Road Freight Transport Policies and Their Impact – a Comparative Study of Germany and Sweden

Road Freight Transport Policies and Their Impact – a Comparative Study of Germany and Sweden


Inge Vierth, VTI/CTS Stockholm, Heike Schleussner, VTI/CTS Stockholm, Svante Mandell, VTI/CTS/KTH Stockholm


This paper focuses on Sweden and Germany as representatives for the time-based and distance-based truck charging system. The aim is to investigate how the, by emission class differentiated charges influence revenues, fleet, mileage and emissions.


The European road freight transport markets are deregulated, except of restrictions for cabotage, and haulers can perform transport services in other countries than their home country. As road freight transport is associated with a series of negative externalities, there is a need for policy instruments. Currently, there is a switch in the design of these policy instruments, mainly from time-based to distance-based instruments. During the last decade six central European countries (Germany, Austria, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland and Switzerland) have introduced distance-based network tolls for heavy trucks. In Sweden, Denmark and the Benelux states the time-based Eurovignette is applied since the 1990-ies. All charging systems include a differentiation according to emission class for CO, HC, NOx, PM and smoke, but the Eurovignette is not updated to the latest emission classes.

This paper focuses on Sweden and Germany as representatives for the time-based and distance-based charging system. The aim is to investigate how the, by emission class differentiated, truck charges in Sweden respectively Germany influence revenues from the system as well as the fleet, mileage and emissions. This is of particular importance for the Nordic countries as it seems realistic that they, sooner or later, will switch to a distance-based instrument.

The German toll is much higher than the Eurovignette for all real journeys; in addition the German distance charge is highly differentiated with respect to Euro classes and thereby favors clean trucks – thus providing larger incentives for German haulers (compared to Swedish ones) to use cleaner trucks. As expected, the German fleet is cleaner than the Swedish fleet and the vehicle kilometers performed on German roads are cleaner than the vehicle kilometers performed on Swedish roads.

However, this is not only an effect of differentiated tolls. The German government subsidized the purchase of new “clean” trucks over 12 tons between 2007 and 2013. The support program is currently suspended as the latest emission standard (Euro VI) is mandatory since the beginning of January 2014. The subsidy gives advantages to the German haulers when they use the toll roads. German haulers do also have a benefit when they operate in other countries that have introduced trucks tolls that are differentiated by emission class. The European Commission allowed the subsidies of a maximum of € 100 million since it is assumed they do not distort the competition to a great extent.

An important consequence of the Euro class differentiated tolls is that there seems to be spill-over effects between the countries following from that European haulers have incentives to use their “cleanest trucks” in the countries that have introduced tolls differentiated by the latest emission class and their “dirtiest trucks” in the Eurovignette countries. The difference between the two groups of countries and the incentives to use the cleaner vehicles in the toll countries and the dirtier vehicles in the Eurovignette countries increased as the tolls have been updated but not the Eurovignette. Thus providing strong incentives for the Eurovignette countries to consider switching to distance based and environmentally differentiated policies.

The use of different charging systems and subsidies of clean trucks in Germany have contributed to different truck fleet compositions by emission class. In 2011 in Germany 45% of the fleet is equipped with Euro 5 compared to 27% in Sweden. The difference was larger for the mileage. While in Germany about 70% of the vehicle kilometers with trucks heavier than 12 tons are carried out by Euro 5 vehicles in Sweden this share is about 35%.

If the Swedish mileage had the same distribution of Euro classes as on the German toll roads the CO, HC, NOx and PM emissions could be reduced up to 46%. According to our rough calculations the societal costs for the less clean mileage in Sweden causes costs that increase from year to year and amount to € 665 million in 2011.

For a country like Sweden, where the negative externalities from truck transports are limited compared to Germany not least due to less congestion in most parts of the road network and congestion charges in Stockholm and Gothenburg, a simple time-based system may suffice as a policy instrument. The costs associated with switching to a distance based system that clearly would handle the externalities in a more precise way, may simply be too large. However, taking into account the spillover effects from the countries that have introduced network wide truck tolls may very well change this. Thus, our paper points towards the future of the Eurovignette being highly uncertain.


Association for European Transport