Among the tasks that the Government of Spain has set for itself for 2022, one stands out with a special impact on drivers. In its Annual Regulatory Plan, the “roadmap” detailing the laws that it plans to pass before the end of the year, includes a royal decree to transpose the European electronic toll directive to state regulations. The goal: for the system to be compatible with the one used in each of the EU countries. Or what is the same, that a driver can circulate throughout the continent with a single electronic device.
The document advances that the intention of the Royal Decree is “to establish the necessary conditions to guarantee the interoperability of the electronic toll systems installed on Spanish roads and highways with those of other member states of the Union.” Furthermore, it details that it will serve to “regulate the European electronic toll service (SET), which will be complementary to national services”. To achieve this, it will be partially transposed into the Spanish legal system Directive (EU) 2019/520 of the European Parliament and the Council of March 19, 2019.
A goal pursued for years
And what does the directive signed in Brussels establish? The text, 32 pages, advocates that the systems be compatible “for reduce cost and related charges with the payment of tolls throughout the Union” and establishes the conditions to achieve interoperability in the EU road network, urban and interurban motorways, first-order or lower category roads and other infrastructure that provides service to roads, such as tunnels, bridges or ferries. In the specific case of “small toll systems for strictly local roads” the agency understands that the application of the measure would entail a “disproportionate” cost.
The long-awaited interoperability between borders will be reached through the SET, which is, specifically the community directive, “complementary to national services”. In its document, Brussels details the process to achieve the adaptation of systems. Each Member State, for example, must establish a procedure to register system providers in a registry and verify that they meet certain requirements, such as having the certificate EN ISO 9001 —or equivalent— and the appropriate technical equipment. Article 3 further states that all new electronic road toll methods using an EIB (equipment installed on board) must be based, at least, on satellite location, mobile communications or 5.8 GHz microwave technology.
“The EETS providers must make available to EIB users that are suitable for their use, interoperable and capable of communicating with the relevant electronic road toll systems in service in the Member States”, the regulation abounds, which establishes that those equipments that use satellite location technology and are placed on the market after October 19, 2021 must be compatible with the location services provided by Galileo and with the European Geostationary Navigation Complement System (EGNOS). Brussels will grant in any case certain margin to the operators so that they adopt technologies. Yes, as long as guarantee “security, quality and privacy”.
The Directive (EU) 2019/520 admits that the lack of interoperability is a handicap, advocates “reliable, easy-to-use and cost-effective systems” and slides some interesting aspects along his initial considerations, such as the one collected in point four, in which he reflects on the impact of this lack on the different types of fee collection systems.
“The lack of interoperability constitutes a major problem in highway electronic toll systems in which the fee due is linked to the distance traveled by the vehicle (tolls based on distance) or when the vehicle passes through a specific point (for example, cordon tolls). The provisions relating to the interoperability of electronic road toll systems should therefore apply only to these systems and not to systems where the fee due is linked to the time the vehicle has spent in the toll infrastructure (for example , time-based systems such as vignettes)”, pick up the document.
The community directive has another key chapter, closely related to circulation on toll roads: facilitating the exchange of information in cases of non-payment. The document establishes that, “in order to allow the identification of the vehicle and the owner”, the States will allow access to registration data, such as those relating to the vehicle and owners or holders. The transfer is limited to very specific and special channels, “contact points”, and with the computer application of the European information system on vehicles and driving licenses (EUCARIS). In a document from April 2021, the Ministry of Transport pointed out that for the development of this aspect of the directive, included in Chapter VIII, it was necessary to modify RD 6/2015.
It is not the first time that the European Union seeks to achieve interoperability of the canons. In 2004 the Commission already tried to carry out a regulation. The Government of Spain even transposed the directive in February 2006, but over the years and the rapid changes in the sector have made a new attempt necessary. “The technological advances produced in this field have gone ahead of its regulation at European level in such a way that they were implemented by the different countries without being completely compatible with each other”, pointed out the Ministry of Transport, Mobility and Urban Agenda in a su resource of 2021.
In recent years, progress has been made, in any case. Portugal, for example, has made progress in the interoperability of its electronic tolls with Spain after the controversy that followed the implementation of the fees on its highways in 2010. Today the operator VIA-T inform your users that, beyond the borders of Spain, they can circulate “on certain toll roads in France” and “all the toll roads in Portugal without the need to purchase any additional device”.