The Impacts of Pricing of Truck Transport in the EU

The Impacts of Pricing of Truck Transport in the EU


L A Tavasszy, M Rustenburg, TNO Inro, NL; N Raha, Y Jin, WSP, UK



Road freight traffic causes externalities such as air pollution, accidents, congestion, noise, etc. RECORDIT, an EU research project, has estimated these external costs on different transport modes in Europe. What would be the impacts of a charging regime in which road freight traffic fully covered its external costs? This has attracted attention from all quarters, and heated debates over the benefits and disbenefits. Naturally, the issues are complex. There are myriads of effects throughout the economy. They affect people?s daily lives as well as long term choices. The impacts are not uniform. Road freight external costs vary by terrain and population density, so it would be necessary to levy a higher charge in the mountainous regions and urban centres, than in the sparsely populated areas. However, the diverse social and economic conditions of the regions would lead to differences in the responses to a given level of charge.

To inform the debate, the charging regime has been tested using the SCENES Regional Economic and Transport Model, for the year 2020. The model compares a base scenario against an alternative scenario that includes the charging. These model experiments are part of the work done within the IASON project for the European Commission?s 5th Framework Research Programme, in an effort to assess the social benefits of EU pricing policy. The wider objective of IASON is to develop rules for the social cost-benefit analysis of transport projects and policies. The IASON project will continue until Fall 2003; the case study, however, was completed late 2002 and was presented in poster form at the DG TREN Conference in Barcelona, November 2002.

Within this case study, use was made of the results of the RECORDIT project to determine levels of social marginal cost pricing at the geographical scale of NUTS2 regions. Population density was used as the main proxy for regionalizing charging levels, as this scale correlates very strongly with the levels of external costs produced by transport under various circumstances. Additional corrections were made for mountaneous areas, where external costs cannot be represented by the population scale alone. The resulting levels of charging concerned the main input for the SCENES model runs.

The main conclusion of this case study are:

1. The pattern of responses that is forecast is complex, precisely because these responses are the cumulative balance of:
* a variety of behavioural responses (route, lorry size, mode and destination switching)
* resulting in turn from differences in charges by area, lorry size and type of commodity (due to differences in loads per vehicle), and
* resulting from differences in the local availability of alternatives to road transport between zone pairs as well as between commodity types. Models that neglect to represent the richness of this range of behaviour are unlikely to provide reliable estimates of the impacts of marginal cost pricing policies.
2. There is some evidence from the model results that the peripheral countries such as Greece, Sweden, Finland and Portugal are affected more than might be otherwise expected, due to their need to pay high cost increases caused by their long lengths of haul to markets in the heart of Europe.
3. Despite the fact that they have on average the highest charges within the country, the Benelux countries have low overall responsiveness as a result of their shorter lengths of haul and their accessible location within the EU.

The paper will explain the assumptions behind the model runs, present the results of the model runs, provide an interpretation of the outcomes and give recommendations for other policy research in the area of transport pricing. The results are considered to be of use for policy makers who are studying various pricing schemes at the regional, national and EU level.


Association for European Transport