The Austrian government has announced that Euro 6 trucks will have their road toll rate raised by 4 percent beginning on January 1, 2020. Günther Reder, chairman of the Association of Freight Transport in the Austrian Federal Chamber of Commerce (WKÖ), came down heavily on the proposed increase in toll tariffs on July 5, calling the decision “regrettable” in the wake of all the agreements and assurances given by the government to carriers that toll rates will not be touched.
True to this, the Austrian Minister of Transport, Norbert Hofer, had publicly stated in March that the government would not look to raise rates – a promise that now looks hollow. Adding salt to the wound is the extent of the toll rate increase, with the to-be-enforced hike percentage double that of the local inflation figures. “With an average 2018 annual inflation of 2 percent, the toll for the most environmentally friendly Euro 6 trucks available on the market is set to increase by around 4 percent,” said Reder.
“Of the environmental toll revenues of 87 million euros collected by the Ministry of Transport so far, not a single cent went to the transporters for the promised support measures. As a bonus, ASFiNAG (Austrian highway authority) is paying out around €165 million in dividends to the federal government this year, and even the years before,” continued Reder. “These funds do not flow into the transport infrastructure but are used for other budget pots and payments. All this draws a devastating picture.”
However, this is not the first instance of trouble fomenting in terms of regulations and restrictions in Austria. The federal state of Tyrol in Austria has had frequent run-ins with trucking companies – and even the European Commission – over its extra-judicial block checks on trucks hauling on its roads. Geographically, this is a problem as Tyrol shares its borders with Germany, Italy and Switzerland.
Austria is a member of the European Union (EU), and block checks inherently violate the EU rules of free trade and free movement of goods and services, but Tyrol continues to do it – increasing its numbers from 26 organized block checks in 2018 to 32 such checks this year. This is a major issue, because such block checks create unnecessary traffic bottlenecks on the highways, with thousands of logistics hours being wasted queuing up for checks.
These checks often lead to a traffic hold-up within Germany’s state of Bavaria, prompting Germany to file a complaint against Austria with the EU Court of Justice. In a letter to both Germany and Italy, Violeta Bulc, the European Commissioner for Transport, had mentioned that her department did not agree with the frequent checks and had notified authorities in Austria of those concerns.
This apart, Tyrol also banned trucks from hauling on local roads within the metropolitan regions of Wipptal and Innsbruck during summer weekends, as these roads were used by truckers to circumvent dense traffic in the tolled highways. The government argued that the movement of trucks within smaller towns annoys the locals and the restriction was to reduce the inconvenience caused.
Tyrol has also levied selective bans on hauling specific items over the road, including rocks and rubble, round logs, motorized vehicles, ceramic tiles, steel rods and cables, among others. But the list is set to expand starting in 2020, with grain, liquified petroleum gas, limestone and plaster, and even paper being added to the prohibited-to-haul list.