The revised directive breaks new ground in the sense that it allows for certain external costs to be charged for (air and noise pollution, and congestion), but it does not allow member states to charge for the costs of climate changing emissions from lorries. Lorries can also be charged for such externalities on all motorways, rather than just roads belonging to the trans-European transport network.
The Eurovignette directive, which applies to all lorries over 3.5 tonnes unless member states choose to start at 12 tonnes, was adopted when ministers accepted the amendments voted by MEPs in June. It must be transposed into national law within two years.
The directive does not force any country to charge hauliers for road use, but discussions about introducing charges for road users are already taking place in a growing number of countries. Copenhagen could well get a congestion charge following the narrow victory of the centre-left parties in this month’s Danish general election, while Finland is developing a national road pricing scheme based on satellite technology, the aim being to replace plans to have a congestion charging scheme in the greater Helsinki area.
In July, Poland became the fifth EU member state to have a distance-based road charging scheme for lorries, while Spain is debating a lorry charge on its major roads. And next month, Portugal will extend its charges for motorway use from 1800km to 2400km of its 2700km motorway network, while shifting from so-called ‘shadow tolls’ to real ones.
The concept of road use charging has even reached China, where the authorities in Beijing say congestion fees are to be introduced on some roads to encourage more people to use public transport and reduce congestion.