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Source: Fotolia / Barbara Noskowski

Further information on the HGV tolling scheme

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1. The Road User Charge Act of 1990

In 1990, an HGV charge was introduced on German motorways. However, the levying of charges had to be discontinued after only a few weeks due to a decision by the European Court of Justice. The intended combination of the charge with a reduction in motor vehicle tax was not permissible under EU law. Despite this failure, two things became clear. First, Germany had the intention to levy charges for the use of roads by heavy goods vehicles and second, compensation measures for the road haulage sector in this connection were and are given a very high priority.

2. The Motorway User Charge Act of 1994 (“Eurovignette” - time-related charging)

The Federal Republic of Germany continued to pursue its intention to introduce a motorway user charge for heavy goods vehicles. The intention was put into practice together with the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg and Denmark (common system states) on 9 February 1994 by way of the “Agreement on the Levying of Charges for the Use of Certain Roads by Heavy Goods Vehicles”. Sweden acceded to the Agreement in 1998.

The basis for this was Council Directive 1993/89/EEC of 25 October 1993 (Eurovignette Directive). In 1999, this Directive was replaced by Directive 1999/62/EC, as last amended by Directive 2013/22/EC due to the accession of Croatia to the European Union.

The intergovernmental agreement laid down the rates and charging periods and governed the distribution of the charging revenue among the states parties to the Agreement. On 30 August 1994, the Motorway User Charge Act was adopted to implement the Agreement in Germany. A private service provider, the Arbeitsgemeinschaft Gebührenentrichtungssystem (AGES), was commissioned with the development and operation of the system, including the collection of the charges.

3. The “HGV toll” project

In the mid-1990s, a field trial on automatic charging was conducted on the A 555 motorway between Cologne and Bonn. Based on the results of the field trial, different charging options for a distance-related motorway charge were examined and subjected to a benefit analysis.

In 1998, the Federal Government decided to introduce a system for the automatic distance-related charging of HGVs in Germany. The main objectives were transport infrastructure charging based more on the “user pays” principle, the improvement of the conditions of competition on the roads, railways and waterways, more environmental protection by means of emission category-based differentiation as well as the generation of additional revenue for the structural maintenance and upgrading of transport infrastructure in Germany.

However, the simultaneous levying of time-related (vignette) and distance-related (HGV toll) road user charges is not permissible under EC law. Therefore, Germany had to discontinue the time-related levying of charges prior to introducing the distance-related HGV tolling scheme. This was done with effect from 31 August 2003. In the states mentioned above, the use of vignettes is still compulsory; details are available on the AGES website.

4. The concretization of the project

A Europe-wide invitation to tender for the funding, the establishment and the operation of the future HGV tolling system was started as early as at the end of 1999. The works were awarded as a uniform service contract in a multi-stage negotiated procedure preceded by competitive bidding.

The choice of a functional invitation to tender, in which merely the objectives and performance requirements are specified, was made deliberately. The idea was to give the industry the opportunity to make maximum use of its innovative capacity to offer suitable technological and organizational solutions, either available or yet to be developed, for a tolling system.

On 20 September 2002, the ETC.de bidding consortium, comprising Daimler Chrysler Services AG (now Daimler Financial Services AG), Deutsche Telekom AG and Cofiroute S. A., was awarded the contract.

5. Launch of the tolling system

Tolling started with effect from 1 January 2005.

6. Use of the toll revenue

Section 11 of the Federal Trunk Road Toll Act, which entered into force on 19 July 2011 (previously Section 11 of the Motorway Toll Act for Heavy Goods Vehicles), stipulates that the toll revenue, minus the expenditure for the operation, supervision, enforcement, management and harmonization (cf. number 9), will go to the transport budget and will in its entirety be earmarked for improving the transport infrastructure for federal trunk roads.

The new Federal Trunk Road Toll Act takes into account the funding cycle for our roads established by the 2011 federal budget. The entire toll revenue goes to the federal trunk roads sector. It is no longer divided among the rail, waterway and road sectors. The reinvestment of the toll revenue in the transport infrastructure for federal trunk roads is done by the Transport Infrastructure Financing Company, which was established in October 2003.

7. The determination of the toll rate

Under European law, the level of the toll has to be based on the actual infrastructure costs, i.e. the costs of building, maintaining and improving the road infrastructure concerned (Directive 1999/62/EC, last amended by Directive 2013/22/EU). The infrastructure costs are determined regularly by external consultants in so-called infrastructure cost studies.

Since 1 January 2015, not only the infrastructure costs but also the costs of air pollution have been taken into account for the determination of the toll rates. The toll component rate for the infrastructure costs is based on the number of axles of the vehicle or the vehicle combination; the toll component rate for the air pollution costs is based on the vehicle’s pollutant category.

The toll rates applicable now are specified in Annex 1 to the Federal Trunk Road Toll Act.

8. The impact of tolls on consumer prices

Higher transport costs are generally passed on to the consumers. Even if the costs are passed on in full, the toll-related price increases are in almost all cases below 0.15 percent, since the haulage costs only account for a small share of the macroeconomic costs.

9. The measures to relieve the financial burden on the road haulage sector

The successful introduction of the HGV tolling scheme contributes to the harmonization of the conditions of competition in the European road haulage sector, since foreign users of German motorways are now also required to contribute to the infrastructure costs based on the “user pays” principle.

Since 1 January 2009, the harmonization has been fully implemented, and the agreed 600 million euros per year are being used for the benefit of the German road haulage sector in the form of various measures.

In concrete terms, this means:

  • a reduction in motor vehicle tax for heavy goods vehicles (totalling around 150 million euros per year);
  • three financial assistance programmes (totalling around 450 million euros per year);
  • a financial assistance programme to incentivize the purchase of low-emission heavy goods vehicles. Under the European Union's current state aid legislation, Member States may only provide financial assistance to vehicles that meet emissions standards that are not yet mandatory. The financial assistance programme has thus had to be temporarily discontinued from 2014 on until vehicles are available on the market that meet new emissions standards even more stringent than EURO VI;
  • a de minimis programme;
  • a programme for training and skills.

As long as the planned measures for the harmonizationof the conditions of competition in the European road haulage sector had not been fully implemented, the former Toll Level Regulations provided for reduced toll rates to relieve the financial burden on the road haulage sector. Accordingly, the reduced toll rates were increased again on 1 January 2009.

10. Satellite and mobile communications-based tolling

In satellite and mobile communications-based tolling, the obligation to pay the toll is determined by means of satellite-based positioning (GPS – Global Positioning System) and comparison with the data stored in the on-board unit (OBU). The on-board unit determines and books the toll charges due and also adds up the charges for several road sections. Once a certain limit is reached, the charges due are reported to the back office via mobile communications (GSM – Global System for Mobile Communication). Invoices are generated centrally. Checks are conducted via short-range communication (infrared interface) with the on-board units at enforcement gantries, or by the enforcement vehicles of the Federal Office for Goods Transport transmitting queries based on the vehicle's registration number. The main tolling functions of the system thus take place on board the vehicle.

With its satellite and mobile communications-based tolling technology, Germany has one of the most modern tolling systems in the world. First and foremost, this means that new route and charge data can be sent to the on-board unit simply by using data transfer via the mobile communications network, requiring no expensive and sophisticated roadside infrastructure or visits to a garage.

11. Data protection

The Federal Trunk Road Toll Act, which entered into force on 19 July 2011 (previously the Motorway Toll Act for Heavy Goods Vehicles), provides for a strict purpose limitation of the data collected in connection with the tolling. Tolling data may be processed and used solely for the purposes of the Federal Trunk Road Toll Act.

In accordance with the stringent data protection requirements of the Federal Trunk Road Toll Act, the data stored pursuant to this Act may exclusively be used in a depersonalized form for the preparation of business statistics by the Federal Office for Goods Transport and the operator Toll Collect.

The collection of vehicle data by enforcement gantries is always in accordance with national legislation. In Section 7(2), the Federal Trunk Road Toll Act specifies the data that may be collected within the scope of the checks. These data must be deleted immediately after the check has been carried out if the vehicle is not subject to tolls (Section 9(5) of the Federal Trunk Road Toll Act). Toll Collect may process photos of vehicles and number plate data solely for tolling purposes. The Federal Commissioner for Data Protection thoroughly acquainted himself with the procedure as well as the approach to data protection and did not raise any objections. Further information can be found at.

12. The First Act amending the Federal Trunk Road Toll Act

The First Act amending the Federal Trunk Road Act of 23 July 2013 entered into force on 27 July 2013. Its purpose is to transpose Directive 2011/76/EU into national law and to include rules governing the actual collection practice of section-by-section calculation and rounding, the use of optical electronic equipment by the Federal Office for Goods Transport for its enforcement duties and the publication of administrative acts in other countries.

13. The Second Act amending the Federal Trunk Road Toll Act

The Second Act amending the Federal Trunk Road Act of 23 December 2014 entered into force on 01 January 2015. Its purpose is to implement the infrastructure cost study that was presented in March 2014. Not only the infrastructure costs but also the costs of air pollution have been taken into account for the determination of the toll rates.

14. The Third Act amending the Federal Trunk Road Toll Act

The Third Act amending the Federal Trunk Road Act of 10 June 2015 entered into force on 1 July 2015. With this Act, on 1 July 2015 the tolled road network was extended to includea further approx. 1,100 km of four-lane federal highways and, on 1 October 2015, the weight threshold for charging tolls was lowered from a maximum permissible weight of 12 tonnes to a maximum permissible weight of 7.5 tonnes. With the lowering of the weight threshold for charging tolls, the number of axle categories for the toll rates was raised from two to four.

HGV tolling scheme – Federal Trunk Road Toll Act

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On 19 July 2011, the new Act on the Levying of Distance-Related Charges for the Use of Federal Motorways and Federal Highways (Federal Trunk Road Toll Act) entered into force. This Act replaced the Motorway Toll Act for Heavy Goods Vehicles that was in force until then. In terms of content, the Federal Trunk Road Toll Act is essentially identical to the Motorway Toll Act for Heavy Goods Vehicles that it superseded. The major changes consist of the new rules for the extension of the HGV tolling scheme to include federal highways which, by statutory instrument, were applied to 1,100 km of federal highways for the first time on 1 August 2012.

Under Section 1(1)(2) of the Federal Trunk Road Toll Act in the version of the Third Federal Trunk Road Toll (Amendment) Act of 10 July 2015 (Federal Law Gazette I, p. 922), tolls are applicable, as of 1 July 2015, not only to all motorways but also to federal highways or sections of federal highway

  1. for which the Federal Government is responsible in terms of construction and maintenance,
  2. that are not roads passing through built-up areas,
  3. that have two or more lanes in each direction of traffic,
  4. that have carriageways for the two directions of traffic separated over their entire length – except at at-grade junctions– by a central reservation or other structures and
  5. that either

    • are directly connected to a federal motorway, irrespective of a minimum length or
    • are indirectly connected to a federal motorway via another tolled federal highway, irrespective of a minimum length or
    • have a minimum length of 4 kilometres without being connected to a tolled section of road.

The list of the federal highways affected ("Die Mauttabelle") is publicly accessible and can be downloaded from the websites of the Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure, the Federal Office for Goods Transport, the Federal Highway Research Institute and Toll Collect GmbH. Moreover, the list of additional federal highways on which tolling is to be introduced is also published in the electronic federal register.

HGV tolls: innovative, ecological and fair

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Since the beginning of 2005, a successful scheme has been in operation in Germany to charge heavy goods vehicles a distance-based charge for the use of motorways.

In 2014, toll revenues totalled around 4.46 billion euros (gross).

HGV tolls are making a sizeable contribution to the funding of transport infrastructure in Germany. Most of the revenue is invested in the federal trunk roads sector.

HGV tolls: innovative, ecological and fair

By using a charging approach that is based more on the "user pays" principle, the HGV tolling scheme ensures the maintenance and upgrading of the motorway network. Since the start of tolling on 1 January 2005, German and foreign HGVs with a maximum permissible weight of 12 tonnes or more have been subject to the compulsory toll on German motorways. With the introduction of the tolling scheme, the Federal Republic of Germany has implemented a system change - from tax-based funding to user-based funding of motorway construction.

With the HGV tolling scheme, the Federal Government is pursuing the following objectives:

  • base infrastructure charging more on the "user pays" principle. HGVs, in particular, impose high motorway maintenance and operation costs. A "40-tonner" places around 60,000 times more strain on the road surface than a passenger car;
  • secure funding for the further upgrading and maintenance of the transport infrastructure;
  • create an incentive for an ecologically desirable shift towards rail and waterway-based freight transport and for the more efficient use of HGVs;
  • promote innovative technologies.

By varying toll rates according to the emissions the vehicles produce, the HGV tolling scheme provides an incentive for hauliers to use low-emission vehicles. The wider range of toll rates applicable since 1 January 2009 has increased the environmental regulatory impact of the HGV tolling scheme.

HGV tolling system – compensation for road hauliers

In conjunction with the introduction of the HGV tolling scheme, the German Bundesrat and Bundestag as well as the Federal Government agreed in May 2003 that, given the conditions of competition in the European road haulage sector, compensation measures totalling 600 million euros per year must be ensured in order to ease the burden on the German road haulage industry (also known as harmonization).

To implement this compensation scheme pending full delivery through specific individual measures, lower toll rates were charged when the tolling scheme was launched on 1 January 2005, as agreed. The average toll rate was only 12.4 cents/km, rather than the 15 cents/km necessary for recovery of the infrastructure costs.

On 1 September 2007, the motor vehicle tax for heavy goods vehicles was reduced and the financial assistance programme to incentivize the purchase of low-emission heavy goods vehicles (also known as the innovation programme) was launched. At the same time, the HGV toll rates were increased accordingly. Two new compensation measures – the de minimis aid programme and the financial assistance programme for training and skills – have been underway since 2009, returning around 600 million euros per year to the road haulage companies. The reduced toll rates applicable until then were adapted accordingly.

The commitment given by the Federal Government to compensate hauliers has been fully met since 1 January 2009. In concrete terms, this means:

  • a reduction in motor vehicle tax for heavy goods vehicles (totalling around 150 million euros per year);
  • a total of three financial assistance programmes (totalling up to approximately 450 million euros per year):
  • a financial assistance programme to incentivize the purchase of low-emission HGVs (suspended since 1 January 2014);
  • a de minimis programme;
  • a programme for training and skills.