The benefits of road tolls

In May 2017, the European Commission is scheduled to review Directive 1999/62/EC for the third time since its inception. This piece of legislation, known commonly as the Eurovignette Directive, sets the parameters by which EU member states can toll trucks for their use of road infrastructure. This report by Fraunhofer ISI and the Polytechnic University of Madrid looks at the economic and environmental impacts that tolls have had in Germany and Spain since their introduction.

Germany and Spain were chosen for this study as both countries have strong logistics sectors and similar transport intensities with regard to ratio between tonne-km transported and GDP generated. Germany and Spain each have distance-based tolling systems, but to a different extent. Germany has an electronic toll that is applied on an extensive road network. Spain has some motorways that have a physical barrier toll.

If implemented correctly, tolls can have a positive impact on improving the logistic efficiency of freight transport. They can also encourage the purchasing of cleaner vehicles. Furthermore, tolls can be a large source of revenue for the public budget of a country. The EU give liberty to member states with regard to how such revenue is spent.

The upcoming review of the Eurovignette Directive provides the EU with an opportunity to encourage smart tolling. T&E wants CO2 differentiation to be promoted in road tolls and for time-based systems to be phased out. The caps that are defined in the annex to the Directive for air pollution should be increased to allow for countries to charge based on the real impact of such emissions. Lastly, the increase of van use as a means to avoid EU legislation should be prevented by extending the scope of the Directive to vans that are used for the professional transport of freight.