Truck-tax protests block Belgian border crossings
Tuesday, 05 April 2016
Disruptions continuing as hauliers rage against road toll that will add estimated 8% to their operating costs, while French call for one-month suspension
Protests against the introduction of an HGV tax scheme in Belgium continued today with hauliers and farmers blocking the country’s border crossings in an expression of fury against road tolls that will add an estimated 8% to their operating costs.
It follows similar action yesterday and on 1 April - when the scheme took effect - leading French haulage trade body FNTR to call for a one-month suspension of the scheme to sort out the current difficulties.
The tax is levied on all HGVs of 3.5 tonnes and above at a variable rate ranging from around €0.07/kilometre to almost €0.30/kilometre. According to Belgium’s road transport institute ITBL, the toll will add around 8% to hauliers operating costs.
HGVs using Belgian roads must be equipped with an On Board Unit (OBU), which require a deposit of €135. This enables trucks to be tracked via a satellite system and the tax to be levied. Hauliers face a fine of €1,000 for non-compliance.
However, the satellite system has reportedly been dogged by technical difficulties, causing the OBUs to malfunction.
Belgian road haulage federation Febetra said that at a time of reduced margins in the sector, its members would have to pass on the tax to shippers and regretted the fact that the scheme did not make provision for this to be done automatically.
However, it called on protesters to lift their blockade of border crossings immediately, saying such action was not the best way of finding a solution.
'Crisis talks' between Febetra and state officials yesterday evening had been limited to discussing the technical difficulties the scheme had encountered and not the tax itself, a spokesperson told Lloyd's Loading List.
French hauliers have also criticised the tax, with a statement yesterday from trade body FNTR calling on the Belgian authorities to go back on their decision and opt for a ‘dry run’ of at least one month in order to test out the entire scheme and thus bring to an end the current “chaotic situation”.
It added: “Our worst fears have been realised... bottlenecks of traffic at border points and the malfunction of OBUs.”
Dutch road haulage federation TLN has also criticised the scheme, claiming it was “exerting pressure” on firms.