Europe votes to tax truck air and noise pollution

IRU seethes as European Parliament green light means move now goes to member states

By Rob McKay | June 9, 2011

At a time when road charging remaining a hot-button topic in this country, the European Parliament has moved to tax truck-related air and noise pollution.

The European Parliament voted, in a second reading agreement between the European Parliament and the Council in Strasbourg yesterday, to revise Eurovignette road haulage tax rules to make it possible for member states to charge hauliers for air and noise pollution costs, in addition to motorway tolls.

There will be limited exemption for Euro5- and Euro 6-compliant vehicles to 2014 and 2018 respectively.

Member states will have to vote on the new law within three months.

The move gained support across the political spectrum in the Parliament but was opposed by the International Road and Transport Union (IRU), which says the vote turns the Eurovignette into a "heavy, additional new tax" to be paid by EU citizens for any road freight service, which will penalise the EU economy and job creation with no environmental benefits.

It pointed out that the new text did not require the mandatory earmarking that could "effectively reduce at-source the externalities produced by commercial road transport".

"While the road transport industry is strongly committed to further greening its services, this new tax imposed on road transport services through the Eurovignette Directive will actually impede operators from investing in and implementing the best technologies and techniques crucial to further green road transport and meet the CO2 reduction target," IRU EU Goods Transport Liaison Committee President Alexander Sakkers says.

However, Centre-Right EPP Group member Corien Wortmann-Kool took a view common amongst Euro-politicians, saying: "The first step in implementing the ‘polluter pays’ principle has been taken by putting forward the right incentives to enhance the sustainability of the transport sector in Europe."

It was also backed by the Conservatives and Reformers group and Left-wingers.

Eurovignette taxes trucks of 12 tonnes or more in mainland central and western states of the European Union (EU).

There will be no additional congestion charges.

They will be replaced by a toll variation.

"Toll variations will be allowed up to 175 percent, with top tariffs during a maximum of five hours per day and lower tariffs applying the rest of the day," Wortmann-Kool says.

"This will be applied on the same road section and should be revenue neutral.

"This will encourage heavy trucks to avoid certain road stretches during peak hours."

The proposed framework leaves it up to member states to decide whether or not to opt for the common charging principles.

The directive is aimed at ensuring that revenue raised is used to improve the performance of transport systems and cut pollution, the Socialists and Democrats Group says.

On average, 3 to 4 euro cents per vehicle/km may be added to charges for using transport infrastructure to cover the external costs of road haulage, starting with air and noise pollution.

The directive will cover not only trans-European transport networks, but all motorways, and will apply to vehicles of over 3.5 tonnes.

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