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Signs of a lack of preparedness ahead of Germany’s imminent truck toll changes

As of July 1, 2024, Germany's truck toll limit will be lowered to also include commercial vehicles with a technically permissible total mass of more than 3.5 tonnes, barring some exceptions. However, despite this significant change, data shows that demand for on-board units (OBUs) used to pay tolls has so far been limited.

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For those unfamiliar with the changes, Germany’s Federal Highway Toll Act (BFStrMG) stipulates that from July 1, 2024, vehicles with a technically permissible total mass of over 3.5 tonnes used for road freight transport are also subject to toll.

Tradespersons can have their vehicles exempt from tolls under certain conditions. However, whether these conditions are met depends on the particular journey and the goods being transported.

According to Federal Government estimates, the new toll will affect 300,000 vehicles with a permissible total mass of more than 3.5 tonnes, of which around 100,000 vehicles will be eligible for the exception allowed to tradespersons.

Although the authorities cannot provide concrete figures for the registration of vehicles in the weight class between 3.5 and 7.5 tonnes, there is evidence that the demand for OBUs for vehicles over 3.5 tonnes tzGm has been low so far.

“The new regulation does not seem to have reached everyone yet. That’s why we appeal: please take care of things in good time,” says Antje Schatzel, press spokeswoman for the toll operator Toll Collect, commenting on the low demand.

Susanne Zolke, press spokeswoman for the Federal Office for Logistics and Mobility, has also pointed out another possible cause:

“It is often assumed that only transport companies are affected by the toll obligation. However, from July 1, 2024, the toll obligation applies to all vehicles used to transport goods with more than 3.5 tonnes, provided they are not exempt from tolls.”

Vehicle owners waiting until the last minute?

To ensure that an OBU is deployed before July 1, 2024, vehicle owners have been advised to take action as soon as possible.

The devices are provided by Toll Collect, the providers of the European Electronic Toll Service (EETS), and their sales partners. According to Toll Collect, there are enough devices available.

“Toll Collect provides OBUs for all vehicles. There are enough windshield and DIN shaft OBUs available,” emphasises Schatzel.

Anyone who misses the OBU installation by July 1st will have to pay the toll manually before their journey via the Toll Collect website or the Toll Collect app.

Compared to automatic collection with an OBU, this is very time-consuming – especially when there are a large number of trips.

“Anyone who would like to pay the toll via Toll Collect should make an appointment for OBU installation with a Toll Collect partner workshop as soon as possible. If the OBU is installed after July 1, 2024, the toll can be billed until then via the Toll Collect website or the Toll Collect app. However, this is much more complex and requires that the route of each toll journey be specified in advance,” explains Toll Collect’s press spokeswoman.

No exceptions for controls

From July 1st, BALM (formerly the BAG) will also inspect vehicles over 3.5 tonnes and under 7.5 tonnes, which are subject to toll for the first time, to check compliance with the new toll regulations.

“The expansion of the toll obligation to vehicles over 3.5 tonnes was extensively communicated, so that toll payers were able to prepare well in advance,” says Zollke.

Comprehensive controls have also been implemented to make circumventing the system impossible.

“Every vehicle can be checked for toll violations. For this purpose, BALM has various types of control available, such as toll control bridges on motorways, toll control columns on federal highways, toll control vehicles, and operational controls, so that comprehensive controls are guaranteed. There are no special features regarding the types of control for vehicles with more than 3.5 tonnes,” emphasises the press spokeswoman of BALM.

What penalties are there?

From July 1, 2024, non-payment of the toll for vehicles over 3.5 tonnes will be punished as an administrative offense.

“Toll violations involving vehicles that will be subject to tolls from July 1, 2024 (more than 3.5-7.5 t tzGm), will be punished with a fine. In this respect, there are no special features for these vehicles,” says Zollke.

In addition, the missed fees must be paid.

“If the toll is intentionally not paid, fines of 240 euros (drivers) and 480 euros (company) are generally imposed. In addition, the unpaid toll will be collected,” adds Zollke.