The so-called Eurovignette Directive for calculating environmental costs in the HGV tolls is being met by a lot of interest among the EU delegates: around 530 amendments have been filed in the Transport Committee of the European Parliament. It also appears, however, that the MEPs have conflicting ideas in some areas. This is one reason why the vote planned for this week in the Transport Committee had to be postponed.
In its draft directive the Commission proposed including the costs for air pollution, noise and congestion in the HGV toll. So far only the infrastructure costs have been contained in the toll.

As the discussion in the Transport Committee this week showed, there are different approaches between the fractions:
  • Congestion charges: The Social Democrats (PES)/the responsible rapporteur El Khadraoui want to include congestion costs in the toll, as do the Liberals and the Greens. The European People’s Party (EVP) can only envisage congestion charges when passenger cars would also have to pay because these also cause congestion. If the congestion charges are not implemented, this would be particularly controversial: the congestion costs, with up to 80%, account for the lion’s share of the external costs which can be levied according to the Commission.
  • Additional inclusion of CO2 emissions in the HGV toll: the Commission has not arranged this, but both the PES and the Greens could envisage a corresponding change. EPP and Liberals are against this.
  • A cap of the environmental costs: the Commission has arranged a maximum limit for the levying of environmental costs. The PES wants a clear increase in this upper limit while the EPP is for clearly lower limits. Lichtenberger from the Greens is against a cap. There is a formula with which the external costs would be calculated – to set a limit right from the start would not reflect the full costs.
  • Consideration of sensitive mountain regions. The currently valid directive provides for the possibility of a surcharge on the normal HGV toll of up to 25 % for sensitive mountain regions – such as the Brenner motorway. The Commission would like to compensate for the external costs with the surcharge: only the portion of costs which is above 25 % could be levied in this way. The PES rapporteur is against the Commission’s proposal and wants the external costs to be taken fully into account. The EU delegate Rack from the EPP emphasised that he does not want sensitive mountain regions to go to ruin – but it remains open whether this opinion is shared by the entire EVP fraction. The Greens have already given their support for the rapporteur’s proposal.
  • Scope of the directive: both the European People’s Party and also the Liberals and Greens argue that this directive should apply only for the trans-European networks. For the other road networks the member states would have a lot of leeway when fixing the HGV toll and could determine the amount of the charges themselves. The rapporteur from the Social Democrats would essentially approve of the application of the directive for all road networks, but he showed himself to be flexible.
It does not matter which line is successful in the vote on 11 February in the Transport Committee or in March in the plenum of the European Parliament: according to the Commission an increase of a maximum of 3 to 5% in the HGV toll is to be expected with the inclusion of the external costs cited in the proposal. With the current toll income of € 16 billion a year only a modest amount anyway compared with the € 150 billion external costs which HGVs cause, the criticism from MEP Jörg Leichtfried from the PES is not entirely unjustified.

The chamber of labour is lobbying for full inclusion of external costs in the Eurovignette Directive. The categories of climate change and costs of accidents in particular must be amended in the directive. The ban on accumulation of infrastructure charges with the external costs arranged by the Commission is rejected by the chamber of labour. The scope of the directive should be restricted to the TEN roads.

For further information:

AK Position Paper on the Eurovignette Directive

Draft Report of the European Parliament on the Eurovignette Directive