Failure for Germany to collect the truck toll: The costs for the traffic police should not be included in the calculation of the amount of this fee. The European Court of Justice (ECJ) in Luxembourg ruled on Wednesday, approving a Polish forwarding company.
As a result, a claim for reimbursement of the toll had started in Germany. The Higher Administrative Court for North Rhine-Westphalia in Münster had asked the Court of Justice for clarification (case C-321/19). The case now goes back to Münster, the exact consequences are still unclear.
According to the Court of Justice, for the period from January 1, 2010 to July 18, 2011, the transport company paid tolls totaling EUR 12,420.53 for the use of German federal highways. Its shareholders argued as claimants that the method by which the tolls were calculated was contrary to EU law. It has created an excessive financial obligation.
The CJEU has now ruled that when determining the tolls, only the infrastructure costs may be taken into account, that is to say, the expenditure for construction, operation, maintenance and expansion of the relevant traffic route network.
“However, police activities are the responsibility of the state, which exercises sovereign powers and not only acts as the manager of road infrastructure,” the highest European judges ruled. The costs of the traffic police could therefore not be regarded as operating costs within the meaning of the Toll Directive.
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According to the ECJ, infrastructure costs were only exceeded 3.8 percent because of the involvement of the traffic police. The judges consider that the directive excludes any excess of infrastructure costs due to costs incurred. They also rejected Germany’s request to limit the effect of the judgment in time.
The ECJ remained in line with the Advocate General in its ruling. In his judgment in June, the CJEU expert ruled that it is contrary to EU law if the costs for the traffic police are also included in the toll.
What could happen to Germany now
On the one hand, there is now a threat that Germany will have to pay back tolls. On the other hand, the federal government could lose revenue in the future if the infrastructure costs were reorganized. So far, the federal government has earned about $ 7 billion a year from truck tolls used on the highways.
It is unclear what amounts could be in the fire. The Ministry of Transport in Berlin had remained silent on the verdict. The ruling could also speed up the debate on a new version of the Eurovignette Directive, also known as the Road Costs Directive. It regulates the tolls for heavy commercial vehicles.
The truck toll on federal highways was introduced in 2005. According to the Ministry of Transport, this has led to a system change – from taxation to user financing for the construction of highways. Heavy trucks in particular wear out the roads. Truck tolls have now been extended to all federal highways. It applies to trucks from 7.5 tons. There is a differentiation according to the polluting emissions of the vehicles.
Total revenues amounted to approximately 7.5 billion euros last year. Almost 50 million flowed to the municipalities. In times of the corona pandemic, declining revenues are expected this year due to lower kilometers.
According to the calculation of the road costs for the federal trunk road network for the years 2018 to 2022, the operating, maintenance and toll costs as well as the expenditure for the police form an essential part of the infrastructure costs.
The ECJ had quashed plans for a German car toll in June 2019 because they discriminated against drivers from abroad. Federal Minister of Transport Andreas Scheuer (CSU) is therefore under heavy pressure. The Bundestag is under investigation for possible violations of budgetary and public procurement law. (dpa)