Tolls discount a ‘watershed’ moment for green trucking

T&E has hailed a “watershed for green trucking” after EU lawmakers agreed to give significant incentives to hauliers operating zero-emission trucks. The measures, which affect tolls charged on heavy goods vehicles, will allow for 50% to 75% reductions for zero-emissions vehicles, and other measures aimed at cutting air pollution.

The new package of measures comes at the end of a long discussion on the future of the ‘Eurovignette’, the EU’s long-standing system governing road tolls and charges.

After four years of negotiations, a compromise has been made in which zero-emission trucks - electric and hydrogen - will get at least a 50% discount on tolls, or avoid CO2 charges that will be levied on fossil fuel trucks, by April 2023. Time-based charges will still be allowed in limited circumstances, but if any such charges remain on major highways after April 2024, they will have to be varied according to a vehicle’s CO2 emissions. To combat air pollution, trucks will also be tolled based on their EURO standard classification - whenever distance-based tolling is used.

T&E’s freight policy manager James Nix said: “This package of measures will make the polluter pay and is a watershed for green trucking. Hauliers who switch to emissions-free vehicles will slash their costs, creating an incentive to cut emissions from heavy goods vehicles. It reinforces the European Green Deal, and will spur on both the production and uptake of a whole new generation of cleaner trucks.” 

Annual tolling costs can reach up to €25,000 per truck, which can amount to around a quarter of the total cost of owning and running the vehicle. By operating a zero-emissions truck, a haulier will half what they pay for tolls, slashing their total overheads.

Nix added: “Rail will also gain thanks to this reform. Under the political agreement reached between governments and MEPs, air pollution charges become mandatory for trucks from 2025. This will make rail more attractive to companies moving goods.”

From 2026 vans and minibuses will also need to be tolled based on their environmental performance, unless a member state justifies to the Commission that it cannot vary these tolls for CO2 and air pollution.