European expansion of CO2 road tolls: A closer look

As Europe intensifies its environmental strategies, CO2-based road tolls for trucks are gaining traction beyond Germany, significantly affecting the logistics industry. Last year, Germany's pioneering implementation of these tolls made headlines due to the substantial cost impacts on haulage operations. Following suit, Austria, the Czech Republic, and Hungary have adopted similar measures, with Sweden recently joining this list. Denmark is poised to implement its system in January 2025.

These CO2 road toll systems are designed to reduce emissions by charging vehicles based on their CO2 output. Romain Mouton, IRU’s Research Manager for Transport & Environment, provided insights during the IRU webinar "New Truck Toll Systems in Europe: What You Need to Know." According to Mouton, while these tolls are aligned with the 2022 Euro Vignette directive—which favors digital distance measurement for toll calculations—not all EU member states have fully adopted this method. Countries like France and the Netherlands are using alternative tolling systems based on gated distance and time, respectively.

In Germany, the CO2 tolling that started last year has already led to a significant cost increase, with €0.16 added per kilometer for Euro 6 trucks, marking an 80% increase in toll costs for certain vehicle combinations. Austria and Hungary have seen toll increases of 7% and 40%, respectively, this year, and the Czech Republic introduced a 13% hike in March.

Looking ahead, Mouton notes that more countries, including the Netherlands and Romania, are considering implementing CO2 tolls by 2026, with specific highways in France potentially adding a CO2 component by 2025. However, France's broader application of CO2 tolls might not see major development until 2032 when existing concession contracts are up for renegotiation.

Marc Neyrand, Business Development Director at Axxes, highlighted why France is lagging in adopting CO2-based tolling. The delay is partly due to the need for significant changes in their concession contracts and the requirement for governmental renegotiations. He predicts that by 2036, the current concessions will phase out entirely.

Despite these advancements, the introduction of CO2 tolls varies significantly across the EU, both in timing and methodology. For instance, Austria, the Czech Republic, and Germany categorize vehicles into CO2 classes, affecting toll rates differently based on emission levels. Hungary has a unique approach where all vehicles contribute to the infrastructure toll, but additional charges based on pollution and noise levels apply only to non-zero emission vehicles.

As these toll systems become more widespread, hauliers are advised to register their vehicles correctly to avoid being automatically placed in higher toll brackets. Andrea Scheu, Vice President of Tolls at DKV Mobility, emphasizes the importance of vehicle registration and certification to secure lower toll rates.

This shift towards CO2-based tolling represents a significant move in Europe's broader environmental policy, impacting logistics costs and operational planning for hauliers across the continent. The ongoing developments indicate a challenging yet necessary adjustment as the industry aligns with more sustainable practices.