France’s national Court of Auditors has been fiercely critical of the country’s government and MPs for allowing the French heavy goods ‘ecotax’ to be abandoned. The tax was first suggested as part of an exploration of environmental ideas in 2008 and approved by MPs in 2009, but in November it was abandoned after a series of protests. The Court of Auditors says that the decision was ‘a strategic failure’ and ‘a mess’ that will damage the public finances and the credibility of the country’s transport policy.
The German state of Schleswig-Holstein says it will pioneer a 6km stretch of electronic highway by the end of 2018. As part of its efforts to reduce the environmental impact of goods being transported by road, it says it will dedicate part of the A1 motorway between Reinfeld and Lübeck to be used by lorries powered by electricity via overhead cables.
Fears that a new diesel emissions scandal is already happening across much of Europe have resurfaced following a documentary on German television. The scandal is believed to involve around 20% of lorries operating from eastern Europe, and is generating around 14,000 tonnes of additional nitrogen oxides, making it twice the size of the ‘Dieselgate’ scandal in the US that involved the German carmaker Volkswagen.
If done correctly, charging road users for their use of road infrastructure can contribute to the reduction of emissions from the transport sector. The European Commission is currently preparing its proposal for the review of the Eurovignette directive, which sets the parameters by which member states can toll roads. This revision provides an ample opportunity to link the Directive with Europe’s ambition to transition to low-emission mobility.
Transport ministers from eight countries have united to demand new EU-wide standards for vehicle safety. Safer vehicles, such as trucks with improved direct vision to eradicate blind spots, need to be rolled out fast, the governments – which include those of France, Germany and Italy – told internal market commissioner Elżbieta Bieńkowska in a letter. In 2015, 26,000 Europeans died in traffic accidents but the number of fatalities has stagnated since 2013 – despite the EU demanding that member states halve the number of road deaths by 2020.
Germany’s transport minister Alexander Dobrindt used the Christmas break to silently legalise the use of megatrucks. Also known as gigaliners, the combination vehicles are up to 25.25m long can weigh up to 60 tonnes. But state secretary at the environment ministry, Jochen Flasbarth, is vocally opposing the move, saying megatrucks’ impact on the environment and on rail transport had not yet been sufficiently examined. He added that the decision is incompatible with EU law.
The European Commission has outlined its plans for new car and truck safety rules. Under the Commission's plans new cars would be fitted with intelligent speed assistance and emergency braking systems. For trucks, the Commission plans to introduce the world's first-ever direct vision standard to tackle truck blind spots. The new rules will be proposed as legislation in the summer of 2017 and would apply to all vehicles sold in the European Union. T&E welcomes the Commission's plans but warns that direct vision trucks must hit the road well before 2028.
By William Todts, freight and climate directorWHAT WE LEARNED IN 2016: “So what did you learn in 2016? And could you write a blog about it?" asked our communications officer.Silence. My God, where do I start, I thought. First Brexit, then Trump, and before all that there were people bombed on the metro in my hometown. What a year! But I can't write a doom and gloom Christmas blog.Then somehow I started thinking about this one thing that had really surprised me. A year ago I was campaigning to get the EU to introduce truck CO2 standards and, frankly, things weren’t looking great. Yes, there had been the Paris agreement, but still the odds were stacked against us. The Commission just didn't want to budge and the truck industry seemed all-powerful.