First publishedin ITS International
The Autostrade led Ecomouv consortium is developing the next big system of truck tolling likely to be introduced in Europe – France’s ‘Eco-tax’. Jon Masters reports.
Since October last year, a consortium of companies has been working on developing the technological and administrative systems necessary for a national system of truck tolling in France. Eco-tax, France’s truck toll, is not necessarily going to be implemented. The Ecomouv
consortium has been set up as a long term concessionaire, but so far only holds a contract for delivering the Eco-tax systems to a point of being ready for use. “The state still has the power to decide whether or not to make the service operational, so it may not happen immediately after the system is delivered,” says road tolling director Antoine Caput of Thales Transportation
– a principal technology partner and shareholder of Ecomouv.
Virtually all of the necessary legislation for eco-tax – 99.9% of it, according to Caput – is in place, however. Eco-tax also carries the benefit of a political case built partly on the promise of reducing numbers of heavy vehicles using rural routes.
According to Caput, the principal complaints against truck tolling, that it serves only as an additional tax, as a means for generating revenue to the detriment of businesses, are negated by the way Eco-tax will be used. “When creating a new tax, of course the aim is to raise money, but truck operators will be able to receive rebates and make savings elsewhere,” he says. “If a haulage company is well managed, it will be able to reduce its overall costs. At present all pay the same taxes regardless of distance travelled and trucks using smaller roads pay less. Is that fair? The aim is not just to raise money, but to also increase fairness and most importantly, to create a tool for encouraging better use of France’s roads overall.”
Influencing route selection
Eco-tax is being developed to charge all national and foreign vehicles over 3.5t for use of the entirety of the country’s principal highway network currently not tolled, plus a certain number of secondary roads. “As soon as trucks start to use smaller roads as a way of avoiding payment of Eco-tax, it is likely that more of the secondary network will be included and tolled,” says Caput. By this means – by charging for use of alternative routes – the French Government and Ecomouv will encourage truck drivers and operators to make use of the country’s comprehensive Autoroute network of tolled motorways wherever possible.
“The main aims are to reduce the environmental impact of heavy vehicles by influencing operators’ choice of routes, thereby improving the distribution of traffic across networks and a better balance of freight transport between road and rail as well,” Caput says. “The Eco-tax initiative is also being viewed as a way of improving the productivity of logistics and freight services; making operations more efficient with less partial or empty loads. Then there will be less trucks on the roads over short to medium distances.”
The technology of Eco-tax will be a hybrid system of on-board units (OBU) calculating position by GNSS satellite tracking and communicating this to a central office via GPRS. Enforcement of the tax will use DSRC micro wave equipment in mobile automatic detection cabinets. Around 100 of these will be moved around over indiscriminate periods between 500 enforcement sites.
Keeping it simple
There will be no gantries erected for collection or enforcement. France’s 15,000km of principal roads will be divided up into 4,000 virtual sections, each representing a possible bypass of an Autoroute journey. When a truck passes the mid-point of a section, a toll will be applied with the price depending on the length of the section and the category of the vehicle. The truck’s OBU will register the position to a central back office system which will apply the charge to the user’s pre-registered Eco-tax account.
“It’s a simple system and we believe it will prove efficient,” says Caput. “The detail of the pricing is yet to be finalised and we do not expect this to be decided until the run up to operations in 2013, but we can confirm that there is an intention to introduce a peak time variation in the fullness of time.”
There will be two types of account. Users can select to be ‘subscribers’ to an EETS (European electronic tolling service) account with billing post-journey, or non subscribers will register a pre-pay Eco-tax account which must be credited to authorise the user to drive on French roads.
This way, by providing an EETS option, Ecomouv will effectively help to start real interoperability between countries’ toll systems, acting as a pseudo EETS initially.
The ultimate plan is for subscribers to EETS suppliers in any country to receive OBUs and accounts applicable to all other countries’ tolled networks.
“The target is to make Eco-tax the first of an interoperable European network of truck tolls under new standards now in place. Toll Collect
of Germany is being asked to evolve to this standard and others are expected to do the same.
Ultimately, it is hoped the majority of Eco-tax payments will be processed through EETS,” Caput says. “There will be nothing to force operators to subscribe to EETS, but France will offer discounted tolls for subscribers.”
Truck toll ramping up in Russia
Russia has initiated a programme of projects developing the technology necessary for national road charging schemes, including truck tolling. In January this year, Russia’s NIS (Navigation Information Services) agency – formed to provide commercial access to the country’s GLONASS network of satellites – signed a memorandum of understanding with Siemens for developing a Russian system of truck tolling. This is likely to build on experience Siemens has gathered through involvement in hybrid systems – of on-board units calculating position by satellite and reporting this to central systems via GPRS with enforcement by DSRC – in Germany and Slovakia.
“We get the feeling that Russia’s programme will move rapidly,” says Siemens’ global sales business development manager for electronic tolling Christoph Wondracek. “We have already performed a successful trial project in Moscow, at the city’s main technical university. We were asked to develop a chipset for GLONASS positioning integrated with a Siemens on-board unit for testing just a couple of months later, with enforcement and back office tolling systems, all of which was tested over a period of a few days.”
NIS GLONASS was happy with the outcome, according to Wondracek, but it remains to be seen how quickly Russia’s truck toll will emerge. “We’re now waiting for Ministry decisions, before procurement. It’s a great opportunity and a big task, but the start point for further systems development could be months to a year away or more.”
The Ecomouv consortium
The Ecomouv consortium consists of Autostrade, Thales, Steria, SNF and SNCF. As conventional for public private partnership arrangements, each Ecomouv partner holds a stake in the parent concessionaire company (Autostrade holds 70% and the remaining share is held equally by the other four partners), which will operate and maintain Eco-tax and hold responsibility for toll collection. Construction of Eco-tax systems has been subcontracted to a company of the same partners.
Autostrade will build the overall Eco-tax collection and back office (and lead overall system integration) while Thales is contributing to systems design and will supply and operate toll control and enforcement (including relevant aspects of back office). The IT specialist Steria will handle the central financial, data management and customer relations systems; telecommunications networks and services will be provided by SFR; and SNCF will be responsible for logistics and field operations.