3 August 2018

Many SMEs oblivious to imminent arrival of Clean Air Zones in towns and cities

Around 40% of small and medium sized businesses are unaware that Clean Air Zones (CAZs) will start to be implemented in towns and cities across the UK as early as next year, according to a survey by the British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association (BVRLA).

Furthermore, a third, of more than 600 SMEs polled, were unaware that the CAZs were likely to involve charges for all but the most modern and least polluting diesel vehicles.

In some cities, charges will be as much as £100 per day for an HGV and £12.50 per day for other vehicles such as cars and vans.

Leeds, Derby, Nottingham, Southampton and Birmingham have already been mandated to bring in operational CAZs by 2020, although Nottingham has said that it will not charge an entry fee. An additional 23 local authorities have also been earmarked for CAZ implementation and a further 33 are considering what approach to take as part of their strategy to improve air quality.

London launches its 24/7 Ultra-Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) on April 8, 2019, replacing the current T-Charge operating in the Congestion Zone area. Mayor Sadiq Khan recently has also announced plans to extend the ULEZ to an area - bounded by the North and South Circular Roads - 18-times larger than the original zone by October 25, 2021.

Gerry Keaney, chief executive of the BVRLA, of which Activa Contracts is a member, said: “Unless more is done to publicise the impact of these various CAZs and mitigate their impact, hundreds of thousands of businesses across the country will be hit with a new regional road transport tax that will bring additional cost and confusion at a time when firms are already dealing with Brexit-related economic uncertainty.

“Our members have spent the last 10 years helping businesses to meet the requirements of the London Low Emission Zone and they understand the costs and operational challenges that businesses will face with the introduction of new CAZs across the UK.”

In addition to calling for more publicity around CAZs and what they will mean, the BVRLA is also encouraging national and local policymakers to introduce a range of measures that will help fleets make the transition to cleaner vehicles and encourage the use of more sustainable modes of transport. They include:

  • Only use CAZs where necessary and minimise their size where possible.
  • Ensure that local authorities adhere to common CAZ standards in terms of hours of operation, signage, communications and any exemptions. As many businesses operate within multiple cities and regions on a daily basis it was vital that a standardised approach was developed to avoid confusion and improve the ease of compliance for drivers.
  • Introduce ‘phased charging’ for trucks so that the most polluting vehicles paid a higher fee to enter the CAZ. As currently envisaged, all trucks other than those meeting the very latest Euro VI emissions standard will pay the same fee. Introducing a graduated charge would encourage operators that could not afford to buy a brand-new fleet to buy newer, cleaner used vehicles.
  • Committing to large scale trials of Mobility Credits. Under such a scheme, drivers of older more polluting cars would be offered credit if they scrapped their polluting car. The credit could then be used across public transport and other modes such as car hire and car share all brought together under an app.