The ins & outs of the new Belgian road charging system ("Kilometerheffing")

Posted by Dr. Ir. Steven De Schrijver on 19/02/2016

From 1 April 2016 onwards, all heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) weighing over 3.5 tonnes will be charged to use the Belgian road network. Both the legal and the operational framework are now in place and many companies, in Belgium and abroad, are preparing for the roll-out. But what will be the exact impact of the toll system on your day-to-day business? Below, we have listed five key topics every fleet owner should be aware of.

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Kilometer charging for trucks: what & why?

By introducing a kilometer-based charging system, or so called "kilometerheffing", the Belgian government says they want to confront road users with the marginal external costs they impose on society. The kilometer-based truck toll applies to all motorways and many regional roads (including ring roads around cities) in Flanders and Wallonia as well as to the entire road network in the Brussels region. Roads in port areas are exempt. Pricing depends on the type of road, the Euro emission class of vehicles and their maximum permissible weight. In the future other factors may also be taken into account, such as the time of day and the exact location of the vehicle. One might see the latter as a missed opportunity to have immediate impact on the congestion problems in Belgium.  

The government has promised to invest some of the revenue generated by the new toll system in maintaining and updating Belgium’s road network. In addition, the revenue will also be used to fund larger tax reductions and to meet the budgeting goals. Several transport associations are calling for more transparency with respect to how the revenue will be invested. 

How to comply?

To be compliant all HGVs must be equipped with an on-board unit (OBU). Vehicle owners who fail to install an OBU will be fined EUR1,000.

OBU Belgian Road Charging

There are 3 ways to order OBUs: 

  1. on the Road User Portal. Satellic, has set up an online user portal. This gives all companies access to a private, secure and personalised area where they can register their vehicles, order one or more OBUs and manage all vehicle-related data. 
  2. via the service points. OBUs can also be obtained from one of the 130 Satellic service points, either in Belgium or neighbouring countries. Satellic charges a deposit of EUR135 which is reimbursed when the HGV owner returns the OBU.
  3. or via one of Satellic's partners: Aral/BP, AS24, Brandstoffen Maes, DATS 24, DKV, ENI/AGIP, euroShell, eurotoll, Eurowag, E100, Febetra, Gabriëls, Global Star, LogPay, Octa+, OMV, PowerOil, Plose, Ressa, Statoil, SVG, TLV, Total, UTA, Vialtis, ZMPD.

More and more companies are getting ready for the Belgian road charging. For example DKV registered the 40,000 th OBU to Belgian Logistic Service provider H.Essers

Belgian Road Charging - DKV registered 40000th OBU to H.Essers

How to pay the toll?

Satellic offers prepaid and post-paid options. Prepayments can be made via all regular payment channels, including SEPA transfers. Post-payment is restricted to credit card (or fuel/fleet card) payments only. Direct debit will also be possible from July 2016 onwards but, for now, post-payment is recommended. Companies that start with prepayment and later decide to switch to a direct debit, for example, should be aware that the prepaid amount will not be transferred automatically. Therefore, it will be necessary to use up the prepaid amount first before switching to a different payment method.

Invoices will be sent on a fortnightly or monthly basis. Fleet owners can request a single invoice covering all of their vehicles. They will receive an e-mail whenever a new invoice is available in their secure area on the user portal.

Are there any compensation procedures?

Although it does not take away the total cost increase arising from the kilometer-based truck charging system, a couple of compensation measures are in place. For example, HGVs weighing between 3.5 and 12 tonnes will be completely exempt from paying circulation tax, and HGVs weighing over 12 tonnes will pay the European minimum in circulation tax. Also, the Eurovignette will no longer be levied for Belgian roads.

More elaborate information and interesting articles on Belgian road charging can also be found on the VOKA website and the website of Truck & Business.

 

What will be the cost impact?

Despite the measures taken by the Belgian government, many HGV owners are concerned about the real impact of kilometer-based charging on their profitability. The Belgian Institute for Road Transport and Logistics (ITLB) estimates that transport prices will suffer a 7.94% increase in Flanders and a rise of up to 12.40% in Brussels. In a study ordered by Fevia, Transport & Mobility Leuven calculates the economical impact of the road charging specifically for the food industry. They estimate the total income for the different Belgian regions to be 956 Mi EUR per year. 

A lot of companies are struggling to find out the exact impact for their transport cost and how to come to new agreements with their customers. Two type of reactions can be distinguished. On the one hand there are companies that have a false sense of confidence in the use of a calculated average cost increase, on the other hand there are companies that have no idea at all what is coming, how this is going to impact their business and they fear they will have to - quite literally - pay the price.

Quite a bit of transport agreements are renegotiated without any insight into the real cost impact of this tax. Based on the currently available information it is difficult for shippers and logistics providers to come to correct price agreements. On both sides of the table there's a distinct feeling of fear that one of the parties is going to end up paying the additional cost and be the victim in this situation. 

 

Simulate a couple of routes

There are a few simulation tools popping up online that allow transporters to simulate a few routes. Such as the Conundra online road tax simulator. These simulators can be useful to tell you what you want to know for a limited set of routes but give no exact insight into your entire operation flow. On a limited set of routes the cost impact can vary from 2% up to 12%.

 

Calculate the full cost impact

OptiFlow route optimization software with integrated RoadTax engine is a powerful and complete optimization & simulation tool that can process large amounts of data at high speeds. Large players on the market already rely on the tool to calculate the exact impact of the road tax on their business. That allows them to make thought-out, data-driven decisions.

OptiFlow also gives the flexibility to simulate routes when the exact routes are not known yet. In that case the tool converts the orders in routes, it calculates and plans the optimal routes en then decides on what the upper limit of the additional cost would be. By doing this the OptiFlow environment offers a reliable tool that enables to sit at the negotiation table with your partners based on actual data instead of a few wild guesses. 

To view OptiFlow in action, click the video below:

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Topics: Road Tax

Dr. Ir. Steven De Schrijver

Written by Dr. Ir. Steven De Schrijver

Dr. Ir. Steven De Schrijver is co-founder and CEO of Conundra. He has more than 17 years of practical experience in supply chain optimization and is an experienced board advisor at EU level. Steven also delivers academic publications, has a PhD and is a lecturer in operations research.