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Countdown to the introduction of the French eco-tax

After several postponements, the introduction of the tax on heavy goods vehicles is finally planned for 2013. Already in operation in Germany, Slovakia and the Netherlands, French fruit and vegetable producers are worried, viewing this tax as a new tool to distort competition with the Spanish and Moroccan producers.

Foreign lorries will be subject to a new French tax on the use of secondary roads. ( F. André)
Foreign lorries will be subject to a new French tax on the use of secondary roads. ( F. André)

The introduction had been delayed for as long as possible, however the date for the introduction of an eco-tax in France has now been set in stone. From June 2013, vehicles weighing over 3.5 tons using the State-managed national road network will be taxed according to their size and the number kilometres travelled.

This measure, proposed within the framework of the French Government instigated Environment Round Table (Grenelle de l’environnement), should contribute to a reduction in the use of road freight. Today, the taxes levied on freight forwarding companies does not account for road deterioration, air pollution, noise pollution, network congestion and road accidents. This eco-tax will enable the State to recover the actual cost of road freight. Firstly, it will encourage shippers to turn to other modes of transport and, secondly, it will force the sector to review its practices. It could be a question of reducing the number of unladen journeys, of increasing the load transported or of choosing more effectively between motorways and secondary roads.

€1.2 billion collected in France

Revenue from this tax will fill the coffers of the French Transport Infrastructure Financing Agency (AFITF), providing the means to set about achieving the objectives set during the French Environment Round Table. A report by the French Court of Auditors on the budgetary and fiscal impact of the Environment Round Table details these objectives: “a 25% increase in the modal share of non-road freight in 2012 in relation to 2007. The share of freight not transported by road has, in fact, declined since this date, leading the Government to announce a national commitment to rail freight. Certain decisions however taken in parallel have led to the competitiveness of road freight being maintained, even improved, namely the lowering of the axle tax in 2008, the delay in implementing the eco-road tax on heavy goods vehicles and the authorisation, in January 2011, of the use of 44-ton heavy goods vehicles”.

This new tax should generate an annual revenue of €1.2 billion in France. Germany, who introduced their own tax in 2005, collected €4.4 billion in 2009. Toll fees for heavy goods vehicles are now charged on close to 13,000 kilometres of German motorway, or a total of 28 billion kilometres covered by heavy goods vehicles each year, 35% of which by foreign vehicles. In Slovakia, where the tax has been levied since January 2010, foreign vehicles account for 60% of the total.

Like Slovakia, France is a transit country however “lorries driving through northern Europe mainly use the motorways and will therefore avoid this tax that applies to secondary roads” notes Bruno Kothe of France’s National Road Haulage Federation (FNTR). “Those that leave the motorway network,” he adds, “should in principle comply with the new law and consequently pay the tax. At least one hopes so!”

Lundi 16 Avril 2012

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