Road use charges: reforms aim to improve fairness and environmental protection

Toll station

MEPs aim to make road user charges fairer and more environmentally friendly ©AP Images/European Union-EP.

This article is brought to you in association with the European Parliament.

EU countries imposing time-based road use charges will need to switch to distance-based ones for trucks and buses from 2023 and cars from 2026, under draft rules adopted today.

The Transport Committee amendments, voted on Thursday, aim to help meet EU emission reduction targets for the transport sector.and make road user charges fairer.

These rules would govern charges that EU member states already impose or introduce on trans-European transport network roads.

Key changes made by Transport Committee MEPs

Environmental protection

  • To ensure that vehicles are charged according to actual road use and the pollution they generate, road charging imposed by member states would need to become distanced-based from 2026 for passenger cars (two years earlier than the EU Commission had proposed) and  from 2023 for heavy-duty vehicles and goods vans over 2.4 tonnes (one year earlier)
  • To encourage use of environmentally-friendly vehicles, EU countries would need to set different road charging rates based on CO2 emissions and charges for zero-emission trucks would have to be 50% below the lowest rate.
  • From 2021, “external cost” charges for traffic-based air or noise pollution would need to be applied to heavy-duty vehicles and goods vans on tolled roads.

Fairness

  • To ensure fair treatment of all hauliers, from 2020 road charging would need to be applied to all heavy-duty vehicles (current rules allow EU countries to exempt heavy-duty vehicles under 12 tonnes and buses and coaches) and goods vans
  • The rules would allow countries to set discounts, e.g. for frequent users of light vehicles in the areas of dispersed settlements and the outskirts of cities
  • Until the switch from time-based to distance-based charges takes place, the draft rules set limits to the short-term charges that can be imposed on drivers from other member states (MEPs also want “vignette” stickers to be available for shorter periods of one day and one week).
  • Revenue from distance-based charges would have to be invested in transport projects.

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