How the updated EuroVignette directive will impact truck operating costs

Ylva Dalerstedt
Sustainability Save Fuel
Ylva Dalerstedt
Segment Manager Long Haul

Truck road tolls in the EU are changing and charges are going to dramatically increase, especially for diesel and gas-powered trucks. Germany’s road toll, MAUT, will be the first to roll out the latest EuroVignette directive. So how will MAUT work and what can truck operators do to mitigate emissions and costs? 

In March 2022, the EuroVignette directive, which governs truck road tolling in the EU, was revised. Under the new rules, road charges for trucks traveling on Europe’s main highways will mostly move from time-based to actual kilometers driven-based charging by 2030.

EU member states will also be required to set different road charging rates based on a truck’s CO2 emission class. The emission class will be decided by a truck’s VECTO rating, the EU’s standardized calculation tool for measuring CO2 emissions based on data input from the manufacturer. Since January 2019, all new trucks sold in the EU with a gross vehicle weight of over 3.5 tonnes, must come with a certified CO2 and fuel consumption declaration, created by VECTO.

Now, truck businesses in Europe are one step closer to seeing this reform in action. Germany will be the first to update its MAUT (German for toll) system with the changes coming into force from 1 December 2023.

“The EU’s ambition is not only to harmonize truck tolls across Europe. It is to incentivize truck businesses to transition to cleaner trucks to help meet upcoming climate goals. To do this, less environmentally friendly trucks will become more expensive to operate, encouraging truck businesses to purchase better alternatives,” says Ylva Dalerstedt, Segment Manager, Long Haul, Volvo Trucks. 

How you specify your truck to reduce fuel consumption and, in turn, CO2 emissions, will have a major role to play in terms of costs.

The way MAUT currently charges truck businesses means it is in a good position to introduce the EU directive reform. It already applies air pollution charges and tolling is distance-based and overseen by the government. For member states that operate their tolls in the same way (Poland, Belgium, Austria, Czechia, Hungary, Slovakia, Slovenia and Bulgaria), the deadline to introduce the new requirements is in March 2024.

What will the updated MAUT cost truck businesses and how will it work?

For trucks driving through Germany, the toll is going to significantly increase. For example, the cost per kilometer for a 4x2 diesel truck will almost double - from 19 cent to 34.8 cent. Previously, gas-powered trucks were exempt from paying pollution tolls but soon, regardless of whether the truck runs on renewable biogas or non-renewable natural gas, there will be a charge of 33.2 cent per kilometer*, almost the same as a diesel truck. This is because the VECTO calculation only considers tailpipe CO2 emissions.

Nevertheless, trucks can be optimized to meet a better emission class and lower toll - and even small adjustments can make a big difference in costs, says Ylva Dalerstedt. “A 5% reduction in emissions calculated by VECTO could see a 4 x 2 diesel truck move from class 1 to class 2. A further 3% reduction could see it move into class 3. This means that how you specify your truck to reduce fuel consumption and, in turn, CO2 emissions, will have a major role to play.”

The MAUT system will categorize trucks by weight and number of axles, and there are five emission classes (with corresponding charges per kilometer), as outlined in the animation below.

*The figures are based on a truck weighing over 18 tonnes with more than five axles.

Germany will be the first country to implement the new emission classes on 1 December 2023, with cost rising dramatically for diesel and gas-powered trucks. The total toll cost depends on the truck’s weight and number of axles.

It is worth noting that the classification of a vehicle in CO2 emission classes 2 and 3 will be recalculated six years after its first registration (based on the limit values applicable at the time of the review).

This is to meet the EU’s emission reduction trajectory for trucks - a 15% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2025 compared to 2019 for 6x4 and 4x2 diesel trucks, and an increased expected target by 2030 (starting in 2025). The limits for CO2 emission classes also vary and are tightened every year.

How can you specify a truck to ensure the best VECTO rating?

When specifying a truck, there are four key factors that must be considered to increase energy efficiency - aerodynamics, powertrain, rolling resistance and weight.

The aerodynamics of a truck can account for as much as a third of fuel losses on a typical long haul diesel operation. The cab shape and design should minimize aerodynamic drag. Air deflectors can also be installed to improve the air flow around the sides and over the top of the truck.

The choice of powertrain (for diesel trucks) and auxiliaries are crucial. The engine, transmission, and cruise control have the most significant impact, and recent technology has increased their efficiency. Turbo compound engines now provide greater power and fuel efficiency, and automated transmissions can utilize real-time data to optimize each gear shift. The use of predictive cruise control can also save fuel on hilly terrain.

Rolling resistance constitutes approximately 9% of a truck's fuel consumption, with tires being the predominant factor in reducing these losses. For a long haul truck, the optimal tire should have a low rolling resistance grade (ideally A label in Europe) combined with a rubber compound for minimal friction.

Finally, a lightweight truck specification will also help to lower CO2 emissions. For highway driving where rough terrain is not a factor, it is possible to choose a lighter chassis frame, front suspension and rear axle, among other lighter components.

Alternatively, now could be a good time to start considering zero emission trucks, says Ylva Dalerstedt. “Zero emission vehicles, such as battery-electric trucks and fuel cell electric vehicles, will be exempt from CO2 charges until January 1, 2026, when a heavily reduced toll rate will be introduced. They are the obvious choice if you really want to reduce your CO2 footprint and potentially your total cost of ownership in the long run.”

How will distance, CO2-based tolls impact the truck industry?

While Germany will be the first to introduce the revised EuroVignette directive, the remaining EU members will be required to follow in 2024-2025. 

The rest of the world is also starting to show an interest in what is happening in Europe, says Ylva Dalerstedt. “VECTO in particular is being closely observed by countries such as Malaysia and China looking to set up a similar CO2-based calculation tool for truck tolls.”

“Overall, this is a great reform for Europe and the truck industry as a whole. For the first time, truck businesses will be encouraged to find better solutions to lower CO2 emissions, and truck manufacturers will have a clear framework to work towards to provide these solutions. And that is what is needed to aid the shift to zero emissions.”