Increasing the Acceptability of Road Charges for HGV Transit Traffic

Increasing the Acceptability of Road Charges for HGV Transit Traffic


L Stewart-Ladewig, H Link, German Institute for Economic Research, DE



This paper summarises results of a key informant survey carried out to assess the acceptability of distance related road charges when raised on commercial freight vehicles in transit through Germany or Switzerland. The introduction of road pricing remains a highly controversial topic and the lack of acceptability is often cited by policy makers as one of the grounds for failing to implement road pricing schemes.

Although the acceptance of national, especially urban, pricing measures has been the focus of some past European research, the issue of the acceptance of tolls paid while in transit through a foreign country has had less emphasis. The acceptability of road tolls paid in transit is not a trivial subject that can be completely ignored as the example of the Brenner motorway charge and subsequent ruling from the European Court of Justice in 2000 can illustrate. For both Germany and Switzerland foreign vehicles play a significant role in road freight transport. Approximately 30% of road freight volume transported in Germany in 2003 is carried by foreign vehicles and over 20% of road charging revenue in 2002 in Switzerland was generated by foreign vehicles.

To gain information about the range of attitudes that are present amongst commercial transport operators carrying out transit through Switzerland and Germany, a key informant survey was carried out among road and combined transport organisations in Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Italy, the Netherlands and Poland. Because of the exploratory nature of the survey a small number of survey participants are adequate to provide a first insight into the area of the acceptability of road charges on transit routes. The survey was carried out in the third quarter of 2004. At this point in time the Swiss technical system had been in operation for almost four years. The introduction of the German system had been delayed for over 18 months due to technical problems and it was not clear if the system would successfully start on the proposed date of 1 January 2005. In total 38 organisations were contacted for the survey, the response rate was approximately 35%, 16% refused on grounds of lack of information, 5% were disqualified and the non-response rate was 39%.

The method chosen for the survey was a self-administered questionnaire using statements ranked on a 5 point scale between strongly agree to strongly disagree. Statements relating to road pricing in general and the perceived outcome of road pricing schemes were asked. The relationship between acceptability of road pricing and use of revenues was explored. Possible compensation measures for commercial vehicle operators were rated. Finally, questions about the technical system used and the importance of interoperability between charging systems were posed.

The results show that although transit traffic considers distance related charges to be better than other forms of taxes and charges, the acceptability of the introduction of road charges in general is poor. However, acceptability could be improved, for example by using a transparent method of defining the charge, introducing the distance related charge to all vehicle classes including private vehicles, offering some form of compensation for increased commercial transport costs and ensuring interoperability between technical charging systems. Transport organisations surveyed felt that it would be more acceptable if the level of the charges raised were determined the at the European rather than the national level. The survey results show a strong preference for earmarking revenues raised through road charges back to the road network. Transport organisations (road and combined transport) see little alternative to road transport and do not foresee a change in the present modal split being brought about by increased road charges.
The survey results will be discussed in view of national transport policy and goals set out by Switzerland and Germany and relating to the introduction of distance related road charges. Additionally, how the results indicate acceptance of the proposed amendment to Directive 1999/62/EC on the charging of heavy goods vehicles for the use of certain infrastructures and COM(2003)132 the new directive on the widespread introduction and interoperability of electronic road toll systems in the Community will be reviewed.


Association for European Transport