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  • Belgium starts new truck toll as HGVs’ €143bn cost to society revealed

    Belgium this week introduces a distanced-based truck toll as a new study reveals that trucks cost society €143 billion a year across the EU. The independent study for green transport group Transport & Environment (T&E) also found that trucks currently cover only 30% of these costs through taxation and charges. As the EU revises its road charging directive, T&E said Belgium’s road charging scheme is a fair way to ensure that trucks pay for a bigger share of the damage they cause.

    A typical highway truck would be charged between 13-15 cent per km in Belgium, which is similar to German levels but far below the 36 cent/km paid in Austria. One real innovation and a first for Europe is the differentiation between urban (Brussels) and interurban tolls that will encourage more efficient use of cleaner trucks in a city that suffers from heavy congestion and poor air quality. Belgium’s toll issues a challenge to the Netherlands – which is now a ‘no-toll island’ in Central Europe – to implement a similar system.

    Trucks account for around one-quarter of road transport’s climate emissions, which the new study found to cost €16.7 billion in global warming impacts. Furthermore, heavy-duty vehicles cause over 40% of transport NOx emissions in Europe, costing €15 billion mainly due to adverse health impacts. At €58 billion annually, road damage is European trucks’ biggest cost to society, the study found.

    Samuel Kenny, freight and climate officer at T&E, said: “Belgium is absolutely right to introduce a km-charge for trucks. Truck tolls are a great way to clean up the trucking fleet and improve efficiency in the haulage sector. But it’s also about fairness. It’s time for trucks to pay a much bigger part of the costs and damages they cause.”

    T&E said the EU should seek to lower trucks’ climate impact by differentiating truck tolls on the basis of their CO2 emissions when the European Commission revises the Eurovignette directive in late 2016 or early 2017. Also, time-based charges should be phased out for encouraging inefficiency – the more you drive the less you pay – and distance-based tolls introduced as they promote cleaner and more efficient logistics.

    Samuel Kenny concluded: “The Commission has a unique opportunity this year to make these CO2 reductions much greater by enabling countries to differentiate their tolls based on the fuel efficiency or carbon emissions of trucks.”

    The Commission should also increase the caps at which countries can charge trucks based on air pollution. This would enable countries to promote the uptake of cleaner vehicles.