BERLIN -- The operators of Germany's troubled truck road toll have made good progress with technical testing and expect the system to be operational by Jan. 1, 2005, Der Spiegel said on Sunday.
The magazine said operators Toll Collect had conducted extensive testing and were confident the system was working well overall. A number of problems that emerged in the testing had been identified and addressed, it said.
"The few problems that appeared in the 24-hour extended test have either been solved or had one-off causes," the magazine quoted Toll Collect manager Christoph Bellmer as saying.
He said technical failures were down to a level of 3 percent, which he described as "extremely satisfactory."
A further round of tests will be conducted in December before the planned launch date at the beginning of January.
Germany's plans to launch a toll for trucks to use its highways, the busiest in Europe, have been repeatedly delayed from the originally envisaged start date in 2003.
The sophisticated system, based on satellite and mobile phone technology which would allow roadside units linked to receivers on board individual trucks to record journeys and toll fees automatically has been plagued by technical problems.
Toll Collect, the operator consortium of Deutsche Telekom AG, DaimlerChrysler AG and France's Cofiroute, still faces problems installing the so-called onboard units into enough trucks in time for the launch, however.
The German federation of goods transporters said earlier this month that installation of the 500,000 onboard units that must be fitted was running well behind schedule and that the planned Jan. 1 start date was unlikely to be met.
The system can operate without the onboard units but entering journey data manually would make the system much more unwieldy and lead to big delays at registration points.
The government was to collect 2.1 billion euros ($2.5 billion) a year from the scheme and the loss of income has hampered efforts to reduce Germany's budget deficit to below the European Union's cap of 3 percent of gross domestic product.
The government threatened to cancel the contract in February, but the parties then revived their deal after agreeing a new launch timetable, higher penalties if it fails and lower fees for the companies.
Under the new agreement, Toll Collect will introduce a slimmed-down version of the system by Jan. 1, 2005, with the full system following by Jan. 1, 2006.