European Environment Agency (EEA)

Road user charges for heavy goods vehicles (HGV)


Courtesy of Courtesy of European Environment Agency (EEA)

In this report, the European Environment Agency (EEA) presents updated estimates of the external costs (1) of air pollution for different categories of heavy goods vehicles (HGVs). This report on road transport is a continuation of previous reporting from EEA on estimates for the external costs of air pollution from industrial facilities (EEA, 2011).

The amended Eurovignette Directive (2011/76/EU) relating to the charging of HGVs for use of major European motorways prescribes that from 2013, Member States may include air pollution costs in any charging structure for roads under the Trans.European Network (TEN-T) and for comparable domestic motorways.

Diesel engine exhaust has recently been classified as carcinogenic to humans (IARC, 2012) and price signals can help regulatory efforts laid down in other European directives to improve the health and well-being of European citizens, who currently are believed to suffer more than three million sick-days and 350 000 premature deaths annually due to air pollution (AEA Technology Environment, 2005). As the biggest road transport emitter of air pollution, HGVs are responsible for up to 40.50 per cent of road transport NOX emissions in EEA member countries (cf. NERI, 2011:537).

An external-cost charge on HGVs will be passed on as a cost to purchasers of transport services. It will make costs of air pollution visible in freight rates. In so doing, it will provide a signal in the market that could impact freight transport modes and choice of transport corridors by HGVs. In this way a more level playing field could be created, as transporters cannot obtain competitive advantages from air pollution costs that are not accounted for.

The tables published here provide the basis for the inclusion of a vehicle-specific air pollution component in road user charges. Air pollution costs have been calculated on the basis of the formula prescribed in the directive, taking into account the fact that road transport emissions are mixed in a low volume of air. Following Article 9 in the Eurovignette Directive, additional revenues from external-cost charges must be used by Member States to benefit the transport sector and promote sustainable mobility.

Making use of scientific developments subsequent to the 2007 Handbook of external costs (Maibach et al., 2008), the EEA is able to provide an updated estimate of the external costs of air pollution from road transport.

The tables in this report indicate for each country and for the relevant vehicle categories, estimates of the external costs of air pollution in 2010 prices. The high level of detail gives member countries an informed basis to group the vehicle categories for administrative purposes. The tables also include estimates for three non-EU member countries of the EEA, of which one (Switzerland) pioneered the first HGV road user charge in Europe.

The adoption of road user charges depends on a decision by each individual country. Several countries already charge power plants and industry for their emissions. Levies or taxes on NOX and/or SO2 from stationary polluters are in place in the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, France, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Poland, Slovakia, Spain and Sweden. Some countries, such as Poland, also levy taxes on transport-related emissions sources (see OECD/EEA database, OECD, 2011).

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