December 7, 2010
Regarding ‘EU deal on green road tolls leaves few happy‘:
The EU has for long been striving to achieve the objective of a single European transport area while at the same time minimising the negative impact of carbon emission generated by road transport on the environment.
There are already several legal instruments in this respect, including Directive 2004/52/EC on the interoperability of electronic road toll systems in the Community and Commission Decision 2009/750/EC on the definition of the European Electronic Toll Service. However, the delays in implementation of the Decision present significant problems for drivers, thus endangering road safety.
The introduction of electronic toll collection systems in the EU imposes an obligation on drivers of heavy goods vehicles to use a separate on-board unit (‘OBU’) for each country. The multiplicity of OBUs installed on the windshield restricts the driver’s view of the road, thus substantially reducing road safety and posing a threat to human lives. This creates many difficulties, not only for drivers but also for road transport companies.
Each unit makes use of a different principle of signalling – some flash, other shine or give a sound. Drivers must follow many details and, on top of that, remember what the signals of each on-board unit indicate.
The consequence is diminished concentration while driving.
When an on-board unit is wrongly installed the driver is liable for its malfunctioning and he may be fined when the OBU is not functioning in the respective country. Challenge number one continues to be the need to standardise these on-board units in the EU, which would obviate the obligation to install on the windshield and use several OBUs. This could be achieved by speedy enforcement of an EC decision that introduces a single on-board unit for all EU member states.
And it is where the representatives of road transport associations have decided to act. Cesmad Slovakia in association with Cesmad Bohemia and with the support of International Road Transport Union (IRU) have prepared an event called ‘1 OBU = road safety’, held for this purpose in Brussels.
A special truck began its journey in Bratislava and travelled through several European countries (the Czech Republic, Austria, Germany and the Netherlands) before reaching its destination in Brussels. Here, the road transport associations presented a letter (calling for support for speedy implementation of the Decision) directly to Mr. Siim Kallas, vice-president of the European Commission and commissioner for transport, during the IRU Conference on 1 December 1 2010. Commissioner Kallas also received a gift – the front window of a truck with all the OBUs that are used across the EU.
A day later, Mr. Etienne Schouppe, state secretary for mobility of Belgium, which currently holds the rotating EU presidency, also received the same letter on the occasion the Transport Council meeting.
The organisers managed to get their message through. There is a wide-spread agreement that a single European Road Toll Service will help to achieve increased road safety. In addition, there will be no need to re-install the on-board unit and check its proper functioning every time when entering and leaving a country.
Road safety and protecting human lives are of utmost importance and member states are called upon to make this prerogative a top priority and a single European electronic toll service a reality.
InterelAuthor : Letters to the EurActiv editor