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How clean air zones will affect CVs in your business

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Following on from my last article, it has become clear that the issues facing any operator and owner of a pre-Euro 6 commercial vehicle are being increasingly acknowledged. This week the drum banging has got a lot louder. Seven trade associations have joined their collective might and sent a letter to Government outlining the significant financial risks to UK businesses with the roll-out of Clean Air (CAZ) and Ultra Low Emission Zones (ULEZ) from 2019 onwards.

These bodies are:

As now widely reported, five cities have until the end of 2019 to roll out their Clean Air Zones. These are Leeds, Birmingham, Nottingham, Derby and Southampton. In Leeds however, LCV Euro 6 was excluded from the Clean Air Zone consultation. The key concern here is the inconsistency of applying a national framework, with different charging levels applying to different vehicle types.

Leeds Clean Air Zone

The costs

What is clear is that, from the launch of the London ULEZ on 8th April 2019, Euro 6 diesel HGVs, Buses, Coaches (registered January 2014 onwards) and LCVs (registered September 2016 onwards) will not attract a daily ULEZ fine. If they are Euro 5 or older, an LCV will pay a daily ULEZ fine of £12.50 and an HGV £100. A recent TfL (Transport for London) consultation has proposed older Euro CV’s will face even higher fines. Proposals on the table are £100 per day for Euro 4 and 5, rising to £300 per day for Euro 3 (Pre Jan 2005) or older. I make no apology for repeating the fact that London’s ULEZ is the most far reaching emission control activity of any world capital city. And this is just round the corner.

With the roll-out of the London Low Emission Zone (LEZ) in 2012 the older non-compliant trucks could have retrofit conversions to make them compliant. This will not be possible with Euro 6. Operators logically reacted by reshuffling their fleets; with all new trucks and coaches focused on servicing the LEZ and older vehicles rehomed outside the LEZ. That effectively moved the problem; this will not be a solution as the Clean Air Zones roll out. There will be fewer and fewer cities, towns and regions that will let pre-Euro 6 commercial vehicles travel freely without applying a daily fine. 

High Court Ruling

And now the intensity has stepped up; it's getting really serious. A High Court ruling in February against the Government orders “urgent and additional” measures to improve air quality in the following 33 local authorities. I guarantee either you, your family members, or your friends live in one or more of them. A list of these authorities can be found here. 

clean air zoneHow and when and what will these authorities do? Well time is of the essence; legally they now have to have a plan. Oxford is perhaps the most extreme; it is proposing a zero emission zone, the first in the world, banning petrol and diesels in the city progressively - starting in 2020 at a street and vehicle level - with a planned city wide completion date of 2035.

SMMT data shows 30% of vans on UK roads are over 10 years of age. That’s around 1.2m vans. I'm presuming the government assume the vast proportion of these non CAZ/ULEZ compliant vehicles will be replaced as the zones roll out. But the owners of these 1.2m vans have a difficult decision to make in the next five years. do they buy a rare and highly sought after (arguably hyper-inflated) used Euro 6 van or truck to eliminate the daily fines they are receiving or do they plump for brand new (logically supported by manufacturer scrappage schemes, because the part exchange values will be very low for the oldest examples). Or do they change their funding method and ownership model to ensure that someone else takes over the worries of zone compliance?

Other factors

Overlay Brexit in 2019, the uncertainty of business confidence, increased cost of lending, squeezed margins, unfavourable exchange rates for CV imports, increased lead times, or manufacturers switching production to more profitable left-hand drive territories. Will manufacturers be able, or have an appetite, to respond in a timely manner to this pent up demand? 

Clearly this is all about risk to health and premature deaths. My opinions are not meant to detract or distract from the logical focus in this area. There is no doubt that those seven trade associations are representing their members. I'd argue the true implications to vehicle owners spread far further than anyone has ever considered. We need to start thinking, debating and acting now. There needs to be greater flexibility in rolling out the standards. The future health of Britain - its people and its businesses -depends upon it. 

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James Davis

James Davis

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