French roads hit by farmers ‘ecotax’ protest

Drivers in France might be advised to leave their cars at home on Tuesday as farmers and truck drivers hold a day of action in protest against a new “ecotax” on heavy goods vehicles.

French roads hit by farmers 'ecotax' protest
This could be the scene on roads around France on Tuesday as farmers andtruck drivers prtoest over a planned Ecotax on heavy goods vehicles. File photo: Philippe Huguen/AFP

France's leading farmer’s union, FNSEA has called on its members to mobilize on Tuesday in a day of protest against the planned “Ecotax” on heavy goods vehicles.

FNSEA has called for “general and national” action against the new tax, which is set to come into force on January 1st as part of the 2014 budget. Transport unions were also set to add their weight to the protests.

FNSEA describes the levy as an “usine à gaz”, a French term used to described a complicated legal labyrinth and says it will further harm the already-beleaguered farming industry in regions like Brittany, which have been particularly hard-hit by the economic crisis.

FNSEA want the tax suspended immediately.

Actions planned for Tuesday include “filters” or "dams" on certain roads, where union members will try to get the message across to motorists that the government’s plan will be bad for the public as well as for the farming industry.

The "filters" will be set up in around 40 locations across France and are likely to cause huge disruption to traffic.

“We will set up these filters for educational purposes to alert motorists to the fact that salad produced half an hour away will soon be taxed more than a salad imported from Kenya,” one union member told Le Figaro newspaper anonymously.

“Economically it is intolerable. For the producers in the Ile de France region this tax will represent an added cost of €250,000 a year.”

Under the scheme, lorries will be taxed as they pass through electronic “portiques” or scanners, while they deliver products and produce around France.

Tuesday's protest will target these “portiques," already in place in preparation for launch of the new ecotax scheme.

President of the FNSEA, Xavier Beulin told Europe1: “There will be symbolic action. We will cover the signs and the scanners that will flash the lorries as they pass by.”

The Ecotax, which was first put forward under the presidency of Nicolas Sarkozy, must be paid by all trucks, both French and foreign, travelling on certain roads. Toll roads like certain autoroutes are excluded from the scheme.

The aim is to encourage companies to use greener forms of transport and opt for shorter journeys, where possible.

Dominique Barrau, the secretary-general of the FNSEA, has complained that “some French products will pass through the gates five times compared to those that come from abroad, which will only pay when they arrive in the territory.”

Under the plan, all heavy goods vehicles over 3.5 tonnes will have to pay. A total of 10,000 km of motorways, national roads and 5,000 km of county or municipal roads will be included in the scheme.

Certain vehicles used for the good of the general public like fire engines and police trucks are exempt from the tax.

All vehicles that are liable for the tax must be equipped with an On Board Unit (OBU) which will calculate the amount of eco-tax due based on the distance travelled and which roads were taken.

For more information about the tax on heavy goods vehicles in France and how it must be paid you can CLICK HERE.

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