Minority of truck drivers try to cheat new tolls
3 January 2005
BERLIN – Eight percent of truck drivers are cheating Germany’s new satellite-aid highway tolls system, Transport Minister Manfred Stolpe said on Monday, the third day the system has been operating.
Toll Collect, the company keeping tabs on the 12,000-kilometre autobahn network, can see most of the cheats speeding by on cameras set up above the roads. The licence numbers of all those who have paid are recorded in a national computer.
Stolpe, speaking on RBB radio in Berlin, said the detection system and the checks were all-pervasive. A federal freight transport agency has patrolmen in cars out on the road to pull over the cheats and fine them.
The minister described the initial rate of free-riding as “relatively low”.
“It also has something to do with the fact that the (truck-owning) companies are saying to themselves, this checking system is so thorough that it is senseless to try to sneak through,” Stolpe added.
More than 300,000 trucks have tiny computers on board that use satellite positioning to track their journeys and report the movements on mobile-phone frequencies to the main computer. The rest of the truck-drivers must buy tickets online or at vending machines.
Tolls are not being charged for cars and other vehicles under 12 tons. The world’s biggest automated road-charging system was introduced on 1 January, which was 16 months later than planned because of software and organizational glitches.
Heavy traffic set in early Monday after the New Year weekend, but there were no signs of big tailbacks at the lay-bys where the vending machines are installed. Toll Collect has employed 2,500 people to help truck drivers work the devices and explain the toll system.
On Germany’s northern border with Denmark, many drivers did not even stop.
Carlo Jensen, a truck operator in the Danish city of Pattburg, said most carrying companies were buying Toll Collect tickets online in advance and giving them to drivers along with the usual delivery papers.
At the border with Poland, a long queue of trucks built up at Swiecko late Sunday, but the reason was that Germany bans freight transport on Sundays. At the appointed hour, the column accelerated smoothly across the frontier bridge with all dues pre-paid.
“Everything is working,” said a Toll Collect spokeswoman in Berlin. “We have very few traffic jams.”
The revenue raised by the toll, an average 12.4 euro cents per kilometre, is mainly to be spent on highway improvement. The government also hopes the charges will prompt greater use of railways.
Subject: German news