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Smooth Start for German Truck Toll

Germany’s brand new highway toll system for heavy trucks has got off to a smooth start dispelling fears of potential traffic disasters on Monday morning.

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Now in effect on German highways

The satellite-based system began operating already on Saturday, but after a routine weekend traffic ban for trucks on German autobahns major glitches were expected at the beginning of the week. The German government now praises the technology which has been held up for 16 months by technical flaws costing Germany billions in lost revenues.

The expected long traffic jams at German border crossing points failed to materialize on Monday morning and highway service stations also weren’t crammed with truckers at stationary toll machines. German authorities say the country’s satellite-based tolls system is up and running smoothly and that trucking companies have apparently been well-prepared for the start of the system.

LKA ohne Maut Mautstelle

An automatic toll surveillance bridge on a German highway

"All parts of the system are working flawlessly," said Felix Stenschke, a spokesman for the ministry of transportation. "At the moment there is still only little traffic on German highways but nevertheless we are completely satisfied. One year ago the situation was quite the contrary."

Earlier problems

The pioneering toll system is based on satellite technology which in the past 16 months was plagued by technical problems. The delays were a major embarrassment for Toll Collect – the consortium made up of automaker DaimlerChrysler, Deutsche Telekom and French motoway operator Cofiroute which developed the system.

Germany has Europe’s busiest highways and is now charging an average of 12 and a half eurocents (10 US cents) per kilometer (0.6 miles). About one third of the trucks that use its 12-thousand-kilometer highway network are foreign. Transport Minister Manfred Stolpe (photo below) said truckers in neighboring Poland and the Netherlands were especially well prepared on Monday.

Manfred Stolpe zu LKW-Maut

Manfred Stolpe

"I’ve been surprised by two things," he said. "First of all the number of on-board units ordered and installed by Polish and Dutch companies – the two countries which in my view are best prepared for the new system. And secondly the degree of training undergone by truckers in advance.“

Hefty fines

But during the first two days after the toll system began operating, the government also nabbed about 500 fee dodgers. They neither had special on-board units in their cabins that automatically pay the tolls nor did they pay for their journeys at toll machines set up in service stations.

Maut Bildschirm Monitor Lkw-Maut Kontrollzentrum Toll Collect

A picture of one of the first toll dodgers

The dodgers were fined €75 ($101) and face a much stiffer penalty of up to €20,000 if they will be caught again.

Rüdiger Petri, a spokesman for the Association of German Hauliers, said the toll system will also lead to higher prices for German consumers.

"We’ve repeatedly told our customers that German haulers are unable to carry the extra costs resulting from the toll system," he said. "Our customers accepted that and said they saw no other alternative than passing them on to product prices paid by consumers." The German government expects about €2.5 billion in truck toll revenues each year. In addition, it is currently seeking billions of euros in compensation from Toll Collect for 16 months of lost revenues. But Economics Minister Wolfgang Clement also hopes the state-of-the-art system will be an export hit doing away with the old-fashioned booths that still cause traffic congestions in many other European countries.

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