Revising "Eurovignette" road haulage tax rules will make it possible for Member States to charge hauliers for air and noise pollution costs, in addition to motorway tolls. A directive approved by Parliament on Tuesday will ensure that revenue from these charges is used to improve the performance of transport systems and cut pollution.
In the debate, Said El Khadraoui (S&D, BE), who is steering the legislation through Parliament, said that the compromise reached marks a cornerstone for the next decade of European transport policy as it "offers for the first time the possibility to Member States to charge external costs (...) and to make best use of a wide range of toll variations to improve mobility."
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 (TEN-T) networks, but all motorways, and will apply to vehicles of over 3.5 tonnes. If a Member State wishes to grant exemptions for vehicles of up to 12 tonnes, then it must notify the European Commission of the reasons why..
In exchange, Member States firmly commit themselves to invest 15% of overall revenue in TEN-T networks. The remaining amounts should be used to reduce damage to the environment and develop all transport systems sustainably. To promote transparency and public debate, MEPs inserted in the law a requirement that Member States report regularly to the Commission on the charges imposed and the use made of revenue from them.
Fleet renewal incentives
Lorries with the least-polluting engines will be exempt from air pollution charges until 1 January 2014 (EURO V emission class), and until 1 January 2018 for EURO VI. In sensitive and mountainous regions, the existing "mark-up" of up to 25% may continue to apply and may be added to the external costs charged for lorries in the heaviest pollution classes (EURO 0 to II). It may also be extended to the EURO III class from 1 January 2015.
Avoiding traffic jams
To manage traffic flows more effectively without generating more revenue, charges may be varied by up to 175% in congested areas, with the highest charges applying during five rush hours, and lower rates at all other times. To enable hauliers to calculate their costs and plan routes, the European Commission will make available a list of charges and the times whey they apply throughout the EU.
The new Eurovignette rules, approved with 505 votes in favour, 141 against and 17 abstentions, still need to be formally approved by EU Member States.
Procedure: Co-decision (2nd reading)