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Road hauliers face higher costs in 2005

A truck passes a new toll point on a German motorway Keystone

Switzerland’s tax on heavy goods vehicles is set to increase by around 50 per cent from January 1, driving up transport costs in the country.

At the same time, neighbouring Germany is introducing a blanket charge on all heavy vehicles using motorways, which is likely to have a major impact on Swiss hauliers.

Switzerland’s tax hike means European transport firms which use the alpine country as a transit route will find it much more expensive to transport goods by road between northern Europe and Italy. Many may opt to use alternative longer routes through Austria.

For their part, Swiss hauliers are warning that they will have to increase their charges by at least 12 per cent to offset the higher cost of using Switzerland’s roads.

“We will have to increase our prices within Switzerland by 12 to 15 per cent; we have no other choice,” said a spokesman for the transport firm Friderici Spécial.

But the good news for Swiss hauliers is that from January 1, 40-ton lorries will be permitted in Switzerland as in the European Union. The limit in Switzerland is currently 34-tons.

According to the Federal Office of Spatial Planning, this move will allow transport companies to increase their productivity and will partially compensate them for the increased road tax.

The authorities argue there is no need for hauliers to increase their charges by as much as 12 per cent. They are predicting an increase in transport costs of around four per cent.

German tolls

Germany’s introduction of a toll on trucks using its motorway system will further drive up costs for transport firms. Until now there has been no charge levied on heavy goods vehicles using Germany’s motorways.

The move also complicates life for Swiss truck drivers, as the German toll system is different from that in place in Switzerland and Austria.

Long queues are feared at German toll collection points as Swiss and Austrian lorry drivers fill out the necessary forms.

“Complications can arise, and if there are long waiting times this will increase the transport time,” warned Beat Keiser, spokesman for the Swiss road transport association.

Road to rail

The ultimate goal of Switzerland’s transport policy is to transfer all freight from road to rail.

Road taxes have been steadily increasing in recent years. From January 1, the cost imposed on a 40-ton truck crossing the Swiss Alps will be SFr307 ($271), rising to SFr333 in 2008.

In 2004 the charge levied on a heavy goods vehicle crossing the Alps was SFr215.

The government is using much of the extra tax income to finance the construction of two transalpine road tunnels.

swissinfo with agencies

The Swiss tax on heavy goods vehicles is set to rise by around 50%.
The heaviest vehicles will be charged 2.88 centimes per ton per kilometre, up from 2 centimes currently.
For two other categories of truck the charge will rise from 1.42 to 2.15 centimes, and from 1.68 to 2.52 centimes.
Hauliers say they will have to charge 12-15% more.

The Swiss road pricing system for heavy vehicles came into effect on January 1, 2001.

All Swiss and foreign vehicles weighing at least 3.5 tons must pay a tax to use the road networks in Switzerland and Liechtenstein.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR