Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Road Haulage and Freight Associations Point Out the Anomalies of Clean Air Zones

Differing Definitions of Suitable Vehicles is a Recipe for Confusion
Shipping News Feature
UK – The rush to impose clean air zones on Britain's cities and towns may have laudable intentions, but the patchwork of measures decided on the individual whims of councillors is proving to be a very inefficient and unfair way of handling the problem. This week has seen two updates on clean air zones as the Road Haulage Association (RHA) warned that hauliers and other businesses will be at risk after Leeds City Council announced government approval for its proposals, whilst the Freight Transport Association (FTA) commented on the situation in Oxford.

The decision in Leeds will mean that vehicles pre-Euro VI will be subject to the incoming charge of £50 per day, something which would apply to 50% of all the trucks currently registered in the UK. ANPR technology will police the scheme which comes into effect on 6 January 2020. The zone covers most of the area inside the city's outer ring road, running from Farsley in the west to Colton in the east and Moor Allerton in the north to Hunslet in the south. RHA chief executive, Richard Burnett, commented:

“Charging pre-Euro VI HGVs to enter the clean air zone is simply a punitive tax on the industry sector that Leeds relies on to maintain its economy, and local businesses will inevitably be put at risk. The goods still have to be delivered and there’s a strong possibility that there will be a considerable increase in van traffic. However, it takes approximately 20 vans to move the same amount of goods as one HGV so how will that improve air quality? This is yet another example of the government and local authorities using a sledgehammer to crack a nut.”

Leeds Council says it will ask for £6 million (down from £13 million) from the government’s £255 million Implementation Fund to cover costs associated with the infrastructure and operation of the zone and a further £23 million (formerly £27 million) in funding from the government’s £220 million Clean Air Fund to support local businesses to upgrade or retrofit affected vehicles through ‘grants and interest-free loans’. How exactly this money would be distributed of course there is no indication, and with many vehicles delivering to the city based well outside the area, the increased cost of doing business there remains a reality.

Over to Oxford where this week the City Council and Oxfordshire County Council announced an update to their Zero Emission Zone (ZEZ) plans saying the new city centre Zone will allow ultra-low emission cars that are capable of being zero emission while in the Zone, but in effect would not allow the same flexibility for vans or lorries, as equivalent vehicles cannot meet the car-based requirement. The proposal defines ultra-low emission vehicles as any vehicle which emits less than 75g of CO2/km from the tailpipe and is capable of at least 10 miles of zero emission driving.

From 2020, under the proposals, all non-zero emission vehicles could be banned during certain hours from parking and loading on public highway in an inner zone, while in a larger zone the requirement will be Euro 6 for buses. There will be an acceleration from 2022 to 2035 as rules become more stringent. Rebecca Kite, FTA’s Environment Policy Manager, pointed out the anomalies in judging a comparatively small, ultra-modern car, against the necessity for heavier vehicles bent on lifeline deliveries to shops and businesses. She said:

“There are an array of hybrid vans and lorries becoming available that will be zero emission capable while in this urban environment. These vehicles would also form a bridging technology to encourage the use of battery technology in heavier vehicles, paving the way for full electrification. Vans are over twice as heavy as cars and mid-sized lorries are 20 times heavier. One car usually carries just one person; a van can carry a tonne of goods and a medium sized HGV can carry 10 tonnes. They cannot be judged in the same way.

”Fully electric lorries are many years away. Excluding zero emission capable vehicles will be missing a massive opportunity for local pollutant and greenhouse gas emission reduction. This is not Oxford’s fault, currently the car definition is the only definition available to them of an ultra-low emission vehicle.

”The Department for Transport is currently developing a standard for ultra-low emission trucks, but the same work is required to [be done for] vans. There needs to be a vehicle appropriate ULEV standard, which is agreed nationally before Local Authorities implement any ultra-low emission requirements. The Councils are planning to hold discussions with stakeholders on the new proposal, FTA will feedback its concerns in the hope they will plan to accept future definitions of ultra-low emission trucks and vans.”

Photo: Oxford City Centre.