Clean Air Zones ‘must work' for business as well as tackling pollution

A coalition of trade associations is calling on the Government to ensure businesses that rely on HGVs are treated fairly when Clean Air Zones are introduced.

The British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association (BVRLA), the Road Haulage Association (RHA), Freight Transport Association (FTA) and the National Franchised Dealers Association (NFDA) have written a joint letter to Transport Secretary Chris Grayling, calling for Government support.

A growing number of cities across England have announced that they are considering the introduction of some kind of HGV charging CAZ in a bid to reduce illegal levels of roadside NOx emissions.

Currently, there are no commercially or operationally viable alternatives to diesel for HGVs, while more than 90% of everything the public eat, drink, wear and build with, travels on an HGV at some point in the supply chain.

While the associations fully support the environmental aims behind the introduction of CAZs, it is encouraging the Government to implement a system that works for businesses as well as having a real impact on pollution.

RHA chief executive, Richard Burnett, said: “The current approach to charge 50% of trucks in the country to enter Clean Air Zones will do little to improve air quality where the improvement is needed.

“It discriminates against smaller hauliers, those with specialised lorries, and those businesses that have no alternative but to enter the zones with Euro V and older vehicles.

“We want to see a smarter approach – one that focusses only on the oldest vehicles and only in those places where there are recognised problems.”

The current approach being proposed by many Local Authorities (LAs) will create an additional tax on thousands of businesses and disrupt supply chains across the country, whilst failing to deliver the significant air quality improvements that are required.

The proposed HGV charges for all trucks other than the latest Euro VI models is typically £100 per day, which could equate to an additional 25% on the daily running cost of a non-compliant vehicle.

Unfortunately, it is SMEs and small businesses that will be worst affected under the current approach, as these operators are often those that are least equipped to absorb such a financial blow, suggests the coalition.

Even if an overwhelming number of HGV operators opted to rapidly upgrade their fleets to Euro VI over the next couple of years, there is unlikely to be sufficient HGV production capacity. Meanwhile, there is currently no approved Euro VI retrofit option for trucks.

FTA’s head of UK Policy, Christopher Snelling, said: “We support the need to improve the quality of our air in the cities, but given CAZs only bring forward the beneficial change that is coming anyway by a couple of years, we don’t want this to be at the cost of small businesses’ ability to trade.”

The joint letter asks the Minister to meet and discuss various solutions that could lessen the impact on businesses. These include:

  • Providing improved access to road space, by allowing night time deliveries or limited access to bus lanes.
  • Providing CAZ charge exemptions at night time or on certain routes, for example roads leading to garages, test centres or distribution hubs that are just inside a zone.
  • Introducing a reduced charge for Euro V trucks, helping to maintain their used value and thus making it easier for operators to sell these vehicles and fund an upgrade to Euro VI HGVs.
  • Ensuring that CAZ standards and administration are consistent across the country and communicated properly.
  • Providing local authorities with more guidance and resources to identify local congestion and pollution hotspots and improve traffic management, thereby reducing the imperative to introduce a CAZ.

BVRLA chief executive Gerry Keaney said: “The vehicle rental and leasing sector has spent the last ten years helping commercial vehicle operators meet the requirements of the London Low Emission Zone and understands the cost and operational challenges they face with the potential introduction of new CAZs across the UK.”

Director of the National Franchised Dealers Association (NFDA) Commercial Vehicle division, Sue Robinson, added: “The NFDA Commercial Vehicle division believes strongly in pursuing better air quality throughout our towns and cities, however, it is vital that HGV operators should be urged to use graduated fees when entering clean air zones.

“Exemptions should not just apply to Euro VI engine trucks. Graduating these fees to cleaner engines will encourage operators of the dirtiest diesels to move to cleaner used trucks such as Euro V power HGVs”. 

• Find out more about Clean Air Zones at Fleet Live 2018 on October 9-10 at the NEC in Birmingham. Visit the website.

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