• Eurovignette to return to EU agenda

    New rules on charging lorries for use of Europe’s roads could be agreed by the end of the year, after the Belgian government said it would bring the Eurovignette dossier back onto the agenda when it takes over the EU presidency in the second half of this year.

    Addressing Belgium’s Senate earlier this month, the country’s mobility minister Etienne Schouppe said Belgium was aiming for agreement on the Eurovignette by the end of its term, so that member states can put in place road charging systems that incorporate the external costs of road freight transport. Schouppe said internalising costs is ‘a key element of sustainable management of mobility’.

    Under the current Eurovignette directive on charging rules for road freight(agreed in 2006), member states can only charge for infrastructure costs. Member States are currently banned from charging lorries for environmental damage, accident costs, and congestion costs, although there is a directive which would allow these costs to be internalised for the railways.

    A proposed revision of the directive was published in July 2008, but was neglected by the Swedish and Spanish presidencies, reflecting a reticence in peripheral states to take measures addressing road haulage. Hence the significance of Belgium’s promise to bring it back to discussion.

    A study by the Commission’s Joint Research Centre in Seville, published in January, said the overall benefts of charging vehicles for their external costs by far outweigh the limited negative price impacts on individual transport operators.

    A study from the Netherlands says lorries that pass the EU’s Euro-V emissions limit for nitrogen oxides are much more polluting than is generally believed. The study by the Dutch consultancy TNO says its ‘new estimates of NOx emissions from trucks in common urban situations are three times higher than the corresponding emission limit, and much higher than real-world estimates based on laboratory tests as well.’ It says the NOx emission control only seems to function well at motorway speeds. The study adds to a growing bank of evidence suggesting a large discrepancy between test cycle readings and real on-road emissions.