Truckers are in for a free ride next month as four motorway tolls are being lifted to get HGVs out of villages and off country roads.
The M1, M3, M6 and Limerick tunnel will be free of charge for lorry drivers in November in a trial run to see if it reduces the number trying to dodge the levies.
Leo Varadkar, Transport Minister, said there are safety issues and the need to cut down on wear and tear on roads.
“I am concerned that large numbers of HGVs continue to use regional and local roads in order to avoid tolls, and are driving through towns, villages and rural areas.
“This has safety implications for other road users, residents and pedestrians. In addition by using local and regional roads instead of custom-built motorways, HGVs are adding to the wear and tear of the legacy roads network.”
The roads were selected because they were identified as being toll dodging blackspots.
The Department of Transport said the M1 outside Drogheda is a good example, where large numbers of HGVs avoid the Mary McAleese bridge over the Boyne but have to pass through Slane in order to do so and cross at the town’s narrow bridge and steep approaches.
Mr Varadkar said the M3 from Dublin to Kells, the M6 from Ballinasloe to Galway and the Limerick tunnel were also good examples, with large numbers of trucks using the older roads nearby to avoid the tolls.
He said he wanted to see if the toll free driving would persuade lorry drivers to stick to the bigger, better routes.
“I think it is worthwhile to give us an opportunity to study traffic levels in detail and assess the implications and for HGV operators to evaluate the time and efficiency benefits of using these motorways,” he said.
“I can’t say at this point that this trial will lead to any change in tolling policy.”
M1 toll costs vary from €4.70-€6 for two to four axle trucks; on the M3 it is €2.90-€3.50 at two locations; In Limerick it is €4.70-€6; and on the M6 it is €4.70-€6.
Mr Varadkar said that the base toll rates are built into the public private partnerships that were created to pay for the motorways to be built.
“Any change to the financial arrangements would clearly have significant implications and costs and would have to be carefully evaluated,” he said.