Trucks’ €143bn cost to society not being repaid – study

Trucks cost society €143 billion a year across the EU through damage to infrastructure and health as well as congestion, climate change and other effects. The impact of heavy-duty vehicles is assessed in a new independent study for T&E which also finds that only 30% of these costs are covered by fuel excise duties, vehicle taxes and infrastructure charges.

Trucks, which account for around one-quarter of road transport’s climate emissions, cost €17 billion in global warming impacts, according to the study. Heavy-duty vehicles’ air pollution impacts are assessed, mainly due to health effects. Trucks cause more than 40% of transport NOx emissions in Europe. Their biggest cost is €58 billion a year in road damage across Europe.

T&E said the EU should seek to lower trucks’ climate impact by differentiating truck tolls on the basis of their CO2 emissions when the European Commission revises the road-charging, or Eurovignette, directive in late 2016 or early 2017. Also, time-based charges should be phased out for encouraging inefficiency – the more you drive the less you pay – and distance-based tolls introduced as they promote cleaner and more efficient logistics.

Samuel Kenny, freight and climate officer at T&E, said: ‘The Commission has a unique opportunity this year to make these CO2 reductions much greater by enabling countries to differentiate their tolls based on the fuel efficiency or carbon emissions of trucks.’

T&E also said the EU should increase the caps at which countries can charge trucks based on air pollution. This would enable countries to promote the uptake of cleaner vehicles.

The study was published as Belgium introduced a distanced-based truck toll, which T&E welcomed as a fair way to ensure that trucks pay for a bigger share of the damage they cause. The new road-charging scheme tolls a typical highway truck at between 13-15 cent per km in Belgium, which is similar to German truck-toll levels but far below the 36 cent/km paid in Austria.

Belgium’s scheme also has a higher toll for Brussels than interurban areas to encourage more efficient use of cleaner trucks in a city that suffers from heavy congestion and poor air quality. This urban-interurban differentiation is a first for Europe. Belgium’s toll also issues a challenge to its neighbour Holland – which is now a ‘no-toll island’ in Central Europe – to implement a similar system.

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