Under the new rules adopted on Thursday, road charges for trucks will move from time-based to distance-based charging, making polluter-pays principles work better.
Parliament gave the final green light to an agreement with EU governments on the update of the rules defining the charges member states can impose on trucks and lorries, but also buses, vans and passenger cars using trans-European transport (TEN-T) network roads. This will not force EU member states to charge vehicles using their roads. However, should they choose to do so, they will need to follow the EU rules.
Tolls instead of vignettes
The aim of the new rules is to move road charging from a time-based model to distance-based or an actual kilometres-driven system, to better reflect the polluter-pays and user-pays principles.
MEPs secured that members states will phase out “vignettes” (time-based road charging) for heavy-duty vehicles (trucks, lorries and buses) across the core TEN-T network within eight years of the new rules entering into force, and start applying tolls (distance-based charges). However, member states will still be able to retain vignettes for specific parts of this network, if they can prove that a new mode of charging would be disproportionate to expected revenue.
To encourage the wider use of more environmentally-friendly vehicles, EU countries will have to set different road charging rates based on CO2 emissions for trucks and buses, and on environmental performance for vans and minibuses, as of 2026. They will also have to reduce considerably the charges for zero- or low-emission vehicles.
Charging vans and cars
Under the new rules, vignettes will be valid for shorter periods (one day, one week or 10 days) and have price caps that can be imposed on passenger cars, to ensure occasional drivers from other EU countries are treated fairly. EU countries willing to charge lighter vehicles, such as vans, minibuses and passenger cars, will still be able to choose between toll or vignettes systems.
MEPs ensured that three years after the entry into force of the rules, member states will report publicly on tolls and user charges levied on their territory, including information on how they are using these revenues. MEPs want the revenues generated from these charges to contribute to sustainable transport, infrastructure and mobility.
EP rapporteur Giuseppe Ferrandino (S&D, IT) said: “The elimination of the vignette for heavy vehicles will standardise a system that is currently excessively fragmented. We will encourage the world of transport to use cleaner vehicles. I am very pleased to have obtained the introduction of the one-day vignette for all vehicles in circulation, which will allow travellers in transit to pay a fair price for their journey. This is also a positive development for tourism: it ensures that travellers will not be penalised.”
The rules will enter into force 20 days after they are published in the Official Journal of the EU. Member states will have two years to prepare for the application of new rules.