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Truckers agonize over road toll nuisance

Exhausted fueling station staff and angry truckers – that’s been the scene since Tuesday near the border at Grenctāle as Latvia’s new road use toll for commercial transport vehicles heavier than 3.5 tons went into effect this week.

Truckers lined up with their hazard signals flashing along the side of the highway near the border with Lithuania. They were neither broken down, nor were they protesting the so-called “eurovignettes” available reportedly only at the largest fueling stations inside the Latvian border-zone territory. No, these long-distance drivers from various nations were breaking one law to comply with another – to buy their eurovignettes.

“It’s always in reverse. I’ve yet to see in Latvia where they first think up something, then prepare for it, then pass the law. It’s always the other way around. They passed the law, but nothing was prepared,” Latvian trucker Pēteris Kuļikovecs griped.

Some empathetic, if bewildered automobile drivers voluntarily waited in line for their fuel, though security guards waved others through ahead of the stranded truckers. “I think these guys are worked up enough for having to wait. I’m not going to be the one to wave a red flag in their face,” said one lady driver from Rīga.

Estonian trucker Martin Saar said he’d been waiting since last evening before finally getting his “golden” toll receipt. “This is horrific, what’s happening here,” he described his ordeal as he began his haul home across Latvia.  

The opposite appears to be the case on the Lithuanian side of the border, where the road use toll has been in effect for years. There are signs to a dedicated kiosk, but no signs of a queue there. However its sole attendant says she is tired of responding to questions about where in Latvia one can buy the eurovignettes.

Drivers currently crossing at the Meitene border reportedly cannot purchase their eurovignettes until reaching Jelgava. Though the Latvian State Roads motorway user charge payment service is accessible electronically at the official portal www.lvvignette.eu, drivers object that the law entered into effect so suddenly that the news only reached them when they were already on the road.

The eurovignette fees are intended to support the maintenance and development of Latvia’s primary motorways and to foster the use of more environmentally-friendly vehicles amongst trucking fleets.

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