• EU green light for lorry pollution charges

    The EU has reached an agreement on revised road charging rules for lorries (the Eurovignette directive) that would open the door for Member States to charge for air and noise pollution in road tolls but introduces a loophole for lorries under twelve tonnes. The deal was finalised last night in 'trialogue' discussions between the European Commission, Council and Parliament.

    [mailchimp_signup][/mailchimp_signup]Distance-based road charging schemes are already in operation in Austria, the Czech Republic, Germany and Slovakia. Poland will launch its scheme in July.
    Belgium, France, Hungary and Spain all have systems in the planning stages.
    Nina Renshaw, deputy director at Transport & Environment (T&E), said: “Distance-based road charging makes the transport sector smarter and more efficient.
    This agreement will enable EU countries to directly target the noisiest and most polluting lorries, which is a significant step forward. But it still forbids charges to cover the EUR 60 billion costs of climate change, congestion and accidents caused by lorries: that’s a wasted opportunity and is unnecessarily restrictive.”
    In a step backwards, a requirement in the existing directive for charges to apply to all lorries from 3.5 tonnes upwards from 2012 has been scrapped. Following pressure from Germany, Member States will now be able to give lorries under 12 tonnes a free ride, under certain conditions.
    Road freight is the transport sub-sector with the fastest growing greenhouse gas emissions (together with aviation and shipping) and imposes a disproportionate burden on the European population and the economy in terms of congestion, accidents, noise and air pollution.
    Renshaw commented: “EU countries are going to need much more flexibility to tackle the fastest growing sources of transport emissions, especially if they want to meet the EU’s recently announced 60% target for cutting transport emissions. Setting targets is all very well, but countries need tools like the Eurovignette to help them get there, not impose unnecessary restrictions.”
    Road pricing reduces the negative impacts of pollution, congestion and accidents, but also allows a shift of taxation away from labour and enterprise. The primary effect of distance-based lorry charging is to stimulate efficiency within the road freight sector, via improved load factors, reduced empty driving, route optimisation, avoidance of congested times, etc. Charging will stimulate a more efficient freight sector, better prepared for future challenges.
    The agreement between the three EU institutions now needs to be formally approved by Transport ministers and the full Parliament before becoming law.
    – A briefing on the effects of introducing road charging, based on the experience of Germany, Austria and the Czech Republic, is available here.
    The briefing is also available in
    French and German and Hungarian.