Traffic: Source of billions Truck tolls should bubble up more

The truck toll on motorways and federal highways is being expanded and is expected to bring in additional billions for rail in the future.

Traffic: Source of billions Truck tolls should bubble up more

The truck toll on motorways and federal highways is being expanded and is expected to bring in additional billions for rail in the future. On Friday, the Bundestag passed a law from the traffic light coalition to change the user fee. On December 1st there will be a CO2 surcharge to take greater account of pollutant emissions.

As of July 1, 2024, the toll will also apply to smaller vans weighing more than 3.5 tons. So far it applies from 7.5 tonnes. Trips from craft businesses are excluded. The freight forwarding industry and the opposition protested against the significant toll increase and warned of the consequences for consumer prices.

Shortly after the parliamentary decision, the Federal Council also approved the law. Because the time until the planned entry into force is running short, and the additional money has already been planned. In fact, significantly more comes in for the federal government: revenue jumps from just under 8 billion euros this year to more than 15 billion euros next year. From 2024 to 2027, this should generate additional revenue of 30.5 billion euros, which can be reserved for transport investments regardless of uncertain budgetary situations.

Money also for rail

The use of funds will be reorganized. Half of the income will continue to be earmarked for the improvement of federal highways - but the rest will now predominantly go to "measures in the area of ​​federal railways". Green party deputy Julia Verlinden spoke of a “historic decision” that the cycle of financing the road alone would be broken. In addition, traffic should be shifted to rail. "Each freight train replaces around 50 trucks." The ADAC motorists' club, however, warned that an important pillar of funding for highways would be weakened in the long term.

New climate component

There is a further toll element for the shipping companies, namely for the costs of emitting climate-damaging carbon dioxide (CO2). The basis for the specific additional costs depending on the truck is a surcharge of 200 euros per ton of CO2. So far, the toll already consists of partial rates for infrastructure costs as well as for external costs of noise and air pollution. Zero-emission trucks are to be exempt from tolls by the end of 2025. The rules are intended to provide incentives for more cleaner vehicles to be on the roads. However, the industry complains that there are hardly any electric trucks or e-charging points yet.

The cost effects

The opposition warned of high new burdens. “You are doubling the toll within one night,” said CDU transport politician Thomas Bareiß to the coalition. This is “a mess” and one of the biggest drivers of inflation in the coming year. The industry associations are also campaigning against the drastic increase, which is a scandal for medium-sized companies and must be passed on to customers. The ministry also expects this. However, toll costs only account for a small proportion of the transport costs and an even smaller proportion of the total costs of the end product, according to the draft. Therefore, the impact on consumer price levels is “marginal”. It would be assumed that a price of 100 euros would rise to 100.10 euros.

The craftsman exception

The toll will not only become more expensive, but will also be extended to smaller trucks of more than 3.5 to 7.5 tons. This affects, for example, vans from parcel services or food banks that deliver food donations. However, it was clear from the start that trips from craft businesses should be excluded. The ministry estimates that 300,000 vehicles will now be subject to tolls - and 100,000 of them will in principle be eligible for the specially defined craftsman exemption. Since the smaller vans do not operate primarily in long-distance traffic like heavy trucks, more complex checks are expected, especially on federal highways. So far, around a million heavy trucks from home and abroad are on the road with on-board computers for toll collection.

Acceleration for transport projects

Transport Minister Volker Wissing remained tight-lipped about the truck toll on Friday. He commented on another law that the Bundestag passed. Construction projects on motorways and railways should get off the ground more quickly. Unfortunately, traffic jams, long detours and endless waiting for the train are part of many people's everyday lives, said the FDP politician. “In the long term, this is not acceptable to anyone.” Planning and approvals should therefore be simplified and accelerated. An “overriding public interest” should be defined for selected projects, thus enabling faster decisions. This also applies to 138 motorway projects, especially for additional lanes.

More creative freedom for municipalities

On Friday, the Bundestag passed a third traffic law that is intended to give cities and municipalities more leeway when it comes to setting up bus lanes, cycle paths or 30 km/h zones. Specifically, it is about changes to the Road Traffic Act as a framework for local regulations. In principle, in addition to the fluidity and safety of traffic, goals of climate and environmental protection, health and urban development should also be taken into account in the future. In the Truck Toll Act, the Bundestag and Bundesrat also sealed the end of the 2015 law, which was intended to regulate the introduction of the car toll, which later collapsed. It was never applied and is now being repealed.