Monday 20 December 2010

Swiss launch 2nd generation heavy vehicle OBU

Switzerland has the world's oldest electronic based distance road user charging scheme.  The LSVA (Leistungsabhängige Schwerverkehrsabgabe) was launched in 2001, and has the following essential features:
- All goods vehicles over 3.5 tonnes operating on Swiss roads must pay the LSVA distance charge (with few exemptions);
- Vehicles must pay for distance travelled on all public roads, not just motorways;
- The charge is based on gross laden weight, Euro engine (environmental) rating and distance travelled.

Distance is measured with an on board unit (OBU) connected to the vehicle's tachograph.  To avoid fraud (which can easily be undertaken by interfering with the tachograph signal) this is correlated with a GPS unit, which also helps to control the unit when vehicles enter and exit Switzerland.  Foreign vehicles without such units get their odometers measured at entrance and exit and are charged accordingly with a surcharge.

The distance measurement on the OBU is currently transmitted through a smart card which is removed from the OBU and either posted to the Swiss Federal Customs Administration or taken into offices where distance records are checked and payment is taken.

The 2nd generation OBU - Emotach - is to be available from 1 January 2011 with the intention that existing units are all replaced by the end of 2012.  According to Ertico the system supplier is Siemens Solutions and Services AG in Zurich, with sub-supplier Continental in Villingen/Schwenningen for the on-board unit. The new units have the following advantages:
- Greater security for units and smartcards;
- Multiple smartcards can be used so trailers can be more easily interchangeable;
- Bluetooth communication of data to cellphones or terminals, avoiding need to send or insert smartcards;
- Declaration available online;
- Data able to be produced in Microsoft Excel format.
Emotach Swiss distance charging OBU

In addition, it appears the units will be able to be used for the Austrian DSRC based ASFINAG heavy vehicle toll.

Information in more detail is on the Swiss Federal Customs Administration in German, French and Italian.
For heavy vehicle owners, the good news is that the cost of the unit replacement is being fully met by the system operator.   

The Swiss system deserves more attention, because it works well, applies across ALL roads and shows that it isn't bleeding edge technology that is needed.   Although the other side of all of this is that the system was expensive to set up, and that the main benefits for Switzerland have been revenue collected from foreign vehicles (and maintenance savings from reducing the use of its network).  Bear in mind that one of the key reasons the Swiss introduced the LSVA was to capture vehicles that used its roads to bypass French toll roads.

So whilst many consider how to introduce distance charging schemes, the Swiss quietly run one that works rather well.

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