Belgian Road Tax: will the transport sector draw the short straw?

Posted by Famke De Ro on 04/03/2016

The kilometer-based charging system that will be implemented in Belgium on April 1st, 2016 remains a topic of debate. Countless transport contracts are currently being revised, revealing high levels of uncertainty on both sides of the negotiating table. Since no legal basis is provided for passing on the kilometer tax to customers, both transport companies and their costumers fear that they will end up footing the bill.

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The government’s so-called “accompanying measures”, such as the end of the Euro vignette, the partial abolishment of road taxes and the fiscal deductibility of the kilometer charges via the corporation tax and personal income tax are all intended to soften the blow. But various transport associations have pointed out that these measures fall short since they fail to fully compensate for the extra costs. Even after the compensatory measures have been factored in, the Belgian road transport sector is left facing a bill of €141 million.

Feeling this increased pressure imposed on their profit margins, transporters have started renegotiating their prices with customers, a difficult process that raises questions on the true cost impact of this new truck toll system.

Data as a basis for negotiation

There is no doubt that a clear view on the impact of the kilometer-based charging system is an essential basis for effective negotiations. Although the Belgian Institute for Road Transport and Logistics (ITLB) has estimated the average cost increase caused by the kilometer tax, a common feeling exists that anyone who trusts in averages will undoubtedly end up disenchanted. The kilometer toll for trucks highly depends on multiple factors, causing strong fluctuations, even within a limited set of routes. A more profound elaboration on this subject and examples can be found here.

Then how to calculate the cost increase? Tax simulators –tools that allow to calculate the exact tax cost for a specific route and vehicle– might be the answer, but haulage companies are afraid that these do not cover the entire bill. Also Karl Debruyn from Transmet expresses his concerns: “Tax simulators do not take into account empty kilometers, nor maintenance visits or the extra costs for our breakdown service. Customers restrict tax calculations to their tours, meaning that a substantial part of the kilometer charges will be fully presented to the transport sector”. According to Truck & Business, this misunderstanding can only be avoided if logistic parties offer full transparency to their customers about total costs and profitability per tour. This encounters calculating the true impact on total transport activities and might start a meaningful dialogue between shippers and haulage companies. 

A different perspective on transport

Despite the extra burdens that are associated with the new kilometer-based truck toll, shippers and transport companies can also seize this opportunity to intensify their collaboration and work on saving costs and improving efficiency together. Trucks running empty will be subject to even greater financial penalties, and measures to increase the load factor will be prioritized more than ever before. Possible approaches that can improve the efficiency of road transport include the use of more efficient and more powerful planning tools, consolidation of transport flows and the use of LHVs with a maximum permissible weight of 60 ton. In that context, the kilometer-based charging system may trigger more alignment and may enable the entire industry to take its first steps towards fundamentally smarter transport solutions.

Topics: Road Tax, Kilometer charges

Famke De Ro

Written by Famke De Ro

Logistic Optimization Expert at Conundra.