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Community member States can impose the payment of "external costs" on industrial vehicles, the income from which would be used to develop infrastructures. The new directive must be adopted within two years

Paolo Castiglia

New costs for road hauliers: on 12 September, the European Council approved the new Eurovignette directive which will be adopted by all member States. Only Italy and Spain voted against it while the Netherlands, Ireland and Portugal abstained. The directive was approved last June by the European Parliament and its passage to the Council represented the last stage before its application. Member States now have two years from the publication of the directive in the European Official Gazette to adopt and apply it.
With this new directive, the States can impose the payment of so-called "external costs" on industrial vehicles, the income from which should be used to develop infrastructures. The amount of the toll will depend on the vehicle's pollution class, the distance travelled and even when it travels on certain roads with relation to congestion. Another important new development is that the Eurovignette will be imposed for all motorways and not just those that are specifically European, which is the current situation.
Exemptions. Vehicles with Euro 5 engines will be exempt from paying until Euro 6 comes into force (up to 31 December 2013). Euro 6 vehicles will be exempt until 31 December 2017. Hybrid and electric vehicles are exempt without any time limitations. States may also exempt vehicles with a total mass of less than 12 tons. However, Anita, which represents structured road haulage companies, is critical of the new directive on supplementary motorway tolls approved by the European Parliament. In a note, the association stated that it did not object to the principle of the regulation, in other words, polluters must pay, but rather to its application only to goods transport.
The reaction of the "heavyweights". "This provision will lead to a further increase in road transport across the Alps. For international transport, a supplementary cost for congestion, which cannot be recovered, will lead to an increase in current toll levels of over 10% for emissions and over 50% for congestion", Anita explained in a note. "Such an increase in the cost of road transport" - the association explains - "without the valid alternative of railway transport, will have a serious effect on the Italian economy, given that the large railway infrastructures like the Brenner and the Turin/Lyons will be not be ready until 2025". The communication ended with appreciation for Minster for Transport, Altero Matteoli, "for the decisive action taken in an extremely difficult situation of minority with regard to the demands of the major European countries that will be crossed and will therefore benefit substantially from the regulation".
The reaction of the "lightweights". The chairman of Confartigianato Trasporti and UETR, Francesco del Boca, is also unconvinced by the new directive and emphasized "the serious impact on road hauliers deriving from the application of the new directive". In particular, Del Boca questions the measures against road congestion and those regarding the use of the income from Eurovignette 2: "It should be compulsory for the resources from higher tolls to be allocated to the road transport sector for making road transport more sustainable and efficient, for example through investments in ‘green' or new technologies that are particularly important for small- and medium-sized enterprises that frequently are unable to meet the burdens imposed by technical and environmental regulations".
According to the chairman of Confartigianato Trasporti, the directive approved by the European Parliament allows States "to decide whether or not to use the income to reduce the impact of external costs" (pollution, noise, congestion) with investments in road transport. "We are about to see" - he concluded - "the introduction of a new and additional tax on companies with the sole aim of generating cash that goes beyond the declared environmental reasons". Del Boca also considers discriminatory the fact that only road hauliers are included in the new system of taxation, with the exclusion of other road users.

• Penalties linked to payment times

The Inland Revenue Agency has issued a circular which describes the methods for the application of penalties in the case of the responsibility of the carrier, the contractor, the loader and the owner of the goods for infringements of 83-bis.
Specifically, these are penalties linked to payment times (60 days without interest, 90 days with interest) and the non-payment of the diesel differential. The penalties described in article 83-bis are exclusion of up to six months from public tenders for the supply of goods and services, and exclusion for one year from tax, financial and social security benefits of all types provided for by law. The Inland Revenue Agency is the authority for applying these exclusions from tax benefits. There are two separate procedures. The first follows the ascertainment of infringements with the application of exclusion for six months from public tenders for the supply of goods and services and exclusion for one year from tax, financial and social security benefits.
The second can be applied only if the tax benefits have been claimed. In this case, the relevant administration for individual benefits initiates procedures for applying penalties "by issuing a specific penalty for the unlawful use of the tax benefit".
The provisions for the application of the administration penalties will be issued by the regional director (or by the provincial director of Trento and Bolzano) on the basis of the tax domicile of the subject responsible for the infringement. The Agency points out that within sixty days from the notification of the penalty, the contributor may apply to the Tribunale Amministrativo Regionale. As an alternative to judicial action and only for legitimate reasons, extraordinary application may be made to the President of the Republic within 20 days from the notification.

• Slowdown in transport recovery in Europe and the USA

A survey by the International Transport Forum has shown a slowdown in the recovery of world road haulage due to a decline in the economy. A large part of the flows depend on the state of the main economies in Asia.
In the third quarter of the year, international maritime traffic was less (in tons) than in the previous quarter in the United States at 4% below pre-crisis levels, and in Europe (3% below pre-crisis levels). There has been a slowdown in the recovery of air traffic which in June 2011 stood at 9% below pre-crisis levels in Europe (compared to 15% in February 2011) and only 2% in the United States. According to the International Transport Forum, in the second quarter there was also a downturn in exports to Asia from Europe and the USA which had a negative effect on maritime and air transport from these two countries.
Only routes to India showed a positive trend. The recovery in domestic rail and road transport was also slow. In Europe, the former stood at 9% below pre-crisis levels and the latter at 13% (in tons). In the United States, rail transport stood at 16% below pre-crisis levels.

• Catricalà: fuel prices are too high

Fuel prices remain high and continue to increase, for this reason "the sector is being investigated also to be certain that the Platts index is a transparent and not a conversational reference". The report by Competition Authority chairman Antonio Catricalà followed a survey by the Authority into shipping activities that ended with a fine of 76 million euros for 19 Italian operators. According to the Authority, reforms are blocked and liberalization is no longer a priority on the political agenda. The following are the comments by the Competition Authority chairman during an annual report presented to the Chamber. "Lately" - Catricalà stated - "the process of reform has been halted and liberalization has disappeared from the list of priorities on the political agenda. The Authority had to report dangerous attempts to close the markets dictated by special interests in such sectors as pharmacies, insurance, certain professions and transport".

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