Charging of heavy goods vehicles for the use of certain infrastructures adopted

Date: 28, November 2018
At the plenary vote on October 25th in Strasbourg, MEPs adopted the draft rules with 398 in favour, 179 against and 32 abstentions. The rules will only apply to the 136.706km of trans-European transport network roads and motorways and only where road charges already apply.

From 2023, EU countries imposing time-based road charges (vignette) will need to switch to distance-based ones for trucks, busses and larger goods vans (over 2,4 tonnes). This is just one of the many initiatives adopted by the European Parliament on October 25th at the first reading on the revision of Directive 1999/62/EC on road infrastructure charges. According to the Parliament the new rules are to guarantee equal treatment of road users and will help member states reach CO2 emission reduction targets in the transport sector.

Further, existing articles have been changed and new made to pave the way towards safe and secure parking areas along the motorways.

According to the adopted text, all light and heavy-duty vehicles in the EU will eventually be charged depending on their actual road use and the pollution generated. Of course, this is to encourage the use of environmentally-friendly vehicles but also to make the costs of the environmental effects fairer. An element of the already applicable Directive is that member states may provide discounts or reductions on road charge for HDV’s and vans intended for carriage of goods in not densely populated areas and on the outskirts of cities. In the new text adopted by the Parliament, these discounts or reductions are increased from 13% to 20%. Also, a greater discount will be given to zero-emission vehicles which means that the road charge would be 50% below the lowest rate for these vehicle types. The Commission is also set to take account of emission reducing technologies when defining the reference values of CO2 emissions. Therefore, member states should allow users to benefit from a variation in toll charges that rewards the improved environmental performance of the vehicle, if conversion to alternative fuels has taken place.

The 15% mark-up member states can add
to the infrastructure charge levied on specific road sections stays in the adopted text. But the exception with cross-border sections of core network corridors - where member states today can add a mark-up not exceeding 25% – is now changed to cover mountainous areas where both infrastructure costs and climate- and environmental damage are higher. The new definition is also raising the mark-up to not exceed 50%.

It is also no surprise that the Parliament supports the Commission proposal, that revenues from infrastructure charges and external cost charges should be reinvested in the transport sector (ear-marking). In fact Parliament goes further and requests that revenue shall be used specifically for road maintenance and upkeep as well as safe and secure parkings. Experience shows however, that Council will not support such a proposal.

One of the amendments set to split the Parliament was amendment 172 tabled by EPP MEPs, advocating the exclusion of passenger cars from the scope of the Directive. This amendment was rejected by a large majority with 374 votes against 233 and the Parliament thereby supports the Commission’s proposing to include passenger in the scope of this Directive. To ensure occasional users and drivers from other EU countries (passenger cars), it was adopted that “vignette” stickers should be available for shorter periods of one day and one week.

Another important adoption is regarding the “external-cost charges”. From 2021, member states applying road use charges to HDV’s and larger goods vans, should also charge “external-cost charges” for traffic-based air or noise pollution. From 2026 onwards, if an ”external-cost charge” is applied on any section of the road, it should also apply to other vehicle categories; passenger cars included. This is a clear signal that the Parliament is taking into account all the effects of pollution – both traffic-based air and noise pollution making this Directive very ambitious.

The revenues from infrastructure charges and external cost charges are to increase due to these new rules, but to secure that these increased revenues are contributing based on their earnings, the new adopted text also specifies that these revenues not only should benefit the transport sector as the current Directive states, but more specifically shall be used to carry out road network maintenance and upkeep.

Last but not least the adopted text sets the Commission to produce an evaluation report assessing the market share of zero-emission vehicles and zero-emission operation 5 years after the entry into force of the directive. Here, the Commission is empowered to adopt delegated acts to recalculate the discount applicable to zero-emission vehicles compared to the lowest rate infrastructure charge.

The ball is now in the court of the Council of the European Union to find a common approach and start inter-institutional negotiations.