In recent years, German road tolls have become a subject of heated debate both within the country and beyond its borders. In response to growing concerns about CO2 emissions and environmental protection, the German government is introducing a series of changes to the toll system. This article will examine the critical information regarding the new tolls, their impact on the transportation industry, and how carriers can prepare for these changes.
Road tolls increase – Introduction of CO2 emissions tax
According to the coalition agreement of the ruling parties, the Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure (BMDV) plans to add a CO2 emissions tax of 200 euros per ton to the road tolls for heavy goods vehicles. This means additional costs for three-axle trucks weighing over 18 tons, ranging from 6.3 euro cents (Euro 6) to 15.8 euro cents (Euro 1 and 0) per kilometer, depending on the emission class. The additional CO2 charge accounts for 43% and 32.5% of the total kilometer rate, increasing by approximately 70-80%.
Extension of tolls to vehicles over 3.5 tons
The new project also includes the extension of road tolls to vehicles weighing from 3.5 to 7.5 tons, which is set to take effect on July 1, 2024. The additional CO2 rate per kilometer for these vehicles will range from 3.7 to 8 euro cents, depending on the emission class. The total kilometer rate, including all components (infrastructure costs, noise pollution, air pollution, and CO2 emissions), will be 15.1 euro cents for vehicles up to 7.5 tons with Euro 6 standard and 24.8 euro cents for heavy goods vehicles with Euro 1 or lower standards.
Exemptions from road tolls
The project includes exemptions for vehicles used by craftsmen for their own transport purposes weighing below 7.5 tons. This means that companies transporting their own goods will not have to pay additional road tolls. Vehicles called as emission-free, such as electric trucks, will initially be exempt from road tolls until December 31, 2025. After that date, the ministry plans to reduce the infrastructure and external cost components of the toll for this vehicle group by 75%.
Impact on carriers and the transportation industry
The increase in road tolls and the introduction of additional charges related to CO2 emissions will impose significant financial burdens on carriers. Consequently, transportation companies need to be prepared for higher operating costs and, possibly, the need to raise service prices for clients.
One of the objectives of implementing the new tolls is to encourage carriers to transition to electric trucks as quickly as possible, as they are considered by legislators to emit no harmful gases into the atmosphere.
Reactions to the changes in road tolls
The changes in German road tolls have been met with criticism from carriers who consider them excessive burdens on the transportation industry. Companies are concerned about the cost increases associated with road tolls, which may weaken their competitiveness and risk losing customers.
On the other hand, environmental organizations and some political parties support the introduction of new tolls, considering them a step towards sustainable transportation development and CO2 emissions reduction. In their view, these tolls can contribute to accelerating the process of electromobility in the transportation industry.
Comparison of current and planned tolls
It is worth comparing the current road tolls with those planned for the end of the current year. The German road toll is the sum of three rates:
– toll component for infrastructure,
– toll component for environmental pollution,
– toll component for noise pollution.
An example could be a full-size five-axle set with a Euro 6 diesel engine.
Currently, the toll is 19 cents per kilometer, including 15.5 cents for infrastructure usage, 1.2 cents for generating noise, and 2.3 cents for emitting harmful substances into the environment.
Planned tolls from December
From December, the toll is planned to be 34.8 cents per kilometer, including 15.5 cents for infrastructure usage, 1.2 cents for generating noise, 2.3 cents for emitting harmful substances into the environment, and 15.8 cents for CO2 emissions contributing to climate warming.
The new road tolls in Germany will impact the functioning of the transportation industry and the costs that carriers will have to bear. Therefore, it is important to follow the situation and stay up-to-date with the planned changes in the toll system.
Comment from Don Trucking B.V.
Significant increase in road tolls has been announced for quite some time. Therefore, transport companies could prepare for it. However, the question is whether the timing is optimal. After all, the transport industry still faces numerous macroeconomic challenges. It is also debatable whether the introduced road tolls will have a genuinely positive impact on the environment or if it is just another money grab by politicians trying to cover budget deficits. While it is worth supporting initiatives to reduce CO2 emissions in transportation, it is challenging to endorse solutions that discredit forms of transportation other than electric vehicles.
Why won’t sustainable solutions based on alternative fuels be exempt from road tolls? In this article, we pointed out that the rapid transformation of heavy transport into electric trucks is a pipe dream. On the other hand, thanks to the developing infrastructure of LNG fueling stations, the use of BioLNG derived from biodegradable waste is already widely available. This solution has the potential to achieve a significant reduction in CO2 emissions within the next few years. It is regrettable that the German government does not promote this solution as current exemption will be valid until 31 December 2023 only. Therefore it’s hard not to get the impression that the increase in road tolls aims to rescue the budget rather than create and promote a real shift toward more environmentally friendly means of transportation.
It is justified to be concerned that introducing the new road toll fees in this form may have an opposite effect to the intended one. The lack of promotion of alternative and sustainable forms of transportation, such as LNG, may lead companies to find it more cost-effective to purchase older and cheaper diesel vehicles, which will be more harmful to the environment than vehicles powered by biodegradable LNG. This is because electric trucks are not widely available, and the use of trucks powered by Bio-LNG will not be exempt from full charges after 31 December 2023.