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OSL Authorised Signatory Mike Wüllner on the toll increase

The Federal Trunk Road Toll Act and with it the toll increase in Germany has been passed. Although our associations have done an excellent job and presented all the relevant arguments, they have not been able to convince the government to at the very least postpone the date of the change in the law. As an authorised signatory of the ONLINE Systemlogistik general cargo cooperation and someone who has known the industry for over 30 years, I know that this decision leaves many speechless in the current situation.

After all, how is it supposed to work? Low profit margins are the rule in transport and logistics, and price wars and competitive pressure are part of daily business. In the first half of 2023, the DSLV (Association of German Freight Forwarders and Logistics Operators) cost index recorded cost increases of 11.3 percent in the general cargo segment compared to the same period last year. First and foremost, space and energy costs for logistics properties, expenditure on IT security and cyber defence, insurance and, once again, personnel have all increased. In addition, investments have had to be made in the conversion to climate-friendly fleets and logistics facilities.

The additional annual burden of around 7.6 billion euros due to the new CO2 toll particularly impacts medium-sized companies that have joined forces in general cargo networks such as ONLINE Systemlogistik.

There is nothing we can do about the 83% toll increase itself. But we can at least prepare our system partners as well as possible. Back in the spring, shortly after the planned toll rates became known, we carefully examined the change in the law and the effects on our network in our “Controlling Working Group”. In the summer, we provided our current 96 partners with all the relevant information on toll surcharges in our system. In addition, we initiated an inventory of our partners’ vehicle fleets in order to apply the new calculation bases to existing trucks. For the past two months, we have been simulating the distance-related main-run costs with the new toll rates on billing receipts for our partners. In this way, we create maximum transparency for each one in good time about the impact of the future changes.

Intensive exchange with market competitors remains indispensable. For years, ONLINE Systemlogistik has been involved in the DSLV’s “General Cargo Networks” and “Groupage Freight Forwarding Cost Index” working groups. Due to the tense cost situation, the industry associations assume that logistics companies, as before, will have to pass on the toll increase demanded by the state to their customers in order to survive economically. In this way, the toll increase will ultimately reach the end consumer. Almost everything that households consume has been transported in a truck on a German highway or federal road. For an average family of four, the toll increase means an additional burden of around 400 euros per year, according to estimates by the industry associations.

I am not alone in my critical assessment. DSLV Managing Director Frank Huster sums up the situation: “By imposing a very high CO2 price on road haulage and increasing costs by billions of euros, the aim is to steer the haulage and transport sector towards zero-emission alternatives. But these alternatives have yet to be created. The Third Toll Amendment Act comes at a difficult economic time and far too early. The truck toll will almost double as early as 1 December 2023, but it will not have a positive effect on the climate. Rather, the economy and consumers will feel the effects of sharply rising transport prices. In terms of climate policy, with this law the federal government is taking the second step before the first. Now at the very least it must ensure that the drive-technology turnaround in road freight transport is sustainably promoted with the additional toll revenues of 7.62 billion euros.” (Source: