Brussels, Belgium – The European Parliament’s Transport Committee has approved legislation that would charge heavy-goods vehicles based in part on the air and noise pollution they produce and the congestion they cause. The legislation is a revision of the 1999 “Eurovignette” directive.

The Commission’s original proposal included air and noise pollution and congestion, but stopped short of including CO2 emissions, which some members of the European Parliament (MEP) wanted to include.

The proposal to include congestion charging met with opposition from some MEPs, who argued that it would be too heavy a burden on the sector in this period of economic downtown, and that such a charge would be discriminatory, as private cars are also responsible for congestion.  The committee reached a compromise which allows Member States to apply a congestion charge on trucks, on the condition that they apply a similar charge to “all other road users.” Member States would also have to submit a cost/benefit analysis and an action plan setting out their measures to reduce congestion before applying the charge.

Under the Eurovignette, charges are applied according to an impact study carried out by the Commission, with heavy polluters paying more, and eco-friendly trucks paying little or no charges for air pollution. The congestion charge would mean reduced rates would incite drivers to travel during off-peak times.

MEPs from all political groups were united in their support for “earmarking”, in that Member States should be obliged to invest the revenue generated into plans to improve environmental standards of vehicles, and develop alternative transport infrastructure. On roads in mountainous regions, a “mark-up” cost would be invested into alternative parallel transport links, such as railway routes alongside highways.

The rules are not binding, but seek to set a common EU standard for Member States that choose to apply the charges.

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