Thursday, November 7, 2019

Clean Air Scheme Unites the Freight and Road Haulage Sectors in Outrage

Bristol Pay to Pollute Proposals are 'Punitive, Naive and Unfair'
Shipping News Feature

UK – Occasionally a news item comes along which produces a unanimous response from the logistics sector with road haulage, freight and transport bodies all aligned. When the subject contains a scheme designed to achieve an environmental benefit nobody in their right mind would take exception to the objective. In the case of Bristol's proposed clean air zone (CAZ) however it is the methodology which is causing uproar.

Bristol City Council initially launched a consultation which anyone could comment on. This however was not really a general opinion seeker but the option of two schemes, one exempting private cars and the second banning diesel cars. Under both options lorries below the latest Euro Vl standard would be subject to a daily charge of £100. In answer to the question ‘are you concerned about the effects of pollution’ unsurprisingly over 85% of the 5000+ respondents said they are.

Although the plans both included scrappage schemes for diesel cars there was to be no compensation for hauliers. The adopted scheme now has to go before government for approval with the intention of imposing the zone restrictions Option 1 meaning a 24 hour ban on all proscribed vehicles, Option 2 allowing some access between 3pm and 7am. The second option is believed to be the preferred option. Now the determination is to press ahead with a scheme which all the freight and vehicle associations which responded say are ill thought out.

The Outline Business Case for the Council makes much of the fact that Bristol intends to be the first city in the UK to impose such swingeing restrictions and penalties. The Road Haulage Association (RHA), which offered a response to the plans, warns that the charging scheme will force firms with lorries registered as late as 2013 to choose between prematurely replacing their fleets, paying the crippling charges or going out of business. RHA policy advocate for environment and regulation, Chris Ashley, commented:

“We all want to breathe clean air but hitting firms with punitive, pay-to-pollute charges isn’t a credible way to get us there. Given that it takes 12 large vans to carry the same load as a single 44-tonne lorry it stands to reason that pricing trucks out of Bristol could spark an increase in congestion and poor air quality.”

The Freight Transport Association (FTA) was critical of the way the Bristol authorities have gone about the case and accuse it of a naivety when it comes to understanding how the logistics industry works and the importance to maintain established supply chains. Chris Yarsley, FTA’s Policy Manager for the South West of England said last week:

“While FTA and its members support the Council’s commitment to improving air quality in the city, announcing a proposed scheme with such little detail is unfair to the businesses and individuals who work tirelessly to keep the local economy afloat. FTA is calling for Bristol City Council to provide clarification on its proposals for Clean Air Zone in 2021; the lack of detail is alarming and leaves local businesses in the dark on how to proceed with business planning.

“FTA is particularly concerned about proposals for a ‘diesel vehicle ban’ in the city centre. Will the ban operate at peak hours or 24/7? While previous consultations only discussed a ban on cars, it is now unclear whether lorries and vans will also be included. If so, how does the Council expect goods to be delivered to supermarkets, businesses and homes?

”There are currently no viable alternatives to diesel-run lorries. Furthermore, the proposed scrappage scheme appears to only be open to residents of private cars, what help will be provided to commercial vehicle operators and those who need LCVs for their jobs, including self-employed business people?”

The Society for Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) was equally scathing in its response to the way the Council has framed its proposals saying the automotive industry is committed to a low carbon future, and is investing massively to get there. It points out that CO2 emissions from new cars have declined by around a third since 2000, and the development of the latest low emission technology has resulted in new vehicles that have vastly reduced NOx and virtually eliminated particulates. In a statement it said:

”Instead of the proposed ban, we need a clear and consistent national approach to clean air zones that incentivises uptake of the latest, low emission vehicles, including new Euro 6 diesels, which are the cleanest ever produced, alongside improvements to traffic flow and investment in charging infrastructure.

”The SMMT wants to see all cities, including Bristol, meet their targets and continue to invest in ever more advanced technology to help improve our environment. However, this proposed blanket ban, which goes against government’s guidelines, fails to distinguish between modern vehicles and decades-old technologies and will only cause confusion for drivers while also undermining efforts to boost air quality.”

Probably the biggest critic of the Bristol proposals is FairFuelUK, the organisation’s interests of course spanning as they do both the private motorist and the freight haulage operator. In his usual style Founder Howard Cox even managed to include cyclists when he unleashed a tirade against what he sees as a failure by the Council to understand the complexities involved in running a city. He said:

”The Bristol ban on diesels is just the sharp end of the wedge. Clueless ignorant local politicos keen to be seen as climate change evangelists are being suckered into draconian decisions based on flawed emissions health data. Vehicle emissions are falling in all our urban roads due to rapid improvements in vehicle fuel burning technology.

”The persistent demonisation of the UK’s motorists, bikers and truckers continues to be flawed and ill-informed. Politicians across all parties must recognise the way their driver constituents are unfairly and repeatedly exploited by environmental emotive spin, leaving road users being ill-treated as pariahs and used as pure cash cows.

”Air quality alarmism is being used to attack motorised transport via regressive taxes and now bans that hit the less well-off hardest. A recent DEFRA report shows that since 1970 Particulate emissions have been reduced by 79% and NOx by 72%. In fact, the primary generators of NOx are gas appliances, not road vehicles. As for particulate matter, even if all transport in Bristol were to be removed from the streets of the city, between 70% and 80% of the particulate matter for example, would still be present in urban air, the primary sources of this being weather phenomena and agriculture.

”Bristol’s tragic mismanagement of the transport agenda, desperate to be the first to ban diesels in the UK, is making the city unfit for business and tourist journeys, due to their ill-judged dogmatic campaign against powered vehicles.

”And haulage companies are the backbone of the UK economy. The HGV sector has done more than any other to reduce NOx emissions. Down by more than 50% since 2013. It is important to change to a low emission future in a managed way that supports investment. It is unacceptable to have counter-productive punishment taxes targeted at the wrong people as a result of a disjointed national and local government approach.

”The irony is that none of these myopic regressive policies are helping the environment in any significant way that exceed the local and economic cost, and none are reducing thousands of deaths incorrectly attributed to ambient air pollution. Cleaning our air is an absolute priority but it won’t happen through aimless virtue signalling by politicians. Government and local councils need to apply evidence-based science to the sources and causes of pollution to clean up our urban air.

”The UK is woefully underprepared for vehicle electrification, is broadly ignoring marine, aviation, industrial and domestic combustion and needs to really incentivise consumers and industry to change their behaviours. The UK needs a consistent and well-crafted national air quality strategy that’s supported by world-class scientific research. Current policy seems more related to populism rather than facts and pragmatism. We need a return to fact-based policy making which has to include all aspects of transportation and how to mitigate the impact on the environment. There seems to be no link between the Department for Transport and the Department for the Environment, why not?

”FairFuelUK is right in trying to actually look for solutions to the alleged problems we have in air quality that have been blamed on mainly road traffic. Unless they get more cohesive support from everybody, including the very opinionated and self-righteous cyclists, who in my opinion contribute nothing to road safety, and yet I’m sure mostly all use or rely on cars too, it will be very difficult to effect change.

”Cars and trucks are essential to us all at present, we rely on them for everything that gets into our shops and homes. They are not the sole source of air pollution. What about planes, trains and ships and industry? Planes must be the highest polluters. Electricity is not produced without pollution either. Where is the media coverage on this? Just change the fuels into something less polluting, the technology is out there. Why aren’t we using it yet? FairFuelUK has the solution to reducing vehicle emissions. Watch this space, it will be revealed in a shortly to released Fair Fuel APPG ground breaking report.”

Photo: Whilst the situation in Bristol may be serious, spare a thought for the citizens of Delhi this week.