Road tolls cleaner trucks

Lawmakers agree new road tolls to incentivise switch to cleaner trucks

European hauliers will slash their costs by driving trucks that reduce carbon and air pollution under a new tolling system agreed by EU lawmakers last night. From 2023, emissions-free trucks will get at least half off road tolls while fossil-fuel trucks will be charged based on their CO2 emissions and air pollution, with more efficient heavy-goods vehicles paying less. Transport & Environment (T&E) said the new Eurovignette law will speed up the transition to zero-emissions freight and help clean up the air we breathe.

Today annual tolling costs can reach up to €25,000 per truck, or one-quarter of the total cost of owning and running the vehicle. But zero-emission trucks, electric and hydrogen, will get at least a 50% discount on tolls by April 2023, under the legislation agreed by governments and MEPs last night.

James Nix, freight policy manager at T&E, said: ‘Making the polluter pay is a watershed for green freight. Fossil-fuel trucks will have to pay more if they emit more, and hauliers who switch to emissions-free vehicles will slash their costs. The incentive to cut air pollution from heavy-goods vehicles will be particularly felt in our choked cities.’

EU countries can even give discounts of up to 100% for zero-emissions lorries, as is already the case in Germany, until the end of 2025. After 2025, countries can offer discounts of between 50% and 75%, as is already the case in Austria. 

Rail also gains in this reform, T&E said. Member States will need to introduce revenue-neutral CO2 charges, or apply an external cost for CO2, while air pollution charges become mandatory – making rail more attractive.

Air pollution charges for trucks must be applied where distance-based tolling is used. Today only four member states charge trucks for their air pollutants. T&E said making air pollution charges mandatory is a comprehensive victory for the long-standing aim to recover costs from activity that damages human health and the environment. 

Countries with toll roads under concession contracts can exempt these tolls from both CO2 and air pollution based-charging, but only until these contracts are renewed or substantially amended. 

Trucks are responsible for 23% of the EU’s CO2 emissions from road transport and, according to data from Copenhagen, London and Paris, more than 20% of road vehicle NOx emissions.