Mayors oppose to ‘tank tourism’ from transport companies
The Flemish Brabant municipality of Ternat has had it with ‘tank tourism’. Truckers leave the E40 in Ternat and come to refuel in cities next to the highway because it is cheaper there than on the highway. But these trucks lead to extra traffic and congestion.
To combat the phenomenon, the mayor wants to introduce a tax on motor fuel distribution machinery. In other words: a tax on petrol stations.
100 euro extra
According to Ternat mayor Michel Vanderhasselt (CD&V), the phenomenon has existed for ten years. Because taxing the fuel itself does not fall within his competence, he came up with the tax to make the petrol stations in the municipality less attractive for truckers.
It will only apply to large stations so that ordinary passenger cars will not be affected. On a 1.000-liter tank, the additional cost of the tax can be as much as 100 euros.
In concrete terms, the petrol station owner in Ternat now pays an annual tax of 500 euros per petrol station pistol for high-flow pumps intended to fill the tanks of trucks. For pistols linked to a pump for cars, the tax is 230 euros per pistol, for LPG and hydrogen pumps, among others, 50 euros.
Tax exists in 40 municipalities
Ternat is not alone with its new tax. According to data from the Association of Flemish Cities and Municipalities, some forty communes in Flanders levy such a tax on petrol stations, including Aalst, Laakdal, Leopoldsburg, Menen, and Tervuren.
The reasons are diverse, not always clear, and not always related to ‘tank tourism’. In Lier, for example, the tax was introduced twenty years ago to discourage the storage of large quantities of fuel in residential areas.
Anyone who goes on holiday by car knows that a detour from the motorway to a nearby village can save a lot of money. Up to 40 cents per liter, according to research by the ANWB, the Dutch Tourist Association.
“If you fill up on the motorway in Breda in the Netherlands or Brecht in Belgium, next to the highway, you save 18,80 euros on a 4- liter tank,” says researcher Joris van Drooge. “In two minutes. Those are bizarre differences.”
“Petrol stations along highways usually apply the maximum price at which it can sell petrol and diesel, as opposed to stations along regional roads,” says Johan Mattart, the Managing Director of Brafco, the Belgian Federation of Fuel Traders.
There are two reasons for this. “First, highway stations have higher costs. To be allowed to operate at that location, they have to purchase a concession from the government. Secondly, there is less competition on the highways. Along regional roads, the stations are sometimes close to each other, while the distance on the highways is large.”
Gross tax or a necessary evil?
The question remains: is it a gross tax, a way of boosting the municipal coffers or a necessary evil? “We don’t have to make a fuss about it,” says the Ternat Alderman of Public Works, Jozef Borremans (CD&V). “It’s a way to boost our municipal coffers. Cooking costs money, and it’s a bonus if we can use the tax to reduce tank tourism.”
At the same time, for many years the municipality quickly gave permits to companies and the self-employed to build and expand petrol stations here. Plus, the city had previously been quick to issue licenses to new businesses, which in turn attracted extra traffic. In other words, there has never been a sustainable mobility policy.
Moving the problem
Of course, the transport companies are not pleased with this tax. “The tax only moves the problem,” says Goele Vandenberghe of Transport and Logistics Flanders. “Our sector is very competitive. Companies are looking for all possible ways to reduce their costs. If drivers have to leave the highway to do so, they will do so. So haulers who are no longer able to fill up in Ternat will now look for the cheapest fuel in the neighboring municipalities.”
The question remains whether the tax will persuade the owners of the filling stations to raise their prices at the pump. If they don’t, truckers will continue to find their way to the cheaper fuel. Ternat mayor Michel Vanderhasselt (CD&V and Volks) has indicated that an evaluation will follow after six months.