On April 1st 2016, the Kilometer Charge for heavy goods vehicles (HGV) of over 3.5 tonnes will enter into force in the three Belgian Regions. The Brussels-Capital Region, the Flemish Region and the Walloon Region are relying on this measure to reform the method for financing road infrastructure and facilities by introducing a charge based on distance covered, aimed more at the use than the ownership of a lorry. The political decision was taken by the Regions, who are responsible for mobility. The coordination and control of this measure are managed by Viapass, an inter-regional entity of public law. The decision to introduce a Kilometer Charge is based on a cooperation agreement concluded by and between the three Regions and the previous political coalitions in 2011. The current regional governments enacted it by decrees last year.
This system provides that, as of 1st April, all heavy goods vehicles of more than 3.5 tonnes must pay between €0.074 to €0.292 per kilometre driven on paying toll roads. This amount depends on the weight of the lorry, its emission class and the type of road taken. All Belgian and foreign lorries that drive in Belgium must be equipped with an switched-on On Board Unit (OBU). The OBU records with precision to the metre, the number of kilometres covered, and transmits the amount of the toll to an invoicing centre.
Users receive an invoice with the statement, down to the nearest cent, of the kilometres covered in the three Regions, according to the method of payment they have chosen.
The On Board Units are placed at the disposal of hauliers by providers of electronic toll collection services accredited by Viapass that met all the required conditions. For the moment, this Satellic only . Four other service providers, i.e. Axxes, Eurotoll, Telepass and Total Marketing Services, also plan to offer their services in the short term on the Belgian market.
Nature of the mileage levy
In Belgium, the mileage levy is organised as follows:
- In Brussels and Flanders, a tax measure, a tax-deductible charge for companies
- In Wallonia, where the road network is managed by Sofico, a fee for using the roads, liable for VAT. It is also a deductible charge
- Belgium has waived the collection of the Eurovignette (https://www.eurovignettes.eu/portal/) on its territory as of 1st April. The latter will nonetheless remain in force for Denmark, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Sweden
- OThe supervision of compliance is the competence, not of the traffic police, but of regional inspectors
On Board Unit
The On Board Unit (OBU) is a device placed in the lorry’s cab which must be switched on continuously in every vehicle subject to the levy which uses the public roads in Belgium, and therefore not only toll roads. An OBU is available among service providers accredited by Viapass for every mileage levy system.
The device can be obtained in two ways:
- Through the website of one of the service providers (www.satellic.be)
- From one of the 128 automatic dispensers installed in points of sale, near the borders and elsewhere in Belgium. These points of sale are listed on the website of Satellic (www.satellic.be/nl-BE/servicepoints) and are indicated by appropriate signage. By paying a guarantee of €135, and by making a toll pre-payment, the driver of the heavy goods vehicle can collect a unit from the dispensers by entering the details of his lorry – registration number, maximum admissible weight, and emission standard, of Euro 0 to Euro 6.
To draw the attention of drivers of heavy goods vehicles to the entry into force of the Kilometer Charge as of 1st April in Belgium, traffic signs with a clear message have been placed on all the access roads to the territory.
The kilometre charge rates depend on three parameters: the type of road, the Gross Vehicle Weight of the vehicle and the emission standard. In Flanders and Wallonia, the rate per kilometre covered on toll roads varies between 7.4 and 20 cents. The same rates apply to motorways in the Brussels-Capital Region. Conversely, rates ranging from 9.9 to 29.2 cents per kilometre apply on all the other roads in Brussels. The rates are indicated on the Viapass website(https://www.viapass.be/nl/downloads/tarieven/).
By way of reminder, the toll payable in Flanders and Brussels is a tax. In Wallonia it is a fee liable for VAT.
In Flanders and Wallonia, the toll network is based to a large extent on the one of the Eurovignette. The access roads to the ports of Antwerp, Zeebrugge and Ghent are exempted from the toll. In Wallonia, toll roads have been added to avoid any transit traffic on potential shortcuts not intended for that purpose. The maps with the toll roads in Brussels, Flanders and Wallonia are available at https://www.viapass.be/nl/downloads/
“This kilometer charge is in fact a toll imposed on heavy goods vehicles for using the roads in the three Regions,” says Johan Schoups, General Manager of Viapass. “This toll also applies to foreign hauliers. The aim of the charge is to relieve and maintain better the road network of a transit country such as Belgium.”
All vehicles for transporting goods (not tourism vehicles, buses and motor homes) of more than 3.5 tons must pay toll as of April 1st. The kilometer charge does not apply to utility vehicles under 3.5 tonnes, even when they have a trailer that brings the combined weight to over 3.5 tonnes.
The legislator has limited the number of exceptions:
- Army, fire-brigade, police, and civil defence vehicles that carry out essential public work
- Vehicles used exclusively for agriculture, horticulture, fish farming and forestry
Furthermore a certain number of categories fall outside the scope of the kilometer charge:
- Vehicles that can be considered as tools: the exhaustive list is available on www.viapass.be
- Old-timers with an “O” type of number plate, training and test vehicles with a “ZZ” type of test number plate
To apply for an exemption, use the links on the Viapass website (https://www.viapass.be/over-viapass/meer-informatie-over-viapass/).
The efficiency of the kilometer charge system is subject to monitoring and compliance with its requirements. The inspection of OBU use by vehicles subject to the toll is coordinated in a compliance centre staffed by inspectors from the three Regions.
They have three instruments at their disposal to do the job:
- 40 portals on the main traffic roads. They are equipped with two types of camera to identify registration numbers and to measure the maximum admissible weight;
- 22 mobile tripods equipped with the same type of cameras. These mobile tripods change place every 4 hours;
- 40 inspection vehicles with regional officials who inspect the proper use of OBUs in motion. They are authorised to require drivers to park their vehicle safely and proceed to collect a fine in case of a violation.
The fine amounts to €1,000 per violation. Once a violation has been issued, the driver has three hours to comply. Otherwise, he risks another fine of €1,000 after three hours. The monitoring will start on April 1st.
The coordination centre of the inspection services is housed in the Lavoisier building in Molenbeek-Saint-Jean where Viapass recently moved to.
Revenues and prospects
Service providers remit the daily revenues for the mileage covered on the following day to the toll collectors.
The kilometer charge will enable the Regions to obtain more specific data on goods transport on their road network. These data are useful for their mobility policy. The Regions have the right to adapt the toll road network and the rates twice a year at most. Viapass sees to the coordination between the Regions.
“The kilometer charge is a major reform of the traffic tax in the three Regions of Belgium,” Johan Schoups says. “The system was put in place in record time thanks to considerable work of a lot of dedicated people. Our Regions now have a smart system open to accredited service providers, which measures the actual use of the road network in a detailed and correct manner. As such, our public authorities have one of the most modern toll systems in Europe.”