Ecotaxe is due to be applied on all freight movements in France from the New Year. Marie Boyer, MD of France Line, French road freight specialists, based in Manchester, takes a look at what this will mean for hauliers, and if anything can be done to mitigate it.
The French Eco-tax is a national road tax introduced by the French government to reduce the environmental impact of road freight transport by encouraging the use of different modes of transport. Originally due to begin in September, the new proposed start date is January 2014, although there is still some uncertainty around this
The charge will affect both French and international hauliers alike. Any hauliers using the French national network of roads must register their trailers with the organisation Ecomouv, which was set up to collect the tax on behalf of the French government and fit a box into each of their registered trailers to record the number of chargeable kilometres used.
However, there are teething problems.
“We are told by our French hauliers that some have yet to receive their onboard units which calibrate mileage and taxable road use, because of the sheer volumes of hauliers who need approving. Others are experiencing delays on installation of these onboard units for the same reason,” says Marie.
The implications for hauliers are steep. Not only do they have to buy the onboard units, and pay for their installation for each trailer, but they won’t be able to absorb this mandatory tax and will want to pass any additional costs to their customers, either through a price increase or through a surcharge. However, until it is implemented, there is still uncertainty regarding what these actual charges will be.
“We know it will be a per-kilometre charge for heavy goods vehicles over 3.5 tonnes using the 10,500 km of French highways and around 5,000 km of secondary routes that are likely to receive significant displaced traffic. The specific fee can only be calculated by the onboard unit at the time of travel, as it monitors how far has been travelled on each taxable road using the rates per kilometre relevant to each road or region of France.
“The bill is issued after the journey, and we predict that it will cause real cash flow issues for the already beleaguered small haulier market. We have even heard of hauliers failing the registration requirements because of insufficient funds in the bank.
Although at the moment the tax applies to all vehicles in excess of 3.5 tonnes, it is believed that some industries, such as the milk producers and construction industry are lobbying for concessions. These have yet to be agreed.
“We’re all in favour of the government encouraging a reduction in empty running, and collaborative logistics,” explained Boyer. “We specialise in full and part loads so we’ve been optimising our freight for years. It’s just not right that these changes are being brought in hastily, nor that hauliers are being asked to be tax collectors.”
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France Line, based in Manchester, are a French road-freight specialist. They provide transport and road haulage from the UK to France.