But not without adverse side-effects.
On July 1st Hungary introduced an electronic system for the collection of road use fees from trucks whereby trucks over 3.5 tons must pay between 18-180 Ft per kilometer traveled within Hungary depending on the number of axles, environmental category (Euro I, II or III), and choice of route, country roads costing half as much as motorways. Trucks over 7.5 tons are not permitted to use secondary or tertiary roads which are not included in the network of roads trucks must pay to use.
HU-GO got off to a shaky start. Implemented without a trial run on July 1st numerous system errors and programming glitches caused delays. For several weeks trucks wishing to enter Hungary had to queue for hours, even days. Eventually the kinks were worked out and HU-GO collected HUF 53.5 billion (USD 260 million) in road use fees from trucks through the end of October—eight times the amount collected the previous year through the sale of road use stickers to trucks. HU-GO is expected to generate HUF 150 billion (USD 70 million) in road use fees annually according to vg.hu.
However, HU-GO is already having adverse side effects. According to daily online Origo.hu truck traffic on the cheaper country roads has increased significantly resulting in higher levels of air and noise pollution in the towns and villages through which they pass and a rapid deterioration in the quality of local and regional roads.
According to Origo.hu in the interest of minimizing road use fees (or avoiding them altogether), some trucks are using secondary and tertiary roads wholly unsuitable for truck traffic, often leaving deep ruts that render the roads unsafe.
Origo.hu reports that the company responsible for administering HU-GO is only required to inspect motorways and country roads. It is therefore up to the police to enforce the traffic code’s new proscription of the use of secondary and tertiary roads by trucks over 7.5 tons except in cases where this cannot be avoided, such as when dropping off or picking up freight.
Another unintended consequence is that high road usage fees are putting independent operators and smaller freight forwarding companies out of business, especially those lacking the means to modernize their fleets or the logistical infrastructure necessary to ensure return haulage.
The Air Work Group believes it is a mistake to exclude secondary roads from the network of roads trucks must pay to use. Also a mistake in its opinion is charging twice as much for motorways as country roads. It advocates bringing secondary roads into the network and charging an environmental protection premium so as to dissuade trucks from using them as they do in France.
Another unintended consequence is higher costs to consumers particularly in the case of foodstuffs and building materials. One building material supplier told Origo.hu that the price of wood had increased HUF 3,000 (USD 14) per cubic meter because he could no longer afford to transport wood from Slovakia and Romania to Hungary due to high road use rates. By contrast Germany and Italy only charge trucks HUF 45 and HUF 30 per km, respectively.
In the long run higher road usage fees are likely to result in higher prices for certain foodstuffs like mineral water and meat. However, because trucks transporting grain are exempt from paying road usage fees they are unlikely to affect the price of bread.
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