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European Commission - Press release

Road charging: Heavy lorries to pay for costs of air and noise pollution

EU Transport Commissioner Siim Kallas welcomed the vote by European Parliament today, giving its final approval to proposals for new EU rules to allow Member States to charge heavy lorries, not only for the costs of infrastructure which is currently the case, but also to levy an additional charge to cover the cost or air and noise pollution The revision of the current "Eurovignette Directive" will also enable Member States to better manage problems of congestion, with a new flexibility to vary the charge for heavy lorries (by up to 175%) at different times of the day. Importantly the vote also provides for "earmarking" so new charging revenues ar set aside for investment to improve transport infrastructure (TEN-T) projects.

Siim Kallas, Vice-President of the European Commission responsible for Transport, said "This vote seals a deal on new EU wide rules so that heavy lorries can pay the full costs of the noise and air pollution they cause. These new EU rules will send the right price signals to operators so they will invest more in efficient logistics, less polluting vehicles and more sustainable transport at large. They also give Member States new tools to fight congestion with possibilities to vary charges at different times of the day to get heavy lorries off the roads at peak periods. This is a very important step forwards."

The current rules

The 1999 "Eurovignette" Directive on charging heavy goods vehicles for the use of infrastructure sets an EU framework for the levying of road charges on heavy goods. The Directive authorises, but does not oblige, Member States to levy ‘user charges’ (time-based charges, eg per day, per week, per year) or tolls (distance-based charges e.g. per kilometre) on lorries above 3.5 tonnes - small lorries - provided that it does not result in any discrimination and that the charges are set at a level which does not exceed the recovery of costs of which are strictly necessary to maintain and replace the road infrastructure.

The 1999 "Eurovignette Directive" prohibits the recovery of other costs, e.g. the so-called external costs such as air pollution and noise costs currently borne by society at large and tax payers. That is why it needs to be revised.

The new proposals

The new rules approved by the Parliament today will:

  • Give Member States the option to charge heavy lorries to cover the costs of air and noise pollution from traffic emissions, and not only charges to cover the cost of the infrastructure.

  • Give Member States the possibility to charge higher tariffs during peak periods and lower tariffs during off-peak periods in order to better manage traffic and reduce congestion. The compromise agreed allows higher tariffs in congested areas of up to 175% above the average tariff, with top tariffs collected during a maximum of five peak hours per day and lower tariffs applying during the rest of the time on the same road section.

In practice, the external cost charges would represent 3-4 ct/km depending on the Euro class of the vehicle, the location of the roads and the level of congestion. The charge will have to be collected by the electronic systems foreseen to be fully interoperable at EU level by 2012 and a receipt clearly stating the amount of the external cost charge will be given to the hauliers so that they can pass on the cost to their clients.

    - Extends the scope of the Eurovignette Directive so that not only the TEN-T network (Trans-European Network) is covered as is currently the case, but also all motorways across Europe are covered.

    - Earmark revenues from tolls to improve transport sustainability. The new rules will provide a strong incentive to set aside new revenues from charging to finance certain types of transport projects defined in the Directive such as alternative infrastructure, innovative clean transport systems or safe parking areas. To apply this provision, Member States can also decide to earmark 15% of the total revenue collected (from both infrastructure charges and external cost charges) to projects on the trans-European network. There is also a transparent reporting back obligationas Member States will have to report regularly on how the total revenues of tolls are used.

    Special provision is made for mountain areas which will be allowed to simultaneously apply the existing mark-up and the new external cost charges for Euro 0, I and II vehicles and for Euro III vehicles as from 2015. The extra revenues will have to be spent on financing TEN-T priority projects situated on the same TEN-corridor (compulsory "mini-earmarking").

    There is a "rendez-vous clause" to keep the issue of "polluter pays" and internalisation of external costs under constant review. It allows the Commission to produce reports on the further internalisation of external costs, including in other transport modes, for other vehicles and to ensure a more harmonised approach. The reports are due respectively 12 and 48 months after the entry into force of the Directive. The Commission can, if necessary, make new legislative proposal on the basis of these reports.

Next steps

The Council, will give formal approval to the compromise deal before the summer. After that Member States will have two years at the latest to transpose the legislation before it applies.

For more detailed background on the Eurovignette Directive and the internalisation of external costs see also MEMO/11/378 and MEMO/08/492.

The full package is available at:

Contacts :

Helen Kearns (+32 2 298 76 38)

Dale Kidd (+32 2 295 74 61)

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