Thursday, November 23, 2017

Tourists and Road Haulage Freight Drivers Beware the March of the Low Emission Schemes

Green Zones Spread Across Europe - But Why so Many Different Rules?
Shipping News Feature
BELGIUM – EUROPE – Despite EU membership individual countries are taking some very different decisions regarding pollution from cars, road haulage and passenger service vehicles. The introduction of 'Green Zones' in cities across the continent can mean confusion for all drivers, from tourists to HGVs carrying essential freight. Whilst London has introduced a range of charges and penalties incorporated in a Congestion Zone, a Low Emission Zone (LEZ) and soon an Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ), Belgium has now made it mandatory to register a vehicle before accessing any LEZ.

Following Antwerp’s introduction earlier this year now, from the very beginning of 2018, Brussels will also incorporate an environmental zone, and the scheme will be extended to other cities in the coming months. Initially from 1 January the capital city intends to ban vehicles with the EURO emission standards 0 and 1 from circulation. However, it is still possible to obtain a special permit by purchasing a daily environmental ticket.

As in London and elsewhere ANPR cameras will log every journey in the zone and automatically send a fine out for unregistered or uncompliant vehicles, this makes it essential for all drivers to register their vehicles before travelling in the zones. The authorities say registration takes 2 to 10 days and results in the issuing of a sticker for the windscreen which the European central portal for these procedures, messrs., says allows ‘the owners of vehicles registered abroad [to] have an overview at all times and avoid high fines within the camera-monitored environmental zones’.

Whilst the UK authorities have dispensed with the need for screen mounted discs in favour of automated systems, so at first sight the EU schemes seem overly bureaucratic, but also available is the free Green-Zones-App (on Google and Apple) which lets one check the boundaries of the Belgian environmental zones or indeed other European zones and which updates changing regulations in the respective destination cities.

Vehicles, which do not meet the respective EURO standards, can still obtain a special permit by purchasing an environmental ticket and then entering the LEZ zone. Depending on the type of vehicle and how old it is, the environmental ticket might be purchased for a day or longer. Each city individually decides which EURO standard is banned from circulation and for which period of time an environmental ticket can be purchased.

As a result, the same vehicle might be allowed to enter in one LEZ, but not in another one. In addition, the type of environmental ticket (daily, weekly or monthly) varies according to the environmental zone, especially as the restrictions are to be more stringent each year. There is no central register for foreign vehicles, so they have to be registered individually for each city. Green-Zones calls this ‘quite a lot of work’. Drivers will likely call it something less polite.

After Antwerp and Brussels, two environmental zones of Willowbrook and Mechelen will be introduced in 2018. Gent has also decided to introduce a LEZ at some future point. In this way, the three largest Belgian cities, which are regularly used by tourists, logistics specialists and bus companies, will soon have environmental zones yet all with very different entry regulations!

All the above information has come direct from the responsible authorities but, despite the obvious need for reducing urban pollution, the complexity of solutions with different regulations and schemes applying even in cities in the same country, let alone abroad, many British readers will doubtless see this as the very type of thing which persuaded the public to support Brexit.