vary it between EUR0.4284 and EUR0.4169 per litre, with a EUR0.0135 surcharge to fund certain projects being optional.


  1. Yet ANOTHER flippin tax on the transport industry!!!!!!!!!!!

  2. Its about time the UK government woke up and introduced a similar
    tax on the foreign trucks coming here, they bring their own food, and
    do not buy fuel.

  3. Anonymous 2: It is. Read this