Travel quickly at anytime and at the lowest costs for each mean of transport chosen by users depending on their own obligations is one of the main challenges of the XXIst century.
On this page, you will find our advises about solutions that should be implemented to decrease significantly road congestion, a huge drain that dramatically reduces the economic and social development in a large range of countries.
24th of October 2013
Why “fewer vehicles” does not mean “improved mobility”
In order to reduce traffic jams, numerous municipalities are trying to persuade citizens to use public transport instead of their own vehicles to travel from one point to another.
But the same objective is being achieved by simply making the movement of private vehicles more difficult and more expensive.
Multiple steps have been taken in this direction in the hope of improving traffic flow in urban areas.
Reducing road capacity
The first measure consists of reducing the number of lanes reserved for private vehicles.
The most common excuse offered is that the creation of a lane for the use of public transport vehicles would improve their frequency and ensure a steady flow of traffic.
The results were spectacular…
One such result witnessed congestion In places where the traffic used to move smoothly before, and therefore traffic jams, are now not only affecting the lanes created to reduce traffic but are increasingly affecting the adjacent lanes as well.
Limiting parking time
It soon became apparent that the difficulties associated with trying to find a parking space often led to the congestion of lanes.
Also, in order to increase the rotation of vehicles parked in available parking spaces, the maximum permissible parking time in these spaces became limited.
In France in the 1970s, “blue zone” areas were created which allowed for free parking where the parking time had been limited.
As the number of vehicles on the road increased faster than the number of available parking spaces, finding a space to park a vehicle became increasingly difficult. Naturally the congestion of lanes increased accordingly.
The reason given for the transformation of the “blue zones” into paid parking areas was excellent: the parking ticket machines made it possible to accurately monitor the arrival times of vehicles and whether any such vehicles exceeded the maximum permissible time limit.
With the paid parking zones being highly profitable for the municipalities, they were exploited to such an extent that it soon became almost impossible to find a parking space where one could park for free.
The consequences for the driver were calamitous insofar as the monies earned from the pay and park areas, were not channeled by the municipalities into the improvement of urban traffic flow, but towards the construction of new parking lots so as to balance supply and demand.
The result is that there is a considerable amount of time lost in identifying available parking spaces, pointless occupation of the carriageway by vehicles looking for parking spaces, excessive fuel consumption and high pollution in those urban areas where pollution emissions cannot be blown away by the winds.
Evidently, the defenders of these restrictive policies never debated the harmful effects of this policy on the health of the urban dweller.
An obvious failure
Constructing fewer lanes and parking spaces ultimately resulted in an obvious failure to improve the smooth flow of traffic and the reduction of congestion in urban areas.
Assuming this failure is acknowledged, what solutions can be proposed?
Facts to be borne in mind…
First of all it should be noted that the private vehicle along with the taxi is the only means of transport which allows for door to door trips.
The idea that this facility can be totally substituted by public transport is an illusion.
Every means of transport responds to a specific need of consumers and it is the intelligent combination of different available means of transport, while taking into account individual constraints,that will guarantee the smooth flow of traffic.
Permanent and profitable solutions do exist
So what long term solutions can be adopted?
1. Do away with parking of vehicles on the carriageway in order to increase the number of lanes reserved for private vehicles without any additional investment.
Advantage: Traffic will immediately begin to move more smoothly because of the increase in traffic capacity on the road network.
2. Develop parking lots (underground or in buildings) with adequate space and which are geographically well distributed so as to cater for the entire municipality.
Advantage: Finding a parking space close to one’s final destination will therefore become easier and vehicles will no longer block the carriageway for abnormal lengths of time.
3. Consider developing parking infrastructures for the same reasons as other infrastructures (roads) and thus finance them from the general budget and not burden the user.
Advantage: Parking spaces will become more available whilst becoming very profitable for the local authorities.
4. Invest in increasing the availability of parking spaces which are less expensive and more effective for improving urban mobility than investments to reinforce the public transport network. This is because geographical coverage will always remain inadequate for the purposes of catering for the maximum number of users when prohibitive tariffs force them to favour the use of their own vehicles to travel from one place to another … especially if they are travelling in groups.
Increase the capacity of the existing road network wherever possible (this is not the case in highly urbanized areas which paradoxically are those that require greater lane capacity).
Advantage: In addition to being less expensive than the solutions already in place, these investments are also very profitable as they substantially reduce the financial impact on local authorities. These costs have been calculated by a number of studies to be the equivalent of EUR €1.600 per vehicle per annum.
5. Force builders to integrate a greater number of parking lots into their construction plans.
Advantage: Parking spaces will thus increase in relation to the needs of the increasing population and number of vehicles on the road.
6. Develop a new combined urban transport structure between private vehicles (personal vehicles or taxis) and public transport, via the use of telecommunication technologies to encourage carpooling for short distances.
Advantage: An increase in the available means of transport which does not involve any investment on the part of the local authorities and which also allows for the development of interpersonal relations.
- Traffic jams need not be the curse of road-users. Permanent and profitable solutions exist.
- A little more common sense, creativity and a global approach to problems would allow for the avoidance of numerous mistakes that today affect people on a daily basis.
- Considerable financial losses and public health problems resulting from traffic congestion are simply not acceptable. When it comes to traffic, health, time and wealth, the most prized possessions of any individual, should simply not be allowed to become the victims of poor strategic planning.
25th of June 2013
What taxation system should be applied to motor vehicles?
Motor vehicles, cars in particular, are subjected to a number of taxes and fees.
Unfortunately these taxes are not channelled towards the improvement of urban road traffic conditions. This gives rise to a sense amongst its users that they are paying more, to move around less efficiently.
Does a taxation exist which will allow for a marriage of the constraints faced by the Exchequer (necessity to generate revenue, and balancing road costs) and those faced by users (experiencing an improvement in the flow of traffic)?
List which is certainly not complete
The taxes and fees that relate to the ownership and use of cars
(which we will refer to as “taxes” in the rest of the article) can be regrouped into five categories:
• Taxes levied at the point of purchase of the vehicle
(VAT, an “eco-tax” on the most polluting models of tourist vehicles, and an annual Road Tax).
• Taxes based on ownership of the vehicle
(Regional taxes for the vehicle registration certificate, tax for the management of vehicle registration certificates, fee for the sending/delivery of vehicle registration certificates)
• Taxes based on the application of the vehicle
(Tax on company cars – TVTS)
• Direct taxes levied according to the use of that vehicle
(Domestic consumption tax on energy products – TICPE)
• Indirect taxes levied according to the use of that vehicle
(Tax paid by motorway concessionaires, Levy on fuel companies, carbon tax)
Depending on the country, this list can differ with respect to the name and number of taxes levied, but on the whole these taxes constitute an important part of Government revenue.
In France, TICPE alone represented 4,58% of the revenue collected by the Exchequer in 2013 and this is in spite of the fact that the tax rate was lowered by 50% over the course of 10 years because of the improvement in the performance of combustion engines and the growing influence of mixed power vehicles and electric vehicles.
The same causes produce the same effects. The lowering of the TICPE tax will continue into the future with the exception of the emergence of new taxes for types of vehicles that are not being taxed at present.
Motor traffic is expensive for Governments
An increase in road traffic causes bottlenecks which are ever more frequent and take longer to ease.
The perverse effects of saturation of road and urban networks on the economy are numerous. and considerable (an increase in atmospheric pollution, fall in productivity of companies, stress, pollutions of all kinds …).
A number of regularly published university studies have estimated the financial impact of only the environmental factors (Atmospheric pollution, noise pollution, greenhouse gas emissions) at as much as EUR 1.600 per vehicle per annum (or EUR 0.10 for every kilometer travelled) .
Other factors (loss of biodiversity, water and soil pollution, damage to landscape, reduction in arable land,…) are not taken into account in current socio-economic calculations but nonetheless represent enormous sums of money.
Fuel tax: a counter-productive tax
The greater the increase in fuel consumption, the greater the amount collected by the Exchequer by way of fuel tax.
Heavy traffic (bottle necks double the average consumption of a vehicle) leads to an ever more rapid increase in fuel consumption.
The problem is that the more difficult it becomes to drive, fuel consumption increases, and costs of products and services that depend on the road-network increase accordingly.
It is a vicious circle that prospers at the expense of the road user and the average citizen.
A new taxation policy that is profitable for all
Taxation revenues should not be linked to fuel consumption but to distances travelled.
However in order to be able to comply, vehicles exempted from fuel tax need a suitable road infrastructure.
A taxation on distance travelled will reestablish the balance between different classes of users.
Let us make a quick calculation:
In France there are more than 30 million cars.
Let us assume a saving of some EUR300 per annum per vehicle on environmental impact costs (or only 20% of the estimates confirmed by a large number of studies conducted internationally).
We therefore obtain a saving of 30 million x 300 or 9 billion Euros per year … with the tax burden remaining unchanged !
By doing away with half the environmental impact issues, the saving earned will be 30 million x 750 or, 22 and a half billion Euros per year.
France will collect EUR 13,7 billion in TICPE in 2013.
- The amount of tax based on fuel consumption has greatly reduced over the course of the last 10 years as a result of improvements in the performances of engines and the increase in the fleet of mixed powered vehicles and electric vehicles.
- The tax on fuel consumption which is counter-productive must be replaced by a tax on distance travelled which is profitable for Governments and is of benefit to both the road user and the average citizen.
- A tax based on distance travelled will allow to greatly reduce the environmental impact costs which currently far exceed revenues arising from fuel consumption taxes.
13th of March 2013
Does the fuel tax still have a future?
With the improvement in the performance of the combustion engine, and the proliferation of electric or combined combustion system vehicles, average fuel consumption per 100 kilometres travelled, has fallen considerably, thereby reducing Government revenues derived from fuel consumption taxes.
Therefore, despite a steady increase in road vehicles, fuel tax in France only accounts for 5% of the State budget as opposed to 10%, 10 years ago.
In addition, the fuel tax has a negative environmental impact which has been estimated to cost a minimum of EUR 0.10 for every km travelled, by a number of studies on this subject.
Is the fuel tax profitable?
In France, the total profit collected by the State on its fuel tax levy is between 50% and 55% on petrol and between 40% and 45% on diesel.
Assuming a price at the pump of EUR 1.2 per litre for petrol and EUR 1 per litre for diesel, (prices that will only increase as the world’s oil and gas reserves diminish), total profits collected by the French State, represent between EUR 0.60 and EUR 0.65 per litre for petrol and between EUR 0.40 and EUR 0.45 per litre for diesel.
Private vehicles consume an average of 7 litres of petrol per 100 kms travelled, and therefore generate an average of EUR 4.50 in revenue for every 100 kms travelled.
Consequent environmental factors cost the State EUR 10 per 100 kms travelled. Ironically therefore, and contrary to the perception of the road user, the fuel tax is actually a tax that returns a low profit to the State.
Fuel Tax: a counterproductive tax
In addition to its low profitability, the fuel tax does not address the immediate needs of traffic and is not an efficient tool against traffic congestion.
If traffic congestion accounts for a 50% increase in fuel consumption by vehicles, it is by default, allowing the State to collect more taxes, and has an increasingly negative impact on the environment. But in the final analysis, the amount of tax collected depends on the international price of a barrel of oil and exchange rates between the local currency and the dollar.
In fact, fuel prices at the pump have a strong psychological effect on the road user. When the price exceeds a certain threshold that is considered to be the maximum acceptable limit by users, the State has to reappraise the formula used for calculating its tax on fuel in order to offset the rise in the price of a barrel of oil, and obtain a price at the pump that may be deemed acceptable.
Thus the profitability of the fuel tax is adversely affected when the international price of a barrel of oil increases, or the exchange rate between the dollar and the local currency slides in the wrong direction.
Is it necessary to replace the fuel tax if it disappears?
The real issue is not about tax: it is about traffic flow. Poor traffic flow generates considerable costs to road transport operators, individual road users and the whole of society (public health, wear and tear of infrastructure, etc)
It is therefore necessary to put in place mechanisms that promote traffic flow. This is what a cleverly designed road toll system can achieve (which is not a description of the latest projects being proposed in Europe).
The fact is that the European Directive on interoperability has effectively undermined the deployment of the most effective technologies (GSM-GPRS) by favouring obsolete and extraordinarily expensive road toll systems already in use by operators (DSRC) that were not designed with interoperability in mind.
Road toll systems must be used as tools to manage mobility
It is by creating real value for road users (private hauliers, for example), by allowing them to accurately determine their travel times and thereby reduce traffic congestion, that road tolls will come to be appreciated as payment for the provision of a service.
If this is not made possible, they run the risk of being perceived as just another form of taxation aimed at increasing an already considerable tax burden on the traveller and thereby face rejection by the electorate.
- Fuel tax is without doubt a very bad tax with ever declining revenues for the Exchequer.
- Far from creating a new tax, a proper road toll system should add value by facilitating the reduction of fiscal pressures on the traveller and encouraging the free flow of traffic.
5th of December 2012
Can road tolls prevent fraud?
A major and expensive arrangement has been set up to prevent offences from occurring on motorway networks where toll gates monitor entry and exit points.
In spite of this, problems arising from the channeling of traffic through toll areas, the formation of tailbacks, fraud and identification theft/fraud, to name but a few, often represent a loss of several million EUR for every motorway toll operator, which has to be added to the cost of monitoring these occurrences.
But, can road tolls aimed at collecting a traffic fee on a road network which is generally open without physical barriers at its entry and exit points, actually prevent fraud more effectively than on road networks equipped with entry gates?
Clearly a question which is badly formulated
Without wishing to parody Henri Bergson, it is worth wondering why one would default on an obligation.
We have identified five elements which can explain why an obligation may be defaulted on:
- The low probability of detecting individuals who default (hereinafter referred to as “evaders”). It seems clear that the less there is a chance of getting caught, the greater the temptation to become an evader.
- When penalties imposed can be easily challenged, the offence must be established in an indisputable manner. For this reason, the police are always keen to catch the offenders red-handed as this makes their offences uncontestable.
- The greater the delay in arresting an evader, the more the evader will believe that his offences may be disputed, forgotten or altogether pardoned.
- The penalties themselves have little dissuasive effect. The level of penalties must be sufficiently dissuasive to prevent repeat infringements from becoming more profitable than the prospect of respecting the rules.
- The non enforcement of penalties is another form of pardon which benefits evaders and encourages non- evaders to default on their obligations.
Le rôle des technologies
Aucune technologie n’empêchera la fraude.
Les technologies ne portent pas en elle-même la solution à ce problème, elles ne constituent que des outils au service des réponses apportées aux cinq facteurs incitant à frauder évoqués antérieurement.
Role of technologies
No amount of technology will be able to prevent an offence.
Technologies in themselves do not offer any final solution to this problem, they are merely tools which may be used to find answers to the five factors that fail to dissuade evaders as cited above.
Where do road tolls come into this?
In the provision for the free flow of traffic, technologies can be adopted that will be able to detect evaders in real time, by subsequent analysis of the coherence of successive positions transmitted by equipment installed on-board vehicles and transmissions from the fixed or mobile monitors on the network.
These systems will be able to identify strategies adopted by evaders to fool the arrangements set up to collect and monitor the toll.
They will be able to detect impersonation or use of duplicate number plates (in France it is estimated that there are tens of such cases every day) They will be able to assist intervention by the authorities responsible for the monitoring of traffic, and point directly towards the evaders.
In general, they will become a powerful tool to detect evaders, provide indisputable proof and rapidly send out alerts to the relevant authorities to allow them to locate and apprehend the evaders.
- The fight against fraud and traffic offences mainly depends on the solutions offered against the factors which encourage users to default.
- New technologies can offer tools that facilitate the creation of policies to target fraudsters and evaders.
- If the penalties applied to evaders can be made to cover all factors that encourage users to default on their obligations, the motorway free-flow toll will not result in a higher fraud rate than that of motorway tolls with entry gates.
20th of June 2012
Why are European Governments still lagging behind technology?
European Governments have adopted procedures to regulate the positive benefits of awarding public tender contracts.
But are these procedures suited to technology-driven initiatives?
A long process
The tender process consists of a number of different stages:
- An analysis of the requirements
- Drawing up of contract specifications
- A call to tender
- Receipt of tenders
- Examination of tenders
- Appeal ( increasingly frequent)
- Awarding of the contract
- Execution of the contract
This process applies not only to the tender itself, but to all submissions that may be associated with it, for example, the selection of the contracting authority itself.
Each of these stages take a certain amount of time and the total process can often take several years, especially where major projects or technology driven projects are concerned.
Rapidly evolving technologies
New information and communication technologies have become the cornerstone of an increasing number of tendered projects.
These technologies have evolved very quickly over the last few decades and this rapid pace of evolution is not likely to slow down in the future.
Technologies which respond to the supply logic
The primary characteristic of these new information and communication technologies is that they respond to the logic of supply rather than that of demand.
Suppliers establish themselves in the market by launching new products onto an international market where positions change rapidly.
Within a few short years, Samsung climbed to the top in the market of manufacturers of mobile telephones whilst during this same period Nokia, which had been the market leader for such a long time completely lost ground.
Major economic stakes
Innovation is the key word of competition between the major players in this market, and their lines of research and commercial strategy are well guarded secrets that are only made accessible to a limited number of experts outside the business.
This knowledge is fundamental to anticipating the products and services that are to prevail in the near future and long term, and is therefore is precisely what should be requested of the bidders.
The first stage in the public call for tenders should consist of a description of the requirements to be met as well as a definition of the selection criteria for bidders. The choice of criteria retained by the contracting authority could only ever be wrong if they are ignorant of the possibilities that could present themselves for their consideration at the time of the awarding of the contract or even at the time that the tender is to be introduced.
The contract specifications generally tend to describe the “references” to be given in the form of works previously executed by the bidders for similar tender allocations. If these references are meant to prove the capacity of the bidders to carry the projects through to completion, they will obviously influence the choice made by the contracting authority. But what if these references do not take into account the application of new technologies as specified by the tender?
Let us take a specific example involving the processing of large volumes of data.
When the volume of data to be processed is too large to be carried out by a single computer/server, it is advisable to use a second one, and in case the capacity of the second computer is also inadequate, it is advisable to use a third and so on and so forth until one has a sufficient number of computers available to process the given volume of data.
On paper, it would appear that two computers have doubled the capacity of processing data from what a single computer could handle, and that a third computer would triple the capacity and so on and so forth.
But this is not what happens in practice.
Every computer operator knows the difficulty involved in reaching linear parallelization (i.e. “X” number of computers attaining a processing capacity equal to “X” times that of a single computer). This difficulty may call for the employment of a large number of computer operators without being sure that one will achieve ones objectives, particularly when this involves processing large volumes of data in real time.
An inadequate parallelization will result in higher investment, running and maintenance costs as well as a greater risk of malfunction.
The call for past references may appear to be reassuring to a contracting authority .
However it is based on a false premise, i.e. that the future can only be a continuation of the past.
The history of computing has taught us that market leaders of 10 years ago do not exist today and that companies in top positions today risk being swept away by the tide of progress in a few years from now.
It is precisely because the implementation of a kilometer toll for vehicles over 3,5 tonnes, has raised so many, as yet unresolved problems, that the Government of The Netherlands has requested that all tenders set aside a fund consisting of some EUR 160 Million to conduct preliminary tests prior to allowing this new charge to be applied.
- The tender process is meant to enable the contracting authorities to receive the best project bids, but it is not vey apt for technology driven projects as technology is evolving so rapidly, especially in the field of information and communications. A disconnect therefore exists between the administrative process and the speed of technological development.
- Finally, the impossibility that Government Administrations have to access information and strategies from the market players whilst abiding by past references, prevents them from benefitting from major innovations that fall outside their tunnel vision, and which inevitably renders their choices obsolete, very often even before the contract s themselves have even been awarded.
15th of February 2012
Why not benefit from progress in technology?
Over the last few decades, technological advances have reduced drudgery and monotony in a large number of professions.
Human resources are therefore targeted to conduct tasks that are increasingly evolved and which cannot be mechanised.
A number of years ago, environmental changes were introduced to increase the productivity of the workforce, such as: short breaks,, improving the quality of the work place, better adapted lighting systems, improved ergonomic equipment, a reduction in noise levels, etc.
Weight of external factors
Unfortunately, height restrictions for buildings in town ultimately led to the home becoming distanced from the workplace, to such an extent that with the passage of time, the trip from home to the workplace and back again, has become longer and more difficult.
A metro system that is jam packed at peak hours, the heat in the train compartments, buses that move with great difficulty due to heavy road traffic, public transport which inadequately services certain locations,, being forced to remain standing for long periods of time, etc. have all given rise to new types of fatigue emerging amongst commuters, with, an increase in aggression and high stress levels.
The trip to and from home/workplace : a major preoccupation
The positive effects of technological advances and improvements in working conditions have therefore been largely erased by the harmful constraints that the workforce is subjected to during their commute from home to the workplace.
A fatigued workforce results in a further decline in productivity.
Multiple solutions have already been proposed and/or have been put in place to try and reduce these new types of fatigue.
Flexibility of working hours, part- time work or teleworking solutions, however, are more of a response to the management of organizational constraints in the private lives of employees (driving or picking up children from school, or daycare, or carrying out certain essential jobs at given times), rather than to the expectations and needs of the businesses that employ them.
Teleworking : a minority practice
New information and communication technologies, have allowed for teleworking opportunities to boom in the modern working environment, and would appear to allow for a reduction of commuter fatigue between the home and workplace
However, this does not mean to say that there are no issues that can affect both the teleworkers and their employers.
Teleworkers can suffer from psychological and relational isolation, and with the passage of time seem less concerned by corporate issues.
The separation of their private and professional activities can become difficult especially if the space reserved for teleworking is not physically separate from their living space.
Concentrating on the job can often be more difficult in the family environment.
Inversely teleworkers can experience guilt about their atypical working conditions, and work to excess.
At the corporate level, reservations and resentments concerning teleworking are still all-too-frequent, and this practice far from being widely accepted, is still alien to business managers who are used to the organizational patterns of business that have been passed down to us from the 19th century.
In these companies, social relations between teleworkers and their fellow employees can often be very strained, whereby the teleworker is thought of as a skiver, or as someone who is always on leave..
Without a redefinition of the modes of operation within a company, communication with teleworkers whose tasks are carried out over a staggered schedule,, sometimes makes collaboration and the synergy of energies difficult.
Paradoxically, a possible solution aimed at both avoiding the isolation of the teleworker and bringing him into a working environment that is close to his working habitat, would involve placing him in a business centre type environment which combines the interests of the personnel and logistics, allowing the teleworker to work and receive his clients and/or suppliers in more comfortable surroundings.
The idea behind these business centres or “bureauthèques” is that they bring the teleworker closer to an office environment which is separate from their private space, but which nullifies the angst of the commute to and from the place of work.
Another solution could also consist of simply balancing a division of time between telework and an onsite presence at the office.
A break of at least two hours between peak hours means that traffic congestion can be avoided and allows for a permanent contact with the business, colleagues and hierarchy to be maintained.
A magic solution does not exist, so it is therefore useful, both at the level of the employer and the public authorities, especially those in charge of urbanization. to be innovative.
Separation of the workplace from the home place, gives rise to daily movements of personnel, whereas every location must allow those who work there to be able to live there .as well.
- The daily commute from home to the workplace has become an important factor in the fall in productivity of the workforce.
- In order to remain competitive, businesses are finding that they are having to focus as much attention on the management of their workforce’s commute to work in order to improve their productivity, as they do on their working conditions within the business itself.
- Innovative policies based on new information and communication technologies (NTIC) must be identified in order to adapt to the individual constraints of the workforce and to those of the business.
6th of October 2011
How to set road toll rates?
Road toll rates are currently calculated on the basis of a single tariff applied across the entirety of the road network covered by that toll.
If this were to remain the sole criteria adopted, road tolls would not serve to reduce congestion, and would be perceived as a farce with users feeling like they are being asked to pay more to travel less efficiently.
A decision that cannot tolerate failure
It is vital that road tolls prosper as they constitute an essential part of the evolution of mobility management and the creation of a durable fiscal framework which brings together the interests of Governments and those of its citizens. It is therefore essential that they should meet with the acceptance of road users from the outset.
What is the objective of road tolls?
Road tolls optimise the capacity of the existing road network.
As we have explained in the article entitled “Are road tolls really necessary?”, road tolls enable a road user to make use of a road network under the best possible conditions at a given moment in time, against payment of a fee. The user’s contribution allows others who would want to use the same road network at the same time to either postpone their travel plans or use alternative means of transport to travel.
In this way, road tolls will essentially adopt the responsibility of regulating supply and demand across road and other travel networks.
Two factors to bear in mind
In order for road tolls to be able to regulate supply and demand across road networks, toll tariffs must be able to take account of traffic flow capacities on the road network in real time.
These capacities change from time to time. They may dwindle for short or long periods, because of work in progress on the carriageway or because of an accident. Conversely they may also increase when additional lanes are opened to traffic.
Toll tariffs must also reflect the traffic requirement at the time that the road network is in use.
Should other factors be integrated when setting the tariffs?
Other than traffic flow capacities and the times that road networks are used, it is important that these tariffs are able to integrate a number of other factors such as:
- The presence or the absence of alternative travel options to satisfy the travel needs of users;
- The need to manage the harmful effects of road traffic on the environment and on public health by controlling its impact on the environment;
- A consideration for factors that are independent of road traffic such as levels and types of pollution, and/or the force and direction of the wind at any given point on the road network.
Road tolls: a global policy
Atmospheric emissions that result in air pollution are regulated for a minimum number of components.
Road traffic pollution levels must therefore be measured at regular intervals across the road network.
The force and direction of the wind will determine the dispersion speed of air pollutants resulting from road traffic, and the effect that these pollutants could have on residents and their homes situated close to the road network.
It is therefore clear that the effects of road traffic on the environment cannot be dealt with in isolation, but must be considered in a broader context and managed within the framework of a global policy.
Thus the road tariffs adopted will have to take account of a number of factors which are directly linked to travel (time of travel and road network) but which also take account of multiple external factors such as, air quality and atmospheric conditions at any given point on the road network.
- Road tolls represent a fundamental evolution in road management and the creation of a durable tax framework for road use.
- However, in order to satisfy these objectives, tariffs must be modulated and take into account a number of different factors that are directly linked to travel such as the road network itself, or the time of travel, as well as factors external to travel.
19th of September 2011
Must the km charge be contracted to private companies?
The sub-contracting of the collection of a tax to a private company is not anything new. Trading companies are already collecting VAT from their clients on behalf of the State.
A km charge when collected by a contracted private company should not be viewed as a form of tax collection.
Specific nature of the km charge
Contrary to the traditional motorway toll which is priced according to the number of entry and exit points or the flat toll rate which is utterly independent of the length of journey undertaken, the km charge is based on a precise knowledge of the distances covered by the user.
For this to take place, equipment that transmits the geographical coordinates of the route taken by vehicles at a given frequency, must be installed on-board vehicles.
The km charge is therefore inseparable from the recording of the precise route taken by all vehicles covered by this particular toll.
Equipment that is already in use by certain road professionals (Transport Management System or TMS) allows them to follow the route taken by vehicles by recording and regularly transmitting their positions.
Where a km charge is compulsory, all vehicles without exception that are covered by this toll will transmit their positions. In this way, a real-time mapping of all vehicles circulating on the totality of a country’s road network can be produced.
When the number of vehicles followed only represents a low proportion of the vehicles in circulation, the primary risk is with respect to the confidentiality of the journey undertaken.
For example, the vehicles belonging to Mr. X typically undertake certain journeys or ply certain routes.
The risk for him becomes real when a third party gets to know of the journeys undertaken by his vehicles and the conclusions that this third party may draw from this knowledge.
Therefore, this information in the hands of an unwelcome third party could expose the destinations of all of Mr. X’s vehicles.
Such information could consist of ascertaining the regularity that Mr. X or his vehicles visit certain consignees.
This system could also establish the number of kilometers covered by M. X’s vehicles on a daily basis and/or whether breaks are being taken.
It is therefore clear that the type of information that is made available by this system can be varied in function, and can be of a threat to the user if disclosed to unapproved third parties.
Other than the risk to the confidentiality of journeys undertaken by individual vehicles, it follows that this data in the wrong hands could also represent a systemic threat to the security of the State.
If individual data is made anonymous will this reduce the inherent risk?
Is the systemic risk reduced if the information transmitted by the on-board systems is rendered anonymous?
No, the threat to State security will persist at the same level.
We have already established that systemic risk is independent of the knowledge of movements of any one particular vehicle (the type of information that is of interest to the police or customs), it is a by-product of knowing the movements of all vehicles over the totality of a country’s road network.
For example, the information obtained can establish the times and places where the concentration of vehicles is at its highest.
It can also determine the time that vehicles do not move at any given juncture.
Finally, it can determine the speed at which the traffic flows at a given time and at a specific location.
All this information constitutes information that is vital to State security and which must be carefully protected.
- Given that it seeks to cover all vehicles circulating on a country’s road network, the km charge by its very nature must collect exhaustive data which can easily pose a security threat to the State if it falls into the wrong hands.
- For this reason, a km charge must remain the exclusive responsibility of the State and should not be sub-contracted to private companies.
11th of May 2011
Why is the interoperability of road tolls impossible today?
The European Council has asked the European Member States and the European Commission to formulate a strategy to secure the convergence of electronic toll collection systems in order to attain an acceptable level of interoperability at a European level.
The Directive dated 17th June 1997 (Directive 2004/52/CE) relating to the deployment of road transport telematics specific to electronic toll collection systems, reflects this demand.
However, have the consequences of this Directive been properly assessed?
A heavy reliance on the present system
Certain Member States had already installed systems of electronic toll collection to finance their road infrastructure or to collect user fees on their road networks (eg. “le telepeage”) at the time that this Directive was formulated.
Short range microwave technology (DSRC) and frequencies close to 5.8 GHz were most commonly used even if these systems, as operated by different motorway infrastructure operators in their respective Member States, were not completely compatible with each other.
However, it should be recalled that at the time that the Directive was first formulated, only a small minority of operators of motorway infrastructures used electronic toll collection on their networks.
Emergence of alternative systems
In an effort to anticipate the evolution of technology and in the hope of allowing users and citizens an opportunity to embrace the multiple advantages associated with the emergence of new technologies, the European Community legislated for satellite positioning (GNSS) and mobile communications (GSM-GPRS) as of the 1st January 2007.
Power of DSRC lobbies
DSRC systems require heavy and expensive on-site infrastructures.
They consist of batch systems which can only follow vehicles when these pass in front of the marker buoys spread over the entirety of the road network.
Unlike satellite systems, DSRC systems allow for the installation of only a section toll and not a real km charge.
As a result, in strongly interconnected networks with a large number of entry points to the network, the section toll cannot be put in place without multiplying the number of toll collection infrastructures which proves impossible in heavily urbanized areas.
In these areas, the DSRC system only allows for the setting up of flat rate tolls and/or a fee proportional to time spent in that particular area, as is the case of tolls applied to urban centers such as London or Stockholm.
Satellite systems are the only ones that would allow for the creation of a real km charge on all road networks, by tracing the precise route taken by vehicles.
A misunderstood interoperability
This difficulty can easily be resolved.
If the difficulties experienced by the European Community to impose changes on operators of road infrastructures were to be properly understood, the solution could be relatively easy to implement.
This would simply require for the rules to be altered to only accept on-board systems that are integrated with all three technologies retained by the European Community, whereas Directive 2004/52/CE obliges on-board equipment and infrastructures to integrate the three technologies retained by the European Commission.
This difference, which may appear relatively minimal, is nonetheless fundamental, as it allows operators of road infrastructures to choose the technology that best adapts to the limitations of their networks while respecting interoperability and the possibility for a user to employ only one type of equipment to apply across all networks. Moreover, the cost of adapting existing on-board equipment does not compare to the costs of installing the on-site infrastructures required to satisfy the demands of interoperability as defined by the European Community.
- Unlike DSRC systems, satellite systems are the only ones that allow for the establishment of a proper road toll system across all road networks.
- The DSRC system depends on heavy and expensive on-site infrastructures which cannot be installed in open road networks and which are unpopular with local residents.
- Interoperability can be easily achieved at minimum cost, by imposing the adoption of only those on-board systems that integrate the three technologies retained by the European Community and by allowing operators of the road network infrastructures to select the technology that is best suited to the individual constraints of their network.
29th of March 2011
Is a km charge really necessary?
Whenever Governments give consideration to the introduction of a new tax, it is necessary to ask whether it is really necessary, if it is going to meet with public acceptance, and the answer given must be very clear.
What is the present situation?
Road infrastructures today are becoming ever more saturated and for longer periods of time.
The negative effects of traffic jams are well known: air pollution, noise pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, loss of biodiversity, water and soil pollution, damage to the landscape, reduction of arable land, considerable loss of time, stress, etc,
These “pollutions” translate into environmental costs that far exceed the revenues earned from the levying of a fuel consumption tax. All studies estimate these environmental costs, on their own, to be the equivalent of as much as EUR 0.10 per kilometer travelled.
How has this situation arisen?
This situation has arisen simply because of a negative combination of a multiple of factors:
- An increase in population
- Growing distances between living and working areas
- The emergence of production and consumption zones
- The implementation of flawed policies that only serve to reduce the efficiency of road networks (eg. fewer traffic lanes, fewer parking lots, a reduction in free parking spaces)
- The failure of the public transport network to adapt and cater for the real needs of the movement of populations
The only mode of transport that allows for a door-to-door service is the private car which therefore remains the favourite means of transport for commuters. Its use over the years has steadily increased in spite of all the negative factors described above.
What is another way of reducing traffic jams?
The first idea that comes to mind is the construction of new road networks.
Unfortunately, the areas that are most congested also tend to be areas of high population density.
The construction of new road networks in these highly congested areas would not only be very difficult but also very expensive.
Also, these road networks are only saturated for a few hours every day. An increase in extra road capacity resulting from the creation of these new road networks would greatly the increase costs associated with their use, as they would be underutilised for much of the time, and any overcapacity of services would ultimately be financed by the tax-payer with monies drawn from general State or regional budgets.
A necessary tax transfer
The present system of collecting taxation from the use of the road network does not reflect the immediate needs of traffic and is therefore an ineffective solution to the problem of traffic jams.
Taxation based on fuel consumption has, at its best, a weak effect on general traffic needs: even if it has been shown that an increase in fuel prices will result in a temporary and very low fall in fuel consumption at the petrol station.
Paradoxically, by systematically favouring road transport to the detriment of the development of alternative modes of transport, the present taxation system has had a very strong impact on certain production features and trends.
Finally taxation based on fuel consumption has a negative impact on the road user who notes that with every passing day he is paying a little more in order to travel ever less efficiently.
Why adopt a km charge?
In reality, a km charge is simply an application of the supply and demand culture to the road network, which allows the user to postpone his payment for the use of the road to a time where he may need it, thereby allowing him to use it at a time of his choosing, and under optimum conditions. It is under this premise that traffic was originally designed to be managed on the A1 motorway in France by SANEF.
This is how the km charge has a direct bearing on the immediate needs of traffic.
However, in order for this to work, the toll rates levied must vary according to the time and place that the road network is used.
If the rates are not varied in this way, the postponement of the use of the road network to a less busy time, for example, would be of little or no interest to the user, and will therefore cause this system to become ineffective.
Finally, the km charge is an equitable tax because it applies across the board to all users of the road network, including those vehicles that today enjoy tax exemption under the misguided assumption that they have a lower impact on the environment because they emit fewer pollutants. The fact is that these vehicles have as much environmental impact as other vehicles because of their shared use of the same road network.
The creation of a km charge will also have a beneficial effect on the relocation of production centres.
- The km charge is an equitable tax that would service the immediate needs of traffic by allowing for the postponement of payment for the use of the road network to times that best suit the needs of the user. Its creation would optimise the use of existing road networks and would reduce costs associated with its collection.
- The km charge would enable Governments to enjoy substantial savings on environmental impact issues and would offer them the option of stabilising or lowering the pressures of taxation on the road user in general.
- Finally it would encourage the emergence of local production centres.
16th of November 2010
Should the car insurance premium be customised?
The global positioning systems currently available on the market make it possible to accurately determine, not only the distance covered by a vehicle, but also the time at which the journey was travelled on the road network.
Moreover, a mapping of the danger spots on a road can help identify those areas where the driver is most at risk of possible accidents, and the associated costs of any such accidents may be determined from their insurance claims.
By comparing these two pieces of information, it then becomes relatively easy to accurately determine the levels of risk that the road user has been exposed to during his travels.
Car insurance: an unjustly competitive market
Car insurance is a mature market where customers are almost exclusively serviced by an insurance company to the detriment of other market players.
Companies offering insurance to drivers have very little margin for manoeuvre as all of them use the same sources of information to calculate the technical rates that are in turn used as the basis for determining the cost of insurance premiums.
Also, in order to maximise their market share, insurance companies have applied their imagination to further their marketing campaigns.
What is DSRC technology?
DSRC technology is a communications-based technology that uses data short range communication that has been especially designed to facilitate communication between a vehicle and a network (often road networks) or between two vehicles.
The principle behind the short range of DSRC is to avoid disrupting other communication systems. Its major drawback is that its use is confined to an area within close proximity to the transmission terminal.
Towards market segmentation
Aware of the fact that women drivers suffer fewer accidents than men, certain insurance companies proposed to apply premiums based on the driver’s gender, but this provision was contested, on 21st December 2012 in the European Court of Justice on the basis that it contravened the principle of non-discrimination.
Upon identifying that younger drivers were more frequently involved in accidents, numerous insurance companies increased their premiums for this class of driver.
Unfortunately, the premiums levied are often incompatible with the financial resources of the individuals, therefore a higher proportion of drivers in the 18-35 age group (60% according to the Fonds de Garantie des Assurances Obligatoires – FGAO report) drive around whilst uninsured.
In order to reward drivers who are not involved in accidents, “no-claims” bonuses have been created – and penalties have been devised for drivers who submit claims.
In order to keep stock of the actual use of vehicles, insurance companies have proposed contracts with premiums that fluctuate according to the number of kilometers covered by a vehicle in a year.
Nowadays, some insurance companies want to use global positioning systems to offer policies with premiums that are calculated based on both the distance covered by the insured and the areas of risk that are travelled.
However, there is a good chance that this choice undermines the very principle of insurance.
The principle of insurance is based on a simple concept: a mutual insurance of risk.
It consists of transferring the financial risk which cannot be borne by an individual causing an accident, onto a number of other individuals who, because of their collective premiums, are able to bear the cost.
Therefore it can be argued that customisation of insurance premiums undermines the essential solidarity between the insured, and represents a violation of the basic principle of mutual insurance.
Is global positioning of the insured unnecessary?
As indicated at the beginning of this article, global positioning systems can record the precise journey undertaken, the time taken to complete a journey, and the road network travelled.
They therefore record the habits of the insured and the risks that they encounter as they travel.
By equipping drivers with global positioning systems, accidents and especially the severity of such accidents can be reduced. For example, the driver may be alerted when entering an area of risk and alternative routes or means of transport for his journey may be suggested; or the driver may be informed of any mistakes made, or provided with assistance to reduce risk by introducing a program that improves his driving skills or detects any health problems such as visual impairment, reflexes, inappropriate medical treatment etc.
In this way, global positioning systems have a fundamental role to play in reducing the costs of insurance claims by strengthening the prevention of accidents.
- Customised car insurance premium systems clearly violate the principle of mutual insurance of risk which is the basis of insurance.
- Competition between insurance companies must therefore depend on the reduction of claims, both in terms of numbers and severity.
- This may be achieved by strengthening prevention and peremptorily informing drivers whenever their behaviour is inappropriate.
- Global positioning systems are an indispensable tool if this objective is to be achieved.
8th of jully 2010
Per km tolling for heavy vehicles: a serious mistake
For several decades, the ever-growing distance between the source of production and the place of consumption has resulted in a growing dependence on road transport.
At the same time, population increases and the growing distance between home and the workplace has exacerbated an individual’s travel requirements.
Fleets of private vehicles and road transport vehicles have therefore increased over the last few years. Unfortunately the capacity of the road infrastructure has not increased proportionately.
This has resulted in an increasingly marked imbalance between the supply and demand for travel.
Road infrastructures are finding it increasingly difficult to absorb the flow of vehicles and saturation point is reached with greater regularity.
Congestion is a growing problem, and it is taking longer and is becoming ever more difficult to resolve. In order to reduce the harmful effects of congestion and foment a smoother flow of traffic, European countries have suggested the introduction of a per km toll for vehicles over 3.5 tonnes.
Is this a good idea?
Heavy vehicles: a tiny fraction of traffic
Road professionals are constantly looking for ways to maximize the use of their vehicles and their employees.
This is necessary if they are to make profits in an open and very competitive market.
Also, it is increasingly rare for modern road hauliers to not use on-board telemetric tools linked to powerful computer systems (Transport Management System) to continuously monitor their performance in real time (a system that has improved greatly since it was first introduced).
With road traffic conditions remaining unchanged, the possibility of hauliers increasing their productivity with the introduction of a road toll that only covers heavy vehicles is diminished because of their constant efforts to improve performance.
It will not allow them to substantially maximize their efficiency from how they currently operate.
However let us be optimistic and assume the gain in productivity resulting from the introduction of a heavy vehicles road toll with traffic conditions remaining unchanged at 5%.
A quick calculation
If one bears in mind that heavy vehicles make-up 10% of the actual number of vehicles circulating on the road network and assume a 5% fall in the distances covered by these hauliers thanks to an increased efficiency resulting from the introduction of a heavy vehicles km charge.
Let us now calculate the impact of this kilometer charge on road traffic.
Based on this hypothesis one only obtains a fall of 10% x 5% x 3 (a coefficient which allows for a higher congestion of heavy vehicles on the highway in comparison to private vehicles), i.e. 1.5% of the road traffic.
Per Km tolls for heavy vehicles: an ineffective measure
Traffic jams occur as a result of a momentary imbalance between the number of vehicles circulating at a given point on the road network and the traffic capacity at this point.
Traffic jams ease naturally as soon as a balance between demand and supply is re-established.
At peak hours it is common for a 10% reduction in the number of vehicles circulating on the road network which thereby allows for the reestablishment of a smooth traffic flow.
The impact of a per kilometer toll on heavy traffic will only bring about, at best, a fall of just 1.5% in road traffic (as mentioned above).
This improvement is thus insufficient and far less than what is required at peak hours to reestablish the smooth flow of traffic.
- Per km tolls for heavy vehicles exclusively, will not improve mobility.
- With no gains in productivity, transport costs will increase, since the additional costs of the toll cannot easily be absorbed by the principals in such a competitive sector.
- Per km tolls for heavy traffic will dramatically impact the road haulier industry and will result in a consolidation of enterprises in this sector.
21st of April 2010
Is a reduction in speed really profitable?
Recommendations for improvements to the environment abound on the Internet.
Primary amongst these are those concerning traffic emissions and targets for the reduction of fuel consumption in vehicles via speed reduction.
Fuel consumption is directly linked to vehicle speed for vehicles equipped with combustion engines.
The faster one drives, the higher one’s fuel consumption. But speed is not the only factor that must be taken into consideration.
The following are all factors that greatly influence fuel consumption: tyre pressure and levels of wear and tear1, quality of vehicle maintenance, number of kilometres covered by the vehicle, and appropriate use of speed ratios2. However, given that the first suggestion for saving fuel focuses on speed, let us examine whether companies find it cost effective to run their vehicles at lower speeds.
Let’s do the maths
Let us assume that a vehicle consumes 8 litres of fuel per 100 kms on average.
Let us calculate the impact of a reduced speed over a 300 km trip.
Let us suppose that this vehicle is moving at 100 kms per hour.
The duration of the trip is 3 hours (300 /100). Consumption of fuel for this trip will be 24 litres of fuel (300 x8 /100).
To simplify the calculation, let us fix the fuel price at EUR 1.50 per litre. The fuel cost for this trip will therefore be EUR 36 (24 x 1.50). If the vehicle speed is not more than 90 kms per hour, the driver will take 3 hours and 20 minutes to make the same 300 km trip (300 / 90 = 3.33 or 3h20).
Let us now assume that the fuel consumption of this vehicle at 90 km an hour is not more than 7 litres for every 100 kms covered.
The fuel consumption for this trip will be 21 litres (300 x 7 / 100).
The fuel cost for this trip will go up to EUR 31.50 (21 x 1.50).
The savings on fuel costs by lowering the speed from 100 km/hr to 90 km/hr is EUR 4.50 (36 – 31.50). Let us now examine the impact of the increase on travel time.
Driving at 90 km/hr instead of 100 km/hr the driver spends 29 minutes more in his vehicle.
Let us assume the base salary at the basic minimum wage in France of EUR 14.50 per hour.
The additional time spent on the road will therefore cost the business EUR 4.83 (14.50 x 20 / 60).
If we are to be able to properly assess the interests of a business in reducing the speed of its vehicles, it is necessary to compare its savings with the cost of the added work time resulting from the lowering of traffic speed.
Let us summarise: Saving = EUR 4.50. Additional cost = EUR 4.83.
We note that the cost of a reduction of traffic speed is economically unfavourable for businesses, especially in light of the following two additional factors:
- Fuel consumption by vehicles has a tendency to decrease because of a constant improvement in the performance of engines. Therefore the gap between consumption at 90km/hr and at 100 km/hr diminishes at the same rate and the actual fuel saving is lower than that calculated in our example.
- The cost of an hourly wage as adopted in our example corresponds to the minimum legal wage in France. However, workers who drive their vehicles for business purposes (eg. salespersons) often receive a wage that is higher than this minimum wage. The corresponding extra cost of added work time when traffic speeds decrease is therefore much lower in reality than the one calculated in our example.
A decrease in traffic speed is therefore not commercially favourable to business.
- A decrease in traffic speed may help to reduce the harmful effect of the combustion engine on the environment, but from an economic point of view, it generates a considerable additional cost to businesses.
- A number of other factors linked to vehicles and their drivers which strongly influence fuel consumption must be explored on a priority basis.
- Global positioning systems allow for the avoidance of congestion and optimize travel.
10th of June 2009
Has DSRC technology killed road tolls?
Italian and especially French motorway operators have invested heavily in DSRC technology to collect tolls. The Germans have also deployed this technology exclusively for heavy vehicles.
Their self-serving intention has been to freeze technological progress in road mobility in order to quietly recover their investment and prevent competition from developing toll collection technologies.
Given the slow pace of introduction of road tolls across Europe, it has to be said that their connivance, with the complicity of our elected leaders and European technocrats, has been rewarded with success.
Our efforts were in vain
The Vice President of the European Commission, the Vice President of the Transport Commission of the European Parliament and the parliamentary group of ecologists had been alerted to this risk in good time. These entities should have been at the forefront of promoting the emergence of technologies permitting the effective management and smooth flow of road traffic to limit the harmful effects of road traffic on human health and the environment, and promoting economic development in Europe (refer to a copy of our e- mails attached).
What is DSRC technology?
DSRC technology is a communications-based technology that uses data short range communication that has been especially designed to facilitate communication between a vehicle and a network (often road networks) or between two vehicles.
The principle behind the short range of DSRC is to avoid disrupting other communication systems. Its major drawback is that its use is confined to an area within close proximity to the transmission terminal.
Is DSRC technology identical everywhere?
Because DSRC technology allows for the adoption of several communication protocols, its technology is not identical everywhere.
This results in incompatibility between systems in different parts of the world, and between the different systems that operate in the different European countries that use this technology.
For example, the communication protocol used in Italy is different to the one used in France.
Since the European attempt to harmonise systems was undermined by exemptions granted to Italy, this incompatibility has now become deep-set. The use of a harmonised protocol across all European countries is therefore not going to happen anytime soon.
A broad range of applications restricted to a specific context
DSRC technology may be exploited by a broad range of applications such as the motorway toll service, parking charges, monitoring access to reserved areas (parking, secured areas, etc.).
In order to work this technology, antennae need to be installed a few metres away from the locations where the vehicles are to be detected.
When DSRC technology is applied to monitoring entry into a parking lot, the close range required of the communication equipment is not a greatly limiting factor, but when it is applied across an entire national motorway network, the required infrastructure is very laborious to install and very expensive to maintain and protect.
A technology which is unsuitable for open road networks
DSRC technology as used on the motorway network is applied at toll stations that monitor the passage of vehicles upon settlement of a toll fee.
The use of this technology has only been made possible because the motorway networks using this technology have only a limited number of entry and exit points.
On the other hand, this technology is clearly unsuitable for open road networks, i.e. for road networks with a large number of entry and exit points as in the case of national motorway networks.
Ground infrastructures required for this technology will prove to be numerous, extremely expensive and will be an eyesore on the landscape
Mistakes by European authorities
It was important to have ensured that the systems used by European road users were interoperable so as to enable them to subscribe to a single contract with unique equipment that would allow them to drive across the totality of the European road network.
However, the operators of the European motorway networks indicated that the investments that they had made or had planned to make to collect the toll had to be recovered.
They therefore imposed DSRC technology on the European Union as the only road toll technology to operate alongside two other technologies, the one based on the telephone network (GSM/GPRS) and the one based on satellite positioning (GNSS) .
However, as we have already explained above, the DSRC protocols in use across different European countries are not compatible with each other and the exemptions granted to Italy, only managed to cement this interoperability.
When the trap closed in
The trap set by the supporters of DSRC technology came to fruition at the time of defining the basis for interoperability.
Having given users the freedom to choose their onboard equipment, the supporters of DSRC technology then obliged the European Union to enforce interoperability at the level of road networks.
By accepting their demands, the European Union essentially limited the prospects for road toll collection, given that the investments and high maintenance costs for the collection of this tax have made it very difficult for it to be applied.
Does a shortcut exist?
Unfortunately yes, and this is the saddest part of this business, as interoperability may be achieved in numerous ways.
Let us take an example. A vehicle equipped with technology A, using a network equipped with technology B, will be identified as a fraudster by network B. However, if the operations manager of user A transmits the list of subscribers using his network to the manager of infrastructure B at a given point in time, interoperability suddenly becomes effective.
The operators of infrastructures subject to taxation could then choose the technology that is best adapted to the specific characteristics of their networks and the least expensive to install and use.
- Today, the powerful lobby groups and the inability or lack of will of the European authorities to oppose them, hampers the setting-up of a viable pan-European road toll system.
- This, however, represents a fundamental flaw in the management of pan-European mobility as:
- The inhibition of free-flowing traffic represents a cost of between 1.5% and 3% of the GDP of developed countries
- The inhibition of free-flowing traffic represents a major public health issue. Once again, public interest has been sacrificed on the altar of the self-interest of lobby groups.
10th of February 2009
Road tolls in the Netherlands: An unnecessary call to tender
We made a presentation to the appropriate Ministry of the Dutch Government, in response to their appeal for tenders to introduce road tolls for road transport vehicles.
The Ministry had clearly stated its position … it would not accept our presentation for as long as it did not conform to their precise specifications.
However, our presentation was deemed to be non-compliant on the basis that it failed to address criteria sought by the administration, and not because it failed to address the objectives outlined in the tender specifications.
There is abundant evidence to prove that private companies are far more efficient than Government administrations in defining, applying and implementing systems and solutions. Government administrations struggle to acknowledge this fact, especially when any solutions proposed are radically different to those recommended by the administrations themselves.
This gap between Government administrations and the private sector is all the more marked when the issue at stake is technology driven.
The Dutch Government was very aware of the fact that their call to tender was the first of its type in Europe and in the world on this subject. It had therefore prepared its case well given that it understood the economic and political impact of this strategy.
Driven by a need to address problems arising out of the congestion on its road networks and their frequent saturation, the Dutch Government conducted numerous studies over many years dedicated to traffic mobility and road tolls. Indeed, the budget that was made available for conducting the initial trials that are essential for the development of the road toll scheme and the definition of corresponding specifications was considerable (nearly EUR 160 million).
This underlined the importance that the Dutch Government had given this issue and its need to overcome the problems associated with achieving its aims.
There is nothing more to be said about the aims and objectives described in the call to tender.
Road tolls for all vehicles across all road networks are essential. This is the only way to efficiently manage and optimise the use of available road networks so as to offer travellers alternatives and allow them to choose the means of transport best suited to their needs on each of their trips.
A variation in tariff also deemed to be an indispensable factor to encourage travellers to postpone their road travel requirements until another point in time in order to avoid traffic and/or adopt an alternative means of transport.
The objectives described in the Dutch Government specifications made it very clear that the issue had been thoroughly examined by the relevant Ministries.
The characteristics of the road network and the vastness of the areas that needed to be covered by a road toll, meant that only one viable technology, based on satellite positioning, could really be applied.
But at the time of publishing their call to tender, there were still numerous technical issues that remained unresolved, for example, the type of on-board equipment to be adopted. It will not be too long now before the evolution in mobile telephony technology will allow consumers to make use of a service that is compatible with the payment of road tolls.
Currently, on-board equipment accounts for a large part of the costs associated with the setting-up of road toll systems. It would therefore be important to balance the costs of setting-up a new road toll system by avoiding a dependence on the installation of specific equipment.
Another important factor in this new system would have to be the security of data transmissions. The Dutch Government’s preferred method of securing data transmissions was based on the use of protocols that integrated the management of public and private passwords and codes.
This technology, however efficient it may be, does not allow for the management of the higher volume connections required to harness the totality of traffic across the national grid.
There are numerous other examples that underline the need to devise solutions around the alternative technologies currently available, or those that are due to be becoming available in the near future.
- “It is always the hurry to win that makes one lose”
- The Netherlands, a country known for its pragmatism, should have borne this quote from Louis XIV in mind.
- By publishing its call to tender early, this project will not achieve its desired objectives. By pursuing a solution founded on proposals by unqualified bureaucrats, the Dutch road toll project is doomed to failure, and the enormous political repercussions arising from this failure will further dent the confidence of citizens in their Government’s abilities to successfully oversee a project that is essential to the country’s continued development.
- Time will tell if our analysis is correct.