Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Truck tolls/HGV road user charging in the European Union

Heavy Goods Vehicle tolling in the European Union
So which EU countries charge trucks (defined as goods vehicles over 3.5 tonnes Gross Laden Weight) to drive on their roads?

The European Commission has published this interesting map depicting the EU Member States that have road pricing for heavy goods vehicles.  It classifies countries into six groups:

- Vignettes (a charge based on pre-paying for access to the network for a period ranging from one day to one year).  At present Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary and Lithuania have national vignette systems for trucks.  Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg share the "Eurovignette", which is a single common vignette that provides access across all of those countries (so is genuinely "interoperable").  In three of those countries (Denmark, Belgium and Hungary), these systems are subject to plans to replace them.  Already Germany, Austria, Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia have abandoned them in favour of electronic tolling.

- Countries developing vignette systems.  At present, the UK and Latvia are both developing vignette systems for trucks.

- Electronic network wide tolling (with distance charging) In the US this might be called "VMT".  This covers both GPS based and DSRC based distance tolling.   It includes the well known examples in Germany, Austria and the Czech Republic, along with the more recent examples of Slovakia and Poland.  However, it also includes Portugal, which is a slight surprise.  Portugal doesn't quite have a nationwide network of tolling across all major highways, but many of its major motorways are tolled on the fully electronic Via Verde system.   It would appear that Portugal is included because it has a far higher preponderence of fully electronic tolling compared to Spain, Italy and France (which are more similar).   Portugal's system, but it is not on a network scale like most of the other examples.  

- Countries developing electronic network wide tolling.  Denmark, Belgium, France and Hungary are included in this list.  France is the most advanced, but will only be applying to existing untolled state owned motorways.  I will be writing more about Belgium and Denmark shortly as further details have been recently released.  Hungary has been more problematic, not least because the Hungarian government has had an on/off relationship with progressing this issue.

- Manual tolls.  This seems to only include countries with significant amounts of tolling, as it includes Ireland, France, Spain, Italy, Slovenia and Greece only.   Given quite a few countries have manual tolling, it is more a case of those for which manual tolls are regularly used on major highways, rather than incidental.

- No tolls.  At present this includes Finland and Estonia (with Latvia and the UK also included but developing vignette systems).

As you can see, there are three clear policy options regarding truck tolling adopted by most EU Member States. The clear trends are to either have extensive conventional (manual) tolled highway networks, or to charge for access to their networks either by time or distance.

Footnote:  It's worth noting for readers outside Europe, that the obvious big blanks in the map (notably Switzerland and Norway) are for countries that are not Member States of the European Union.  However, Switzerland does have an electronic network wide tolling system for trucks, and Norway has an extensive system of toll roads across the country.   Croatia is likely to become an EU Member State shortly.   Malta and Cyprus do not have truck toll systems although both are EU Member States.

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