Heavy goods vehicles make up just 3% of total road vehicles and 7% of total vehicle kilometres, but the report by the Dutch consultants CE Delft shows they are responsible for 20% of the congestion, twice the number of road deaths per kilometre than passenger cars, and that their carbon dioxide emissions will increase by 54% by 2030.
The significance of the report comes not just in the timing – the draft proposals to revise the rules on what countries can charge lorry companies are currently going through the EU legislative process – but also in the disproportionate contribution by road haulage to environmental and safety problems.
Some MEPs have said the proposed changes to the Eurovignette directive are unfair to the road haulage industry because of the size of the overall vehicle fleet, but the impact is vastly greater than the size, which in turn means the impact of tackling the damage caused by trucks would be effective.
To environmental groups, the proposed changes do not go far enough. Under current rules, governments are banned from charging road hauliers more than the cost of road infrastructure. Under the proposed changes, they could charge hauliers for the costs of pollution, noise and congestion caused by lorries, but not for climate change or accidents.
The leading international hauliers’ association IRU said road freight transport has cut ‘toxic emissions’ by ‘up to 97%’ and already pays for 99% of its externalities. But the CE Delft research rejects this, saying the income in the EU from taxes and charges (€54 billion) only just covers the overall infrastructure costs (€51bn).
T&E director Jos Dings said: ‘It’s not even as if the proposed revision of the Eurovignette directive will make charges to cover external costs obligatory. It is only an ‘enabling’ directive which says what member states can and can’t charge for – national governments will have the final decision on whether they charge for external costs. Truckers are getting a free ride while causing misery for millions, so governments must be allowed to keep every option open when tackling massive problems like congestion.
‘The EU must reverse its absurd ban on including these costs in road tolls for lorries.’
As T&E Bulletin went to press, MEPs on the European Parliament’s transport committee voted to water down the Eurovignette proposal by adding a clause that would only permit states to charge lorries for congestion when cars are also subject to such charges.
The revision of the Eurovignette directive was proposed in July, eight months after the Commission had finally agreed to the principle of allowing governments to charge for more than simply the costs of road building and maintenance. With both the Commission’s and Parliament’s terms of office due to end in June, the legislation is unlikely to be concluded before the autumn.
MEPs have given final approval to ‘Euro VI’ air pollution limits for new lorries and buses sold in Europe from 2012-13. The limits affect particulate matter, nitrogen oxides, hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide and ammonia. T&E says the discrepancy between vehicle test cycles and the real pollution vehicles cause makes monitoring of pollutant levels essential.