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NOVOSIBIRSK, November 11. /TASS/. Over 300 long-distance truck drivers have blocked both roadsides of the federal highway R-254 in Novosibirsk in west Siberia to protest against a federal levy, a TASS correspondent reported from the scene on Wednesday.
The trucks have lined up over a distance of more than 1 kilometer, with the slogans fastened on truck cabs and reading that drivers are against the government’s plans to charge a levy of 3.73 rubles ($0.05) per kilometer of federal highways for 12-ton trucks from November 15.
Vyacheslav Trunayev, chairman of the Siberian Association of Auto Carriers, which organized the protest action, told TASS that the government’s plans to charge a new levy on long-distance truck drivers have alarmed both the transport sector and the owners and producers of goods who use the auto carriers’ services.
The new levy will finally push up the cost of their goods, which will grow by 5-10%, according to the association’s specialists.
Auto carriers are not demanding an all-out cancellation of the new levy. According to Trunayev, they want the system to be initially tested for at least six months in a Russian region, reduce the fee and the penalty size from 400,000 rubles ($6,100) to 50,000 rubles ($774) and introduce a postpaid system of settlements.
Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has already signed a resolution relaxing the rules for truck drivers: the levy will equal 1.53 rubles ($0.02) per km of a federal highway before February 29, 2016 and 3.06 rubles ($0.04) before the end of 2018. According to the chairman of the Siberian Association of Auto Carriers, "this is not a step to meet halfway. Actually, they have said" ‘We’ll kill you the day after tomorrow and not today," he said.
The Russian government has said the new levy on heavy-duty vehicles is intended to create a fund to finance the repair of roads damaged by trucks.
Over 150 trucks are staying on the Moscow-Crimea highway in the Belgorod Region in west Russia as drivers are demanding a federal levy cancellation, a TASS correspondent reported from the scene on Wednesday.
The trucks have left only one lane for traffic in each direction and no heavy traffic jams can be seen at present. The drivers are demanding that the Russian government should cancel a levy for using federal highways. The truckers have said that otherwise they will go on strike from November 15.
"Our main demand is that the Russian government should cancel its levy in the amount of 3.5 rubles ($0.05) per km, which the drivers of trucks weighing 12 tons have to pay for using federal highways," action coordinator in the Belgorod Region Sergei Korotkov told TASS.
"Today more than 150 Belgorod drivers have gathered and this is only 30% of those who are really suffering from the government’s new levy in our region alone," he added.
The system of charging a levy for the use of federal highways has not been tested and truck drivers will face huge penalties, even if some minor faults in the system emerge, the coordinator said.
Besides, authorities have failed up to now to give truck drivers devices for truck traffic control, he added.