Mobility policy

    Adjusting the truck toll to the climate

    Since 2017, there has been a truck toll on German highways (autobahn) and state highways. Now the directive is to be revised. The devil is in the details.

    Since 2017, there has been a truck toll on German highways (autobahn) and state highways. Now the directive is to be revised. The devil is in the details.

    The toll

    The truck toll was introduced on highways (autobahn) in Germany in 2005. Since 2017, it has been extended to apply to all state highways. Toll revenues of 7.5 billion euros are expected for 2021. The basis for the truck toll under European law is the EU Toll Directive ("Eurovignette Directive"), and in 2017 the EU Commission proposed a revision of this directive. The European Parliament completed its first reading on this in October 2018. Following an agreement also involving the Council of Transport Ministers in December 2020, negotiations are currently taking place between the Parliament, the Council, and the Commission on the final resolution.

    The VDA supports the revision of the directive in principle, even if the Commission's proposal contains a number of problematic points. For example, the Commission wants to allow member states to also charge congestion costs via the toll. However, congestion costs are already borne by road users in the form of lost time and detours, and an added charge via the toll would represent a double burden on road traffic. The VDA is in favor of allowing the member states a certain flexibility in the design of the toll. Member states should, for instance, be able to decide for themselves whether they want to include buses in the toll. In the VDA's view, however, the key point in the amendment is the future possibility of aligning the toll with the trucks' CO₂ emissions. Since this is of central importance to commercial vehicle manufacturers, the Parliament and Council should reach an agreement on this as quickly as possible.

    CO2 toll as impulse for key investment

    Differentiating the toll according to CO₂ emissions from trucks could serve as an important impulse for investments in zero- and low-emission vehicles. The previous toll differentiation according to EURO emission levels has already shown that the toll can provide effective incentives for investment. For the foreseeable future, zero-emission trucks will be significantly more expensive to purchase than conventional trucks. Thus, to operate zero-emission trucks economically and ensure market ramp-up, the appropriate conditions must be created – including a CO₂ toll. The market ramp-up of zero-emission trucks is central to meeting the EU's CO₂ fleet limits for heavy trucks by 2025 and 2030. In its climate protection program, the German government has set itself the target of implementing the CO₂ toll in 2023. This objective is supported by the commercial vehicle industry, providing the EU makes its decision in time.

    Retain the revenue for its real purpose

    In the VDA's view, it is also crucial that the current close earmarking of toll revenues for federal trunk roads be retained. The average toll amount is based on the costs of building, maintaining, and operating the roads. It therefore goes without saying that the resultant revenues should then also flow back into the road infrastructure and not be used for other modes of transport or even unrelated expenditures, which would have a detrimental effect on user acceptance.

    No blanket road toll

    Finally, in the VDA's opinion, there is no reason to extend the truck toll beyond the network of federal highways to other roads such as state, district, and municipal roads. The revenues from vehicle and energy taxes on trucks are more than sufficient to cover these road costs. Nor can a toll on the subordinate network contribute to the politicians' desired shift of traffic to rail, which is totally unsuitable for distribution traffic. An extension of the toll would thus only lead to an additional cost for the economy and to a locational disadvantage for Germany. In most European countries, truck tolls are only levied on highways.

    Dr. Michael Niedenthal
    Contact person

    Dr. Michael Niedenthal

    Head of Transport Policy Department

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