In a new EU ruling, hauliers operating zero-emissions trucks – battery electric or hydrogen – must be given discounts of at least 50% on distance-based road tolls. Member states have until May 2023 to introduce the discount.
Member states could opt to levy extra CO2-based charges on fossil fuel lorries instead or implement both measures.
Vans and minibuses will also need to be tolled based on their environmental performance from 2026.
The Road Haulage Association (RHA) say that with road tolls already costing hauliers up to €25,000 (£20,000) a year per truck annually, a further charge on fossil fuel lorries would raise overheads considerably.
Countries with toll roads under concession contracts can exempt these tolls from both CO2- and air pollution-based charging, but only until these contracts are renewed or substantially amended.
EU-wide air pollution charges from 2026
The new law also requires EU countries to apply air pollution charges for trucks from 2026. Currently, only four member states charge trucks for their air pollutants.
From 2024, new time-based road charges for trucks, which are less fair than distance-based tolling, will be restricted to limited circumstances.
If time-based charges remain on major highways after April 2024, they must be varied according to the truck’s CO2 emissions.
Emission-free vehicles will ‘slash costs’
The updated Eurovignette law is seen as a watershed for green trucking by Transport & Environment (T&V), Europe’s clean transport campaign group.
James Nix, freight policy manager at T&V, said: “Fossil-fuel trucks will finally have to pay more if they emit more, and hauliers who switch to emissions-free vehicles will slash their costs.”
According to T&C, trucks are responsible for 23% of the EU’s climate emissions from road transport and, according to data from Copenhagen, Paris and London, account for more than 20% of road vehicles’ emissions of poisonous NOx.