• German campaign puts pressure on EU for meaningful revision of Eurovignette rule

    More than 2000 people have responded to an initiative by T&E’s German member organisation VCD which seeks to get Germany’s lorry charge extended beyond the existing motorway network to all roads.


    The campaign, called “Stop Charge Evasion”, began seven months ago, just three months after the charge on lorries using the German motorway network and other roads of motorway standard was introduced. It asked anyone who thought a road had gained in heavy goods traffic since the introduction of the charge to fill in a questionnaire, so the VCD could investigate whether limiting the charge to just motorways was driving traffic onto lesser roads.

    The VCD’s chairman Michael Gehrmann said: “It is clear lots of heavy lorries are using smaller routes to avoid the charge. The result is more noise and emissions, as well as a heightened risk of accidents. The only way to solve the problem is to make the charge applicable to all roads.”

    The VCD’s campaign is aimed at two targets: the incoming German government, and the EU. At present the current Eurovignette directive dating from 1999 only allows distance-based charges to be levied on motorways and roads of motorway standard. But a draft revision of the directive currently going through the EU legislative procedure would allow a charge to be applied to all roads, though it would restrict the use the government could make of money raised by the charge.

    The action is also aimed at getting recognition that the charge would be legitimate for vehicles using a number of long-distance German roads below motorway standard, which would reduce some of the evasion.

    The VCD’s findings will help T&E’s work at EU level for a better Eurovignette directive. T&E views the Swiss model, in which lorries using all roads are charged, as a better model for the EU than one limited to motorways, as that leads to the people who most need relieving of traffic getting more of it as lorry drivers avoid paying the charge.

    In the run-up to the recent German election, there was much talk of a possible distance-based charge for cars, but this now looks unlikely to happen. The VCD’s spokesperson Gerd Lottsiepen said getting a car charge was not a priority. “It will happen some day,” he said, “but there are other ways of reducing the environmental impact of car travel which are more important short-term priorities, such as fuel tax and a car tax differentiated by Euro emissions categories.”

    • Efforts in Germany to require all cars and lorries to be labeled according to their emissions of fine particles (PM10) have come to a standstill as a result of September’s election. A draft law, aimed at being an enabling measure to allow urban authorities to ban the more polluting diesel vehicles from city centres when air pollution is high, had to be abandoned, but it is expected to reappear when a new government is formed.

    This news story is taken from the November 2005 edition of T&E Bulletin.