Concerns are growing in the Russian automotive sector about the rising costs of the Platon electronic toll system, Elizaveta Korshunova, head of outbound logistics at Gaz Group, revealed at the recent Automotive Logistics Russia summit.

Korshunova said the toll had already raised transport costs for finished vehicles in Russia by nearly 6% so far.

The Platon System, introduced by the Russian government in mid-2015 to offset damage to Russia’s federal highways, applies to trucks over 12 tonnes gross vehicle weight (GVW) and was last raised in mid-April by 25%, from 1.53 roubles/km ($0.03/km) to 1.91 roubles/km.

That increase was less than the 100% rise to 3.06 roubles/km the Russian government was still planning in February – a hike that was cancelled at the last minute by decree of the Russian prime minister, Dmitry Medvedev, in favour of the lesser 25% rise.

Further increases to the rate have not been ruled out, however.

Alongside its earlier plan to double the rate to 3.06 roubles/km, the government originally intended to carry on adjusting the tariff by the rate of inflation each year, starting in July 2018. It remains unclear what the authorities now plan to do in terms of further increases.

Sergey Bobryshev, logistics director at Glovis Rus, said his company had covered the additional cost burden caused by the Platon System by increasing transport rates. Despite the last-minute change of heart earlier this year, he said, Glovis Rus still believed the government would eventually raise the toll to its original target of 3.06 roubles/km, and perhaps beyond.

Alexandra Dubrovskaya, compound and vehicles operations coordinator for ‎Chrysler Group, suggested most logistics providers had increased their rates to cover the toll, raising costs across the supply chain.

Dubrovskaya criticised the government’s lack of transparency over future price rises, pointing out that transport companies in Russia were facing substantial difficulty in trying to factor possible price rises into new contracts.

Most transport companies in Russia, she said, were running under at least some fixed price contracts which did not allow transport rates to be changed, whatever the toll. And those trying to included projected rises when bidding for new work risked pricing themselves out of the contract, she added.

Dubrovskaya also noted that the toll system was far from being universally applied, with many transport companies in Russia still not registered and thus paying no tolls at all.

[related_topics align="right" border="yes"]The same point has been made by the government itself, which has acknowledged that some are bypassing the system and paying nothing, severely skewing competition in the market. To address this, the government is planning to raise the fine dramatically in the second half of the year for trucks found operating unregistered, from 5,000 to 50,000 roubles ($830).

Meanwhile, the Russian Ministry of Transport has since November been looking into the feasibility of including trucks from 3.5 tonnes GVW in the toll.

Transport firms claim such light goods vehicles travel only short distances and are rarely on the federal roads. But in the automotive logistics sector there is concern in some quarters that such a move might begin to change the economics of component deliveries.

Not everyone is concerned, however. Bobryshev said Glovis Rus was unlikely to be affected, for instance, as it transported components between various warehouses and production sites in Leningrad Oblast but did not use the federal highways. The company typically moves components in containers on vehicles over 12 tonnes GVW, Bobryshev added.