Monday, April 8, 2019

Chaos, Confusion and Costs - Road Haulage Freight and Fuel Lobbies Not Impressed by London ULEZ  

High Court Actions and Doubts About Air Quality Evidence as London Mayor and TfL Accused

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Shipping News Feature UK – The introduction of London’s Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) today (8 April 2019) has produced a wave of objections to a measure that many in the capital see as a positive step to try and reduce the undoubted damage caused by air pollution. However the protests from both the road haulage freight sector, and those campaigning against fuel and motoring costs in general, have certainly raised some questions about the way the charges have been implemented.

The Road Haulage Association (RHA), while supporting the need to improve air quality, says the current approach fails to deal with the issue appropriately and harms business in the capital, with HGVs entering London’s ULEZ that do not meet Euro VI, the European lorry standard since 2014, being fined £100 per day to deliver goods in the Zone.

As with any urban conurbation London is entirely dependent on trucks and vans to supply all the goods it needs and also to clear all the detritus which remains, in London’s case a total of 131 million tonnes. The RHA claims truck emissions have halved in the last four years with the uptake of cleaner vehicles yet London’s traffic congestion problem is getting worse despite falling volumes of traffic. Traffic delays are up by 18% since 2015 as over the last 20 years traffic has fallen by 7%.

Commenting, RHA chief executive, Richard Burnett said that the authorities had failed to understand the life cycles of a haulage vehicle and that, as new, cleaner Euro VI HGVs naturally replace the current fleet, they had not allowed sufficient time for businesses, in particular small businesses, to adjust. He continued:

“London’s road network needs to be managed better. We need to focus on dealing with massive impact of congestion on local NOx emissions. The haulage sector has done its bit with NOx from HGVs halving over recent years. The prospect of having to pay an extra £100 per day will mean financial ruin for many operators. Their only alternative will be to stop servicing the capital altogether.

“We also face TfL’s plans for a central London zero emission zone from 2025, which will simply act as a big disincentive for operators to invest in clean Euro VI lorries in the short term. Trucks last around 12 years: demanding new ones and then demanding they are replaced again in five years will be bad for the economy and the people of London.

“The current Low Emission Zone covers the whole of London, the Ultra-Low Emission Zone [that comes into effect today] covers the area where the current congestion charge is in effect. The big crunch for hauliers will come next year when the ULEZ standards are extended for all lorries across all London. This all comes on top of the prospect of new clean Euro VI lorries being 22% more expensive as a result of planned tariffs under current government Brexit plans. Hauliers still running Euro V trucks are caught between a rock and a hard place, a charge of £100 per day to deliver into London will completely wipe out their already tight profit margins and make new vehicle acquisition impossible.

”Approximately 188 thousand HGVs deliver into London each year, but only about 50% meet the latest emission standards. If they are priced off London’s streets then the businesses they service will in turn have no choice but to increase their prices. It’s a lose, lose situation. We sincerely hope that London hauliers unable to replace their older vehicles will not be footing the bill used to fund the Mayor’s scrappage scheme set up to help charities and smaller businesses to switch to lower emission vehicles.”

The Freight Transport Association (FTA) took exactly the same line saying businesses need more support to cope with the financial burden of the compliance with the regulations. The FTA says Mayor Sadiq Khan needs to recognise the potential flaws in the scheme, particularly the disproportionate costs it will place on London’s business community. According to Natalie Chapman, Head of Urban Policy at FTA, the zone is also not the most effective way to improve air quality in the long-term and will impact on the livelihoods of many small businesses in London unless changes are made. She said:

“The FTA recognises and supports the need to improve air quality, but we question the effectiveness of the ULEZ in reducing emissions and the lack of financial support available to businesses. Operators and vehicle manufacturers have already led the way with investment in cleaner technologies through developments in engine standards; this has helped to reduce levels of key pollutants more than 20-fold over recent years. The ULEZ is not a transformative measure, as marketed by Sadiq Khan, it simply brings forward the fleet replacement cycle at huge cost to many small businesses and operators of specialist vehicles.”

In December 2018, the Mayor announced a measure to help micro-businesses in London, those with fewer than 10 staff, prepare for the financial cost of updating their vans to those compliant with ULEZ standards. But as Ms Chapman continues, this support does not stretch to those operating HGVs in the capital, to support London’s businesses and keep them trading:

“The Mayor’s van scrappage scheme gives welcome support to the capital’s smallest businesses, which will be hardest hit by the ULEZ. But the same level of assistance should be available to all responsible for delivering goods, raw materials and services to London’s business community. It is encouraging that Transport for London is planning to review the uptake of the scrappage scheme in the short term; if funding remains available. The FTA believes that businesses of all shapes and sizes should be able to access this support. For example, Leeds City Council is granting businesses up to £16,000 to replace HGVs that do not comply with its Clean Air Zone; FTA would like to see London follow these footsteps.”

“Since 2014, it has been mandatory for all new trucks to have a Euro 6 specification; based on historical fleet turnover patterns, more than half of the UK’s truck fleet will be Euro 6 by 2021. Within just a few years, the ULEZ will be redundant as the entire fleet will be Euro 6. FTA strongly advises TfL to focus on other strategies that will deliver longer-term benefits such as supporting businesses who can afford to.

”To invest in electric vehicles through improving charging infrastructure and identifying land for micro-consolidation; removing congestion pinch points from the network; and enabling deliveries to be retimed by encouraging boroughs to review planning restrictions supporting major changes to the Lorry Control Scheme. Where London leads, other cities follow: the ULEZ must set the right example for councils across the UK.”

One of the most vocal in the debate is the lobby site FairFuel UK, started by ex-trucker Howard Cox which pointed out some anomalies in the scheme, calling charging a motorcyclist, riding a machine with an engine size that’s less than one fifth the capacity of a single cylinder of an exempt sports car ‘insanely unfair and illogical’. This was supported by Colin Brown, from the Motorcycle Action Group, who said:

”A rider on a non-exempt motorcycle such as a Honda C90, with a tiny engine, which does over 100mpg, would cost the 5 day a week commuter £62.50 in the new emissions tax, increasing the cost of going to work by over 1,000% for no environmental benefit. This is a tax on poor riders on older machines, which is discriminatory, unfair and environmentally counter-productive because motorcycles are, in fact, part of the emissions solution.”

Speaking to Fair Fuel UK, which spent time in the High Court on Friday to seek legal administrative advice to fight London’s ULEZ, Richard Chaumeton, a Director at Kentish Town Building Contractors which will be seriously affected by the new charges, said:

”I have 3 trucks going to 2 different sites daily and will cost my business £100 per day per truck. That’s £6000+ per month. I have no choice but pass this cost onto my customers. £72,000+ per year. That’s a cost of a couple of cleaner vehicles and staff that I can’t now implement. I am still using the trucks which allegedly are highly polluting, so how does a ULEZ improve air quality? This is simply an easy cash grab by ill-informed opportunistic politicians.”

FairFuel UK says it made repeated formal requests, the last of which was only 2 weeks before implementation of the ULEZ, to provide incontrovertible scientific/medical evidence that taxing drivers entering the ULEZ will significantly improve air quality, and commenting that the policy would mean more people using the London Underground where they would be exposed to levels of particulate matter 2,900% higher than at street level.

After that Friday Court meeting TfL’s Lawyers emailed FairFuelUK at 17:08 to request information as to a potential injunction FairFuelUK is planning to implement. FairFuelUK responded requesting to meet on Saturday morning but TfL lawyers subsequently turned down any chance of meeting. Howard Cox concluded:

”Inexplicably, TfL are not banning the most polluting vehicles entering the ULEZ, simply choosing to take drivers’ hard-earned cash when they do. 4 out of 5 in our survey [of 22,678 road users] believe the Mayor’s policy is simply a chance to raise easy money. That cannot be the best, fairest or most honourable way to benefit the environment.

”TfL, it is firmly believed by millions of drivers, are knowingly adopting a regressive ‘pay to pollute’ slant, and most certainly they are not using it to clean up our urban air. Half of businesses intend to pass on this no choice stealth tax to their customers. How can that be right, when there are better practical ways to lower emissions, all without hurting London's economy?”

To check on the compliance status of your vehicle use the TfL online compliance checker.

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