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Truck toll bridge in Germany

Source: Fotolia / mitifoto

With the introduction of HGV tolling on federal motorways in 2005, the Federal Government ushered in a step change, moving away from the funding of federal trunk road construction through taxation and towards the "user pays" principle. Since then, the tolling scheme has been widened in two stages (on 1 August 2012 and 1 July 2015) to cover around 2,300 km of four-lane federal highways. In addition, on 1 October 2015, the weight threshold for vehicles subject to tolls was lowered from 12 to 7.5 tonnes maximum permissible weight.

Starting on 1 July 2018, HGVs will have to pay tolls for the use of all the approximately 40,000 km of federal highways. The corresponding Fourth Federal Trunk Road Toll (Amendment) Act of 27 March 2017 (Federal Law Gazette I, p. 564) entered into force on 31 March 2017. The preparatory organizational and technical work for widening the tolling scheme is ongoing.

Since 2011, the revenue generated by the HGV tolling scheme has been used exclusively for the federal trunk roads. In 2017, a total of around 4.7 billion euros was available from this source. Given the urgent need for the structural maintenance and upgrading of the transport network, the tolling scheme makes a major contribution to transport infrastructure funding.

By varying the toll rates according to the pollutants the vehicles emit, the tolling scheme also provides hauliers with an incentive to efficiently deploy less polluting vehicles and supports a modal shift of freight traffic to the rail and waterway modes.
In Europe, there are currently different tolling systems using different toll collection equipment. The European Electronic Toll Service (EETS) is designed to create the possibility, in the future, of paying HGV tolls across borders on tolled European roads with only one on-board unit and one EETS provider. Further information (in German) on the European Electronic Toll Service can be found on the Federal Office for Goods Transport's website.

Collecting tolls and enforcing payment

Following a Europe-wide invitation to tender, the Toll Collect company was awarded the contract for toll collection and automatic checking using enforcement gantries. Users wishing to participate in the automatic collection of tolls using an on-board unit have to register with Toll Collect. Comprehensive information on the procedures and on the functions of Toll Collect can be found on the company's website.

At present, tolls are levied on all federal motorways plus federal highways that meet certain criteria. Uniform toll rates apply on these roads. A list of the federal highways affected (in German) can be found in the Federal Highway Research Institute's toll table.

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 via the mobile communications network, requiring no expensive roadside infrastructure or visits to a garage.

Payment of the tolls is monitored by stationary automatic enforcement gantries. In addition, the Federal Office for Goods Transport has mobile enforcement vehicles and portable enforcement gantries, which are used on bridges over federal motorways and federal highways. Users who pay no toll or the incorrect toll are committing an administrative offence and have to pay a penalty charge or fine in addition to recovery of the toll. Further information (in German) is available on the Federal Office for Goods Transport's website.

The Federal Trunk Road Toll Act stipulates the purposes for which data produced in connection with tolling may be used. Data collected at enforcement gantries must be erased immediately after the enforcement action if the vehicle is not subject to tolls. Moreover, images of vehicles and registration number data may be processed only for the purpose of tolling.

Infrastructure cost study as a basis for calculating toll rates

In accordance with the relevant EU directive (in German) the level of HGV tolls must be based on the actual infrastructure costs. These are primarily the costs of constructing, upgrading, maintaining and operating the road network.

The statement of infrastructure costs was most recently updated in 2018 for the period from 2018 to 2022. The calculation methodology used for the 2002, 2007 and 2013 statements of infrastructure costs was continued. Like in the previous statement of infrastructure costs, external costs caused by air and noise pollution have also been calculated. Under the Infrastructure Charging Directive, these external costs may additionally be allocated to infrastructure costs.

More detailed information is available in German:

Financial assistance programmes for the harmonization of tolling systems

Given the conditions of competition in Europe, the Federal Government launched two open-ended programmes in 2009 to ease the burden on the German road haulage industry.
The Programme to Promote Safety and Environmental Protection in Road Haulage Companies Operating Heavy Goods Vehicles (de minimis, further information available in German) pursues the objectives of permanently enhancing road haulage safety and reducing the adverse environmental impact of road haulage.

The aims of the Programme to Promote Initial and Continuing Training, Skills Development and Employment in Road Haulage Companies Operating Heavy Goods Vehicles (in German) are the development of sector-specific skills among the workforce and a reduction in the shortage of mobile workers.

Legal bases

More detailed information is available in German: