Prepare for clean air charges, fleet operators warned

Freight transport fleet operators have been warned to prepare for ‘prohibitively high’ charges to operate older heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) and vans in cities before the end of the decade.

The warning came from the Freight Transport Association (FTA), which has claimed that cities across the UK could impose charges for the operation of polluting vehicles in congested areas in order to combat air pollution by 2019-20.

Freight transport operators have been warned that they may face ‘prohibitive charges’ to operate older vehicles in some cities

FTA has claimed that operators need to plan procurement or “other coping strategies” now to ensure the business impact is minimised.

Last month the government published the final version of its plan to tackle nitrogen dioxide emissions from roadside sources (see airqualitynews.com story).

Within the plan, 29 local authorities were identified where ‘persistent exceedances’ of NO2 legal limits had been monitored and the authorities have been given until December 2018 to draw up local plans to reduce emissions.

Clean air zones

Whilst government has suggested the establishing ‘clean air zones’ – which would limit access for more polluting vehicles to congested areas – are effective in tackling air pollution, it has claimed that charging zones and vehicle restrictions should only be considered where other measures are not sufficient for reducing emissions.

The plan pushes measures such as changing road layouts, encouraging low emissions vehicle-usage, vehicle retrofits and promoting public transport as primary measures.

However, FTA has claimed that for many private sector operators retrofitting is ‘unlikely to be an option’ and has suggested that procurement strategies should take into account any future restriction on vehicle movements.

Restrictions

The organisation’s head of national & regional policy, Christopher Snelling, said: “Over the next three years a series of blanket restrictions will come into force in UK cities for HGVs and vans. With retrofitting of existing vehicles unlikely to be an option for most operators, transport managers need to be prepared for what is ahead, so the procurement of future fleets can be planned.”

At present only London has plans to introduce an emissions-based charging system – the ‘T-charge’ which comes into effect from 23 October and applies to petrol and diesel vehicles which fall below the Euro 4 emission standard (see airqualitynews.com story).

This will be taken over by the introduction of an Ultra-Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) in Central London from 2019, which will eventually be rolled out across Greater London. Once the ULEZ has been introduced HGVs and buses or coaches falling below the Euro 6 emissions standard will be subject to a £100 per day ULEZ charge.