Platon_screenThe Russian government has confirmed plans to double the charges on trucks of 12 tonnes gross vehicle weight (GVW) and more under its Platon Electronic Toll Collection (ETC) scheme.

The move will see truck tolls rise from 1.53 roubles/km ($0.024) to 3.06 roubles/km by the middle of 2017. A draft decree covering the change, published in late November, showed the increase would be applied in two stages – half in February and the rest in June.

Some vehicle carriers have suggested the move will increase the cost of finished vehicle transport in the country and that they will have no choice but to pass that extra cost on to customers.

Marina Karasova, a spokeswoman for logistics provider Agility East Europe, for example, suggested transport rates would generally rise 10-20% as a result of the increase, adding that car carriers could see an even steeper 25% hike, given that they were charged per vehicle carried.

Other carriers suggested any increase in rates would be much smaller, however.

Evgeniy Korzh, head of finished vehicle logistics at Gefco Russia, said: “If the rise takes place in two stages, then in February, the price [of finished vehicle transport] will rise 2.6-3.7%, depending on the exact route and distance. In June, it will be around 4.3-6% higher than current rates.”

Korzh added that he didn’t expect the rise to cause any additional problems for the finished vehicles logistics sector in Russia.

Neither Karasova nor Korzh expected the increase in road transport costs to boost take-up in rail freight, however, as railroad charges were also rising.

“Railroad tariffs are going to be raised by 4% as well [next year],” confirmed Korzh. “In addition, the current scale of charges on railroad transportation is seriously uncompetitive with automotive. So it is too early to talk about any possible redistribution of traffic.”

Official statistics from state rail operator RZD Russian Railways show that average growth in rates for vehicle transport by rail in Russia has been 8-9% per year for several years, while road transport rates in Russia and the CIS have risen by about 15% in total over the last three years, almost all of the latter being attributed to the recent introduction of the Platon ETC scheme.

Igor Aleksashov, head of the transport department of PAK Logistics, said the introduction of the Platon ETC system and accompanying increase in fuel duty had resulted in numerous small automotive carriers being forced out of the market already.

That was confirmed by Sergei Vlasov, cargo traffic head of DPD, who said the introduction of the tolling system had led to a 3.2-4.9% increase in prices.

Various market observers have suggested that the Platon ETC system has already forced 4-8% of automotive carriers out of the market and that a new round of toll increases now will just increase that figure, since small firms do not have sufficient cash reserves to pay for the increase while their customers are unwilling to pre-pay for their services.

The Russian Ministry of Transport has also been considering expanding the scope of the Platon ETC scheme to include lighter commercial vehicles from 3.5 tonnes GVW upwards – something market participants have already warned would increase the cost of transporting automotive parts. It’s not yet clear how soon this plan may come to fruition, however.