HGV coalition asks minister for fair treatment in Clean Air Zones

The British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association (BVRLA), Road Haulage Association (RHA), Freight Transport Association (FTA), and the National Franchised Dealers Association (NFDA) have all joined forces to raise concerns about the way HGVs will be treated in future Clean Air Zones (CAZ).

The associations have written a joint letter to Transport Secretary Chris Grayling, calling for Government support in ensuring that the introduction of CAZs will not unfairly hit businesses who rely upon HGVs.

A number of cities across England have announced they are planning to introduce some kind of HGV-charging CAZ in a bid to reduce illegal levels of roadside NOx emissions. London is further advanced, with its expanded Ultra Low Emission Zone scheduled to begin on April 8th next year.

HGVs are an integral part of the economy at both national, regional and local level. Currently, there are no commercially or operationally viable alternatives to diesel in terms of HGV motive power. Over 90% of everything the public eats, drinks, wears and builds with travels on an HGV at some point in the supply chain.

HGV transport needs to be part of any future plans

The associations all claim to fully support the environmental goals behind the introduction of CAZs, but they are encouraging the Government to implement a system that works for businesses as well as the environment. 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 least equipped to absorb such a financial blow.

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

Recommendations from the industry

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

“Our members own, operate or fleet manage more than 110,000 trucks across the UK, which can be hired by the minute, hour, day, week, month or year,” said BVRLA Chief Executive Gerry Keaney.

“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.”

Commenting, 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.”

FTA’s Head of UK Policy, Christopher Snelling commented: “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.”

Director of the NFDA Commercial Vehicle division, Sue Robinson, stated: “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 standard HGVs.”

Stuart Masson
Stuart Massonhttps://thetruckexpert.co.uk
Stuart is the Editorial Director of our suite of sites, The Car Expert, The Van Expert and The Truck Expert. Originally from Australia, Stuart has had a passion for cars and the automotive industry for over thirty years. He spent a decade in automotive retail, and now works tirelessly to help buyers by providing independent and impartial advice.

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