Tuesday, November 11, 2014

EU Road Toll Management Regulation Would Affect Road Haulage Freight Interests

Light Commercials May be Better or Worse Off When New Transport Commissioner Decides Policy on Europe Wide Regulation
Shipping News Feature

EUROPE – At a brief hearing on road charging schemes last week, the European Commission announced it will take measures to impose regulation on road toll schemes throughout the Community if it decides they will then be more acceptable to travellers. Road tolls are seen by many governments as a sensible way to fund infrastructure but can cause spiralling costs both for individuals and the road haulage operators charged with moving vital freight across the Continent on light commercial vehicles.

Road tolls are of course a common factor of many European motorway journeys but a raft of new schemes planned for next year in Norway, Sweden and Belgium, to add to new toll roads already established this year in the UK and Hungary and Latvia, have brought the matter to the EU Parliament’s Transport Committee’s attention.

One of the complaints raised was that of discrimination, Germany has proposed to charge every driver for using the Autobahns but to credit domestic users via a car tax refund for the journeys which they make. This is clearly discriminatory but, as a draft proposal, the Hearing deemed it inadmissible although outgoing Transport Commissioner Siim Kallas did make a statement prior to the hearing saying all drivers should be treated equally presumably to head off the anticipated criticism of avoiding the German issue.

Under current regulations, tolls for HGVs are regulated Europe-wide but smaller forms of transport, including private cars and vans, come under national jurisdiction as far as charges are concerned. The meeting ended divided on the subject of whether the matter be regulated by the Commission and therefore the job will be left to incoming Transport Commissioner Violeta Bulc, who took office just a couple of weeks ago.

Presentations were made to the hearing from a succession of what could be seen as vested interests often putting the case for ‘user pays’. These included French representations from Lauriane Krid, Policy Director at Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA), who said each state should have the benefit of tailoring their own schemes rather than having instruction from Brussels whilst you can download and view four case study .pdf files HERE from the meeting presentations from another French interest, Mr Jean Mesqui Executive Director of French ‘Defenders of the Toll Industry’, ASFA; Mr Hubert Resch MD at ASFINAG which takes a similar line for German interests, Spanish group ABERTIS which manages tolls worldwide represented by Chief Technology Officer, Mr Carlos Pitarque and Mr Steve Newsome, Head of International and European Affairs at Transport for London (TfL).

One voice in particular was raised against the very principal of road tolling as Jill Seymour MEP for the UK Independence Party, speaking on behalf of the Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy group (EFDD), said the people of the UK had objected to a system which would effectively mean that everyone in the EU would have their journeys tracked. The West Midlands MEP pointed out the views of almost two million British people who signed a petition against road charging and the 75% who had rejected congestion charging in a referendum held in several cities.

Ms Seymour went on to point out that road use was already heavily taxed with fuel duty which effectively charges for distances travelled. She said the imposition of road tolls was an ‘attack on democracy’ with EU representatives prepared to impose a charge which the vast majority of the public was opposed to. The speech can be viewed HERE.

Photo: Ms Seymour delivering her speech to the EU Parliament.