Monday, October 28, 2013

Road Haulage and Freight Carriers Await Ecotaxe with Trepidation

Doubts Over Viability as Lobby Groups Press for Exemptions
Shipping News Feature

FRANCE – Our article in September covered the details (and delayed commencement) of the Ecotaxe, the French governments latest brainwave to gain income from road haulage and freight outfits and even linked to an explanatory video. Now, with the new January 1 deadline looming, it seems that the dramatic changes which will affect all international road carriers entering the initial charging zones, may yet be subject to a further delay with very few having yet fitted the essential on board equipment to calculate their ‘environmental cost’.

Marie Boyer is a well-known voice in the industry, the boss of France Line picked up Transportation Woman of the Year at the Network of Aspiring Women Awards two years ago for her achievements at the French road freight specialist company, and this week she spoke out on the effects of the new tax and how she sees things progressing, with every single trailer that may enter the charging zone at any point needing to be fitted with the relevant equipment and with no other way of paying the charge. The France Line managing director, said:

"We are told by our French hauliers that some have yet to receive their on-board units which calibrate mileage and taxable road use, because of the sheer volumes of hauliers who need approving. Others are experiencing delays on installation of these on-board units for the same reason. We know it will be a per-kilometre charge for heavy goods vehicles over 3.5 tonnes using the 10,500 km of French highways and around 5,000 km of secondary routes that are likely to receive significant displaced traffic. The specific fee can only be calculated by the on-board unit at the time of travel, as it monitors how far has been travelled on each taxable road using the rates per kilometre relevant to each road or region of France.

"The bill is issued after the journey, and we predict that it will cause real cash flow issues for the already beleaguered small haulier market. We have even heard of hauliers failing the registration requirements because of insufficient funds in the bank. Although at the moment the tax applies to all vehicles in excess of 3.5 tonnes, it is believed that some industries, such as the milk producers and construction industry are lobbying for concessions, these have yet to be agreed.

"We're all in favour of the government encouraging a reduction in empty running, and collaborative logistics. We specialise in full and part loads so we've been optimising our freight for years. It's just not right that these changes are being brought in hastily, nor that hauliers are being asked to be tax collectors."

To the many Francophobes who work in the road haulage industry and beyond this tax will look like nothing more than a cash cow to provide the salaries for the army of civil servants required to implement and collect it. The scheme may well spell the end for any ad hoc movements from smaller companies, affecting particularly specialist outfits such as removal firms who may only venture into the country once or twice a year. As such, the tax may well be viewed as a restriction of trade by the European authorities should anyone decide to challenge it, not for the levy itself, but for the restrictive application with no alternative method of payment for the one time user. A quick read through the Ecomouv site will confirm the labyrinthine mechanism compiled by the French legislators.