Its been in the pipeline for quite some time, but in a landmark agreement with the European Union (EU), Germany can now begin the process of charging drivers a toll on their massive 12,993 km network of Autobahn highways.
Since its inception in the late 1920’s, the Autobahn has been a free highway for all vehicles, and with the exception of commercial trucks, it has remained that way to this day. Germans have been paying for the upkeep of these roads through their taxes, but with a continued increase of traffic, these funds have not been enough to keep the roads in acceptable condition.
German tax dollars have been insufficient
The number of foreigners taking a free ride on the Autobahn has put a burden on the highway system and is one of the main contributors to why the German tax dollars have been insufficient. The country hoped to solve the funding issue by implementing a toll for trucks, but quickly found that a broader network of tolls had to be put in place.
At first, Germany pushed the idea of only issuing tolls to foreign cars, keeping the free travel to its citizens who are already paying their share in taxes. The idea did not go over well with a large number of EU countries, so Germany had to go back to the drawing board to find a way to make it work.
Austria is leading an objection with 11 EU countries
After a series of tweaks, a new proposal was drafted to be fully compliant with EU rules. While German taxpayers won’t get a free ride, the country will provide tax relief to these drivers. Under the new plan, cars that are deemed environmentally friendly will see a lower toll fare.
However, despite the EU agreement, Austria is leading an objection with 11 EU countries to block the approved plans, claiming the higher toll for foreigners is an act of discrimination.
The toll system will take some time to implement, and while it has received the go ahead by the German government and the EU, drivers will not see the effects until after Germany’s national elections this September.