EurActiv - Letters to the Editor


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.

Jachym Homola


Author :


  1. The article is interesting but covers just one small chapter of the big “tolling bible”.

    The OBU is not a hard issue. The question is how to build a market which will be ready to provide the service of interoperable tolling.

    The market must be defined, and the roles of the players must be regulated and protected. For the moment there are no players and no interoperable market as the policy makers see it.

    This period is a period for experts. Of course, prudent comments will always be welcome for our shelves.

  2. Here in Belgium, they are actually testing this new system with OBU’s with test persons. It’s a hidden new tax, and not fair. The idea behind it is good : less car users due to more taxes, so less traffic jams, and less polution they think.

    But people like to live outside the big cities, as cities are too expensive to live (buying of a house) or too crowdy and noisy. And people like to keep control over there way to travel. As the more they are independent, the quicker you get from, or to your home in order to have time for your kids or yourself. Isn’t that the goal anymore ? Do we need to travel 1h more if we use the busses and trains, instead of the same route with traffic jams with the car ? I’m talking about people who live further from their work. Or are you gonna obligate indirectly to move peoples houses to the cities and industrial zones !!!???

    I work at the airport near a city (Liege in Belgium). I work in shifts (7-15, 15-23 and 23-07h). I cannot take a bus or train, as there are none in my rural zone where I live, or too less. I need to get my kids at school first before getting to my home. Do you think it’s wise for me to take 4 a 5 different busses which drives only once an hour to get first my kids at the school, and then go to my home ? What about the time before I will be at home ? No time to do the home work of the kids, nor time to play with them before starting to make a meal, and getting them into bath. I’m wondering if I will make more kids. I see no reason why, if I see which way Europe want’s to go.

    The idea stays the same to spent the less time to get home, and to have some quality time with the kids. Or is the EU going to obligate people to concentrate their homes around their working places next to industrial zones in order to drive the less, and avoid driving taxes. Hmmm…, smelly and healthy. What about the people who don’t like to live in crowdy areas, or like to live in a rural zones ? Will they have to pay for this ? The major jobs are situated around big cities. Obligating people to live there is really not fair, and wont solve the traffic jams. Despite the eocological advantages, you leave people no choice, and the taxes wont demotivate people like me. It makes me a-political, and my plans to have more kids, don’t talk about it. Let’s all get more stressed due these new measures, and get burn outs at work due to more and more stress. Time is allready critical in life. Europe isn’t helping.

    Aside of this fact, we pay in Belgium a lot of taxes on fuel. If you drive more. You pay more fuel, and so also more taxes. So there is allready a demotivation element to use your car. Do you think Belgium is going to remove the taxes on fuel in case they activate the OBU system ? I dont think so. They didn’t talk about that. No, you just will pay more for your transport, and there is no alternative, unless you live next to your job in an industrial zone !! Stupid ! Europe seams also to forget that the fuel price is not the same anymore then 10 years ago, and it wont evoluate in the negatif way. In some years it wont be possible anymore to drive as it is too expensive ! Centrainly with such measure upside the fuel price !

    Why do all foreign transport companies use our roads whitout paying any taxes ? Why do we pay taxes in other surounding countries (péages/toll houses in France, taxes in Germany, Switzerland, and so on…) and they don’t pay here ?

    Why can’t we impose a vignet like in Switzerland and have péages for the other users of our roads, and keep the taxes on the fuel. That way foreign travellers also pay for the use of our roads ?

    Concentrating people around cities, which are sometimes allready crowded, and sometimes (subjectif off course) unpleasant to live, and pesting people with more taxes in order to demotivate them. You have to live in Europe to experience these magnificent ideas !

    Long live Europe !

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