To combat congestion or generate new revenue, road pricing projects have been implemented in several countries outside the United States, including Germany, Singapore, Sweden, and the United Kingdom. A scan team from the United States traveled to Europe and Asia to meet with transportation officials involved in implementation of road pricing programs and to learn firsthand about their approaches and practices. The scan tour was sponsored by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), and the National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NHCRP). The 10 members of the multidisciplinary scan team included transportation professionals from four State departments of transportation (DOT), one regional transportation agency, FHWA, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), and private industry. Based on observations made by the scan team, key project elements and benefits realized in the form of increased mobility and reduced emissions are reported below.
Germany, being at the crossroads of Europe, has significant east-west and north-south freight movement via trucks. German motor fuel taxes did not prove to be an effective means of revenue generation to pay for highway infrastructure maintenance resulting from the volumes of heavy trucks moving across Germany. As a consequence, the Germans sought a new source of revenue through distance-based charging on the autobahns, the equivalent of the U.S. interstate highways. The German heavy goods vehicle (HGV) tolling program began commercial operations in January 2005. It is the world’s first satellite-based, countrywide electronic tolling system and applies only to trucks weighing more than 12 tons on the autobahns and a small number of other national highways. All trucks, irrespective of national registry, are tolled based on the number of axles, vehicle emissions rating, and distance traveled.
The system covers about 7,700 road miles (12,392 kilometers), including 30-plus miles (48 kilometers) of local roads and more than 2,460 access points. Truckers have two payment methods:
- An automated system using a combination of satellite-based (GPS) tracking via onboard units (OBU), mobile communications (GSM), and dedicated short-range communications (DSRC) for enforcement interrogation.
- A manual booking system, which allows trucks without OBUs to book their travel via the Internet or through roadside terminal kiosks available to arrange for payments.
While the operating costs are considerable, Germany has demonstrated that a GPS- and distance-based heavy goods vehicle (HGV) tolling program can be successfully implemented at a national level to accomplish the following functions:
- Shift to a user-pays approach.
- Improve system efficiency by creating incentives to reduce empty truck trips.
- Reduce greenhouse gas emissions by promoting the use of cleaner trucks and truck technology.
- Generate substantial new funding for infrastructure.
- Based on the European Union’s five-step emission classification scale (with Euro 5 being the cleanest vehicles and Euro 1 the dirtiest), the number of vehicle-miles using cleaner trucks (Euro 4 and 5) rose 60 percent, from 2 percent in 2005 to over 62 percent in 2009.
- Conversely, the vehicle-miles driven by dirtier trucks (Euro 1, 2, and 3) declined from 98 percent to 38 percent. Empty trucks on the road declined by 7 percent.