Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Road Haulage and Freight Associations Speak Out on Better Clean Air Zone Policies

Critics Say Urban Charging is Wrong Headed and Will Damage Local Businesses
Shipping News Feature
UK – Air quality management plans introduced by local councils have so far drawn some criticism from freight industry bodies over fears that implementing poorly thought out policies would greatly affect the haulage businesses in the area. However, proposals by the Nottingham City Council and DEFRA, which have agreed that the city does not require a low emission charging zone to meet its air quality targets, has been welcomed by both the Road Haulage Association (RHA) and the Freight Transport Association (FTA) the latter which hopes that other cities across the country will take heed of the city's 'common-sense attitude to clean air policies'.

For the past three years, the council has been working with officials from the Department of Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and the Department for Transport (DfT) to identify measures to reduce levels of pollution in the shortest possible time and deliver compliance with legal air quality limits.

The plans were assessed by government officials and cleared by Ministers who have issued a Ministerial Direction for the plan to be implemented. Nottingham is the first local authority to have their air quality plan approved as part of the government’s wider £3.5 billion plan to tackle harmful emissions from road transport across the country. Nottingham’s plan will see the council improving air quality by:

  • Retrofitting 171 buses with technology to reduce emissions, funded through the Government’s Clean Bus Technology Fund;
  • Changing the age and emissions policy for hackney carriages and supporting an increase in low emission taxis. £1 million from government will be used to provide a licensing discount for drivers, a taxi rank with charging points, funding home chargers and expanding the council’s ‘try before you buy’ scheme, which started last week.
In addition, Nottingham City Council has received funding from the Government to support the conversion of its own fleet, including replacing heavy, high polluting vehicles such as bin lorries with electric vehicles.

While nitrogen dioxide (NO2) levels have fallen significantly in recent decades, including a 27% drop since 2010, the UK Plan for Tackling Roadside Nitrogen Dioxide Concentrations outlines how councils with the worst levels of air pollution at busy road junctions and hotspots must take action. Chris Yarsley, FTA’s Policy Manager for the Midlands welcomed the measures, saying:

“The logistics sector is committed to reducing its vehicle emissions wherever possible and takes this responsibility very seriously. Yet it’s important any air quality improvement scheme is designed with the unique needs of each place in mind, what works for one city may not be suitable for another, and this result shows the authorities are listening and adapting. The decision to overturn the mandate that Nottingham must introduce a CAZ [clean air zone] sets a welcome precedent that government will consider more tailored plans that reflect the needs of each community.

“This is positive news for local businesses and those traveling through the city from further afield; commercial vehicles which not do meet Euro 6 requirements will no longer be faced with heavy penalties for going about their daily work in Nottingham, as was originally laid out in the planned CAZ. These vehicles are an essential part of the city’s local economy, from delivering home shopping to providing businesses with the goods and services they need to operate, and it’s crucial their vital importance is recognised throughout air quality consultations. Nottingham’s plans will produce the same air quality improvements, if not more, without penalising hard-working vehicle operators.”

In recent weeks both the FTA and the RHA have shown displeasure in the proposals set out by other cities arguing that the plans unjustly target the haulage industry, with the RHA further claiming that Southampton City Council have gone back on a commitment to speak to hauliers in the area about the controversial clean air plans.

The RHA has responded to the Southampton council’s consultation and opposes plans to charge lorries £100 a day to enter a clean air zone. Similarly, Leeds had proposed a £50 daily charge for non-Euro VI lorries to enter the zone, but the RHA is worried that a revised bid will see hauliers charged even more to make up a shortfall after DEFRA directed the Leeds authority to submit new plans which ask for less money. Sheffield City Council also plans to create a clean air zone which could include the introduction of charges for non-compliant, high-polluting vehicles that use the City’s inner ring road.

Both the FTA and the RHA believe the plans to introduce a charge for hauliers would put small operators at risk and points to proposals in Derby, and Nottingham’s adoption of cleaner air technologies as more realistic approaches to tackling emissions. FTA’s Yarsley again:

“Derby City Council is currently presenting its case against a CAZ, believing other solutions will deliver a better outcome in a quicker time frame without damaging its local economy. The FTA calls on DEFRA to deliver the same answer to Derby as they did to Nottingham, and to decide on a case-by-case basis whether a CAZ truly is the best medicine to reducing a city’s pollution.”

Photo: Nottingham City Centre.