Monday, December 16, 2019

As Car and Truck Environmental Bans Increase Check Here for Incoming Regulations Right Across Europe

Road Haulage Operators Need to Know Emission Zones Set to Proliferate Over the Next Twelve Months
Shipping News Feature

EUROPE – As driving restrictions are imposed across the Continent so we publish the latest update of incoming schemes to limit access to vehicles right across the internal combustion sector. Although the authorities everywhere insist these are necessary for environmental reasons, none seem slow when it comes to charging both private motorists, and the road freight haulage industry, in order to persuade a change in behaviour.

The following information previewing schemes coming in for 2020/2021 has been supplied by Green Zones, which sells environmental badges giving dispensation in areas right across Europe. These can be purchased HERE. Truck drivers travelling to any major cities and towns in Europe are advised to ensure they have the correct vignettes prior to entering the zones.

The abbreviations used below may cause confusion with those unused to the jargon so please note: Crit’Air vignette is an air quality certificate, ZFE = Zone à Faibles Emissions (equivalent to a low emission zone), ZCR = Zones à Circulation Restreinte and ZPA zones (Zones de Protection de l’Air) are temporary zones which often are in force only during periods of high pollution. A letter d at the end refers to the French Department. Full description of the French terms here. LEZ is the UK for Low Emission Zone, with ULEZ adding the Ultra.


The situation is particularly hectic in the most densely populated Land of North-Rhine-Westphalia (NRW). In many cities, diesel driving bans are under discussion. Particular attention is being paid to the Westphalian city of Münster, where several settlement negotiations before the Higher Administrative Court are scheduled in the first weeks of 2020. On 14.01.2020, for example, the Higher Administrative Court will decide on driving bans for the former capital Bonn and the metropolis Dortmund of the Ruhr area.

The second settlement negotiation, which, as with the one above is also attributable to a previously filed claim by the German Association for the Environment (DUH), deals with possible diesel driving bans for the cities of Bochum, Hagen and Oberhausen in the Ruhr area as well as three other cities in NRW: Düren in the Eifel region, Padeborn and the industrial city of Wuppertal.

The results of these legal settlements are also of the utmost importance and interest to other cities in the Federal Republic of Germany: According to experts, these decisions could be a hint and at the same time point the way for further, comparable, national legal disputes around the big topic of driving bans. Will 8 new diesel driving ban zones be introduced next year?


France is currently the European country with the most environmental zones after Germany. New driving bans are planned for 2020, and some zones will be extended and even tightened.

The Arve Valley located at the foot of Mont Blanc, will introduce an additional permanent ZFE zone for trucks with a Crit’Air vignette (at least EURO 2 or EURO 3) obligation as part of an annual tightening in the first quarter. From 2025 it is also planned to allow only Crit’Air 1.

Crit’Air 4 (at least EURO 4 or EURO 5) will be permanently banned from the ZCR zone of Grenoble. In addition, the zone will be enlarged and, as a result, from 01.07.2020 will include 28 municipalities.

The ZFE of Lille is expected be presented to the public in the coming autumn and will be effectively introduced in 2021. Affected vehicles are passenger cars, trucks and motor homes.

In Lyon, a permanent ZFE for trucks will start on 01.01.2020 as part of a Crit’Air obligation, whereby the Crit’Air 4 and 5 vignettes (at least EURO 4 and 5) will be banned. In the following year 2021, the ban will then be tightened, with the result that only Crit’Air 2 (at least EURO 5 or 6) will be permitted.

In the 1st and 2nd quarter, a new ZPA zone should be introduced in the city of Nancy. This will be temporary and will include a ban for every vehicle without Crit’Air, with Crit’Air 4 and 5 (at least EURO 4 or EURO 5) when activated due to previous air pollution peaks.

Saint Etienne will introduce a new and permanent ZFE zone at the end of 2020, but this will only affect trucks from 3.5 tonnes upwards. In addition, Crit’Air is mandatory (at least EURO 3).

The city of Clermont-Ferrand, located in the heart of France, is also preparing to introduce a permanent zone in which the Crit’Air vignette may be mandatory from 2021. This means: further details are still completely unknown as things stand at present and will only be communicated to the public in the coming months.


In Barcelona, the temporary environmental zone will become a permanent one. At the same time it will be enlarged to 95km². The area will include the city of Barcelona and the municipalities of Sant Adrià de Besòs, L'Hospitalet de Llobregat, Esplugues de Llobregat and Cornellà de Llobregat, which are located within the ring road. The zone is valid from Monday to Friday between 7 am and 8 pm. Cars, motor homes, vans with diesel Euro 3 and petrol Euro 2 are forbidden, as are mopeds and motorcycles with Euro 2, as are buses and lorries with Euro 3 petrol/diesel or less. However, vehicles that meet these criteria positively must register in advance and obtain a Distintivo Ambiental sticker.

Switzerland: In Geneva, a temporary environmental zone will be introduced on 15.01.2020. In the event of an air pollution peak, the so-called Stick'Air sticker will be mandatory. This applies to motorised 2 and 3-wheeled vehicles, cars, motor homes, buses and trucks. Special feature: the Crit'Air from France is recognised. There is, however, a 2-year transitional period for vans and trucks.

Great Britain:

From 26.10.2020 the capital of London will tighten the regulations of its LEZ zone: only trucks over 3.5 tonnes with EURO 6 and certain buses are allowed to enter.

Until 2021, Bristol will provide its old town, parts of the M32 motorway, the harbour and part of Hotwells with environmental zones and prohibit the private use of all diesel vehicles between 7 am and 3 pm. Bristol is thus the first city in Europe to ban all diesel vehicles.

Dundee, Edinburgh and Aberdeen are also planning environmental zones for the end of 2020 and the beginning of the following year. Detailed information will follow!

The Netherlands:

Our Dutch neighbours are setting new standards in the declaration and structuring of their environmental zone system and will completely revise it. However, this revision will standardise and, according to the government, simplify the regulations. The restructuring will be completed by 2025 and will include four different types of environmental zones: yellow, green, blue and purple.

  • Yellow: Ban on cars, motor homes and vans with diesel Euro standard 2 or less. 
  • Green: Ban on cars, motorhomes, vans, trucks and buses with diesel Euro standard 3 or less. 
  • Blue: Ban on cars, motor homes, vans, trucks and buses with diesel Euro standard 4 or less. 
  • Purple: Ban on trucks with diesel Euro standard 5 or less.
From 01.01.2020, the zones described will be introduced in two cities.

In the harbour town of Rotterdam, green environmental zones will be activated at the beginning of the year. In Rotterdam, trucks over 3.5 tonnes will then be banned, although cars, motor homes and vans of any European standard may drive through.

In Utrecht, there will be a general ban on cyclomotors and motorcycles with internal combustion engines from January 2020.

In the course of the coming year 2020, coloured zones will follow for other cities such as the university city of Maastricht with its green environmental zone for cars, motor homes and vans. Arnhem (scheduled for the fourth quarter of 2020) will follow at the end of 2020 and Amsterdam with its green environmental zones on 01.11.2020. The capital with its charismatic canals will also have a purple zone for trucks from 2022. From 2025, however, the regulations will be increasingly tightened (zero emissions trucks), so that in the subsequent period, but from 2030 at the latest, only vehicles with zero emissions will be allowed to enter.

From December 2020, The Hague will also completely ban cyclomotors and motorcycles registered before 2011. A yellow zone will be activated in 2021, followed by a green environmental zone in 2022. The declared goal is to have only emission-free vehicles on the roads by 2030.

From 2021 there will be a green environmental zone for the border town of Nijmegen. More detailed information will be announced in advance.


Our Belgian neighbours are focusing their attention on the second largest city in Flanders, Ghent, in 2020. There will be a completely new environmental zone in the city area, in which it is mandatory to register the following vehicle categories: cars, trucks, motor homes and buses. Vehicles with a diesel internal combustion engine need at least EURO 4, petrol vehicles EURO 2.

The registration process will be the same and consistent with that in Antwerp, so you only must register once for both cities, and then you are on the safe side. However, there is one exception to the rule, as vehicles registered in Belgium and the Netherlands are already automatically registered. If you own an older vehicle, you can buy a legal permit to access these zones for an additional fee.